Flexible Work and Learning September 2021
Want more free featured content?
Subscribe to Insights in Brief
In April 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (Washington, DC) reported that 4 million people quit their jobs while a record 9.3 million jobs were open. ADP (Automatic Data Processing; Roseland, New Jersey) chief economist Nela Richardson says that "instead of blaming the worker for making a rational choice during an ongoing pandemic, maybe it's time as a society to look at the jobs we are trying to create." In this tight labor market, many workers appear to be trading up, taking better-paying, more-fulfilling, or more-flexible jobs.
Helping this trading‑up trend are new and flexible ways of reskilling—particularly for people who want to work in the tech industry, where talent is in short supply. Top‑tier employers such as Apple (Cupertino, California) and Alphabet (Mountain View, California) recruit coders who have honed their skills in boot camps or via short online courses—not just coders who have college degrees. And, increasingly, employers are willing to invest in training employees and recruits on the basis of their potential rather than on the basis of their experience or qualifications. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. (San Francisco, California) is addressing talent shortages by sending employees—including employees from retail stores and distribution centers—to its new eight‑week in‑house boot camp for machine learning. Similarly, Amazon.com (Seattle, Washington) is running short courses to train potential coding hires in the foundations of machine learning and statistics.
A previous Scan article, "Labor Markets' Balance of Power," describes signs that the labor market's balance of power is shifting from employers to employees, driven not just by short‑term labor shortages but also by changing worker expectations, government priorities, and long‑term skill shortages. New working practices may be one outcome of this shift. Beyond working at home (which seems likely to remain an option for many people), changes to the standard workweek might emerge. For example, two large-scale, multiyear trials that took place in Iceland revealed that switching from a 40‑hour workweek to a 35‑to-36‑hour workweek (with no pay reduction) increased employee well‑being without damaging productivity.