The Rising Costs of Finding Workers in the Post-Covid 19 Era
An interview with Fran Jurkovic, senior vice president of Alliant Insurance Services in Chicago.
Will the Covid-19 pandemic finally make corporations do what they’ve long refused to do: pay a higher minimum wage? The answer might be yes, according to Fran Jurkovic, Senior Vice President of Alliant Insurance Services in Chicago.
Companies around the country might not be ready yet to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, long demanded by labor groups and progressive politicians, but some of them may have no choice as the blue-collar workforce continues to dwindle in the wake of the pandemic.
“I see a lot of clients, particularly in lower-wage jobs in various industries, struggling to find talent, to bring workers back or hire additional workers to meet demand,” Jurkovic told me in a recent Zoom interview.
“It’s given blue-collar or lower-wage earners an opportunity that they haven’t seen and didn’t even see during the recent recession because jobs just weren’t available [then]. But now, with increased demand, it appears that employers are having to hire more quickly even prior to completing any background checks” she said, adding that companies are offering “bonuses and higher wages” to incentivize workers.
The Covid-19 virus is still ongoing and many experts say that it could take years for Americans to completely recover from its effects on workplace productivity and life in general. But Jurkovic predicted the wage hike to be permanent.
“Once you increase wages, I think we can all agree that it’s difficult to take something back or reverse it,” she said, adding that the federal unemployment payment program has encouraged low wage workers to be more selective about their job choices, contributing to the shrinking of the workforce. Federal unemployment benefits are set to expire on Sept. 6 and it’s not clear how that will affect the labor market.
“I think you’re seeing that people aren’t returning to work in restaurants or bars, in particular, as well as fast-food restaurants. It’s better to stay at home and collect unemployment benefits than to come back,” she said.
Proponents of a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour argue that it would be good for the economy because workers will have more money to spend. Opponents, on the other hand, say that it will lead to higher prices and fewer jobs.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to employ remote work arrangements for many employees. Studies show that remote work is here to stay as an overwhelming majority of workers want to continue working remotely beyond the pandemic.
Jurkovic says Alliant has fully embraced the notion of flexible work options for its employees.
“Alliant is not mandating that employees return to the office, although the option is available, and introduced a Flexible Workplace program, based on employee feedback around flexibility in where and how one works.” she said.
“I think we’ll all agree that flexible work from home options were available prior to COVID albeit to varying degrees across industries. It’s no longer a trend but a reality that’s been accelerated,” she added.
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By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect