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Working Your Way to Happy

When I began my professional career more than 25 years ago, all I wanted was an opportunity to work in my field and to earn enough money to take care of myself. My financial goals were to earn enough to pay my modest mortgage and stash a little bit of money in my savings account.

The cost of living 25 years ago compared to day is daunting to say the least. According to Consumer Affairs, Gen Z 'ers have 86% less purchasing power than those from when baby boomers were in their twenties. Plus, college debt has skyrocketed.

This year the cost of living spiked by nearly 4%. Business expenses, like health insurance jumped to record percentages too. While employers wrestle with rising wages and increased operational expenses, they're also trying to figure out why people still aren't returning to work. The truth is that higher wages and benefits are just part of what people want in a job.

From speaking to my employees and researching workforce development data and reports, I have surmised that people want a fair wage, good benefits and "community."

They want a place where they feel like the belong and that the "company" truly values them. Employees want their jobs to reflect their cultures, their likes and their passions. They want their employer to care about what they care about, and to show it.

President Barack Obama did a documentary series on Netflix entitled "Working: What We Do All Day" in which he explored what people feel a "good job" actually is.

Let's face it, the workplace has changed, the job market has changed, and the job seeker has changed. As an employer in the workforce development field, I'm constantly taking a pulse of what my organization should be doing to prepare people for work.

Jobs are plentiful in the Information Technology or IT sector and this trend is expected to continue with the focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) hitting every industry. Although some IT jobs may be phased out due to AI, other jobs will be created to keep up with the growing demand. At Goodwill Industries of East Texas, we have an IT school, . Also on the rise are consulting jobs, a field that I am also well acquainted.

So what's the answer to the supply and demand issue surrounding job seekers and employers? It boils down to providing specialized skill-based training to job seekers, as well as the high-level soft skills that employees need from "knowledge workers." In short, employers need thinkers, problem solvers, and those who can make things happen.

Employees want good pay, flexibility, community and respect. This means that instead of hiring one 40-hour worker who comes to the office every day, that the employer hires two 20 hour a week workers who work out the best schedule, setting and model to get the work done together. This also means that the employer makes room, time and creates a budget for staff to get together to work on projects and socialize perhaps over lunch or at retreat or function like the Halloween contests that we had throughout our organization. These contests were fun, engaging and allowed people to come together in a creative way.

This kind of work community might prove to be the most efficient and effective way to work going forward.

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