Transformation in the World of Work: Trends for 2023 and Beyond

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Transformation in the World of Work: Trends for 2023 and Beyond
Claudia St. John
Webinar: Jan. 11, 2023

It will come as no surprise that the labor market is excruciatingly tight. People continue to quit by the millions each month, silent quitting is on the rise, and hiring and keeping employees is a monumental challenge. Claudia St. John discusses the trends driving these labor market challenges and what women in flexography can do to prepare for future challenges.

“To be able to connect with women in that space [the flexographic industry] is a special delight because it’s a very male-dominated space.” – Claudia St. John

Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States, is looking at the economy and has a lot of concern; he wants to slow down what he sees as rampant inflation. Powell is primarily looking at two indicators to use the one tool that he has: interest rates.

            The indicators that have him worried? Unemployment is too low and wage growth is too high. To combat this, the federal reserve has been increasing interest rates. But will that solve the issue? Claudia St. John is afraid not. “Currently, we have persistent low unemployment rates. We’ve been bumping around at about a 3.5% or less unemployment rate for the entire year.” And just for some context, Claudia clarified that a 4.2% unemployment rate is considered full employment.

            While COVID interrupted this streak, we’ve been dealing with this below full employment rate since 2019. Furthermore, Claudia reminds us of the law of averages: “while the national average is 3.5%, half of the data samples are below that.” According to Bloomberg News, 26 states have reached record low-unemployment rates this year.

            So in summary, this is an incredibly tight labor market right now. Which many of you already know as you’re having trouble finding and keeping talent. Many businesses are. Claudia puts it in perspective with some numbers: there are a whopping 10.1 million job openings right now and only 5.8 million job seekers. So there are about 4 million jobs that are open right now and looking at the projections of job openings from 2021 to 2031, it looks like we’re going to be adding about 8 million jobs over that time.

            So where did all the workers go? St. John offers some shocking insight.


About 8 million workers have left the workforce; 4 million of which will not be returning. Of those 4 million that aren’t expected to return, about half a million of them died as a result of COVID, about 1.6 million workers are out with long COVID, and 2 million of those workers retired, many left the workforce early during COVID (and who can blame them?).

There are also 2 million women who have left the workforce due to workplace balance issues. Ready for another shocking statistic? If you have three children, say a toddler, a newborn, and maybe a school-aged child, the cost of providing childcare is about $37,000 on average. So depending on how much you’re making, it may not make sense to stay in the labor market.

On top of all of that, Claudia also mentions The Great Resignation which is 4.3 million people changing or quitting their jobs every month. Now where did they all go?

A McKinsey study in 2022 found that 65% of those who left their jobs did not return to the same industry and while 35% took a new job in the same industry, 48% left the industry altogether. And on top of that, birth rates are dropping and more people are leaving the workforce than are entering it.

“In this storm, we’re not all in the same boat. We’ve all gone through a pretty major trauma, a pretty major storm but each in our own boat. Each experiencing it very uniquely.”

What we have on our hands is a real tsunami. Claudia emphasizes the importance of looking at each and every one of our employees, current and prospective, and asking them where they are and what they need. 

People want their work to matter:

  • 82% of employees believe it’s important that their company has a purpose
  • 70% say their personal sense of purpose is defined by their work
  • 9 out 10 workers would trade a % of their pay for work that felt more meaningful
  • 70% of Gen Z ranked purpose as more important than pay
  • Relationships are the most important determinant of meaningfulness at work

Women are facing an even more difficult challenge. Women leaders want to advance but face stronger headwinds than men while being overworked and underrecognized. This is leading to major burnout among women.

Women are looking for a culture change. The change that they want? According to a study done by McKinsey in September 2022: flexibility, wellbeing, and diversity & inclusion. This isn’t brand new information, women have been searching for these changes for a long time. If you look at the pipeline to leadership, women make up only 48% of the workforce at entry level and 26% at the C-Suite level. And of that 26%, women of color make up only 5%. 

From McKinsey, 80% of women leaders and women leaders under 30 surveyed,  flexibility is more important than other facets. Second being an organization’s commitment to employees’ well-being and opportunity for advancement. They found that when women have that flexibility to work how they want to, they’re happier, experience less burnout, and are less likely to leave their job.

People feel empowered when they have a work schedule that works for them instead of working for their employers irrespective of their own needs. But some employers have trouble trusting that their employees are being productive when they work from home, 85% of them to be exact. Which is a very large number of employers that are uncomfortable with hybrid or flexible work when the economics show that productivity is up with more people working from home or on flexible schedules.

So what are some strategies for flex work?

  • Prioritize well-being and care
  • No one-size fits all. Gather regular feedback
  • Clearly communicate plan and guidelines for flex work
  • Invest resources in employee connection
  • Be purposeful about in-person work
  • Be dedicated to leveling the playing field
  • Train your managers and supervisors

Employees want purpose, trust, flexibility, and respect and in this tight labor market it’s more important than ever to make the wellbeing of your employees your top priority.

About Claudia St. John

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., an HR and management consulting firm that provides himan resources compliance, recruitment, and organizational development support to small to mid-sized companies nationwide. Clauida is a frequent public speaker, is quoted often in national and industry press, and is a regular contributor to numerous print and electronic publications on the topic of human resources. SHe holds an undergrad degree in employee benefits and labor relations from The American University and a master’s degree in business and public administration from The George Washington University, and numerous HR and behavioral science certifications.

Want to see Claudia’s full presentation and view all of the graphs and statistics she talks through? Watch it here on our YouTube Channel.

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