Workers are demanding more from employers than ever before. Indeed’s CEO explains why the future of work is dependent on whether employers can deliver

August 19, 2022, 5:09 PM UTC
A Black teacher with a face mask explaining exam results to elementary student in the classroom.
Workers are asking for greater work-life balance and job security, especially frontline workers, like teachers and nurses.
Drazen Zigic — Getty Images

Happy Friday. Let me start with a big question: Are you happy at your job?

I recently sprung that on Fortune CEO Alan Murray, my co-host on our Leadership Next podcast. While I’m happy to report that he is, lots of other people aren’t so sure. Our guest was Chris Hyams, the CEO of Indeed, the world’s biggest job site. Hyams is the matchmaker-in-chief whose mission is to help the 250 million job seekers who log on every month connect with the right employer. 

Hyams is a fascinating guy—a failed rock star and a former teacher—who spends a good deal of his time making sense of a mountain of employment, economic, and sentiment data. “We have a team of Ph.D. economists who take all of the data that’s available on the labor sector on the outside, and then combine it with our unique perspective,” he says.

From his point of view, things are changing in a very foundational way.

While employment remains tight—in the EU, for example, there are two open positions for every worker—he flagged some intersecting trends that indicate a permanently changed labor market: An aging workforce, a slow-down in immigration, and a powerful new desire for work-life balance.

COVID-19 was a wake-up call for front-line workers. “If you look at certain sectors, that’s why it’s so hard to get staff in a restaurant right now,” he says. “People who’ve been working in the food industry for years saw overnight that there was zero safety net for them, there was absolutely nothing that their employers could do for them, and they had nowhere to turn.”

Something similar is at play for anyone privileged enough to be able to work from home during the pandemic, too. But employers who stepped up won the day. “You learn a whole lot about any relationship when things are tough,” he says. While the search for a fulfilling life was already an issue for lots of people, “I think we got about 10 years of contemplation crammed into two years, and people are looking for something very different on all sides of the economy.”

They’re also seeing an unprecedented number of people who are looking for work outside of their chosen industry. Hyams says that it’s a flight to meaning. “[R]eally what we’re seeing is that more and more job seekers are looking for companies that that share their values, and they’re looking for places where an employer is going to look out for them as a whole human being that is going to care about their physical health, about their mental health,” he says.

Hyams also had a lot to say about the future of work and the mixed promise of technology. “Every time there’s a new technology that comes that disrupts things, there’s a massive set of people who are disrupted…and those are typically people of color, people who are more vulnerable economically.”

That’s partly why a diverse workforce matters, of course. But building one is going to be very challenging for leaders who aren’t prepared to show up to the difficult conversations it will take to meet their inclusion goals. He shared details of the work Indeed is doing and offered some candid advice.

It’s about listening to the people around you.

“[F]or many people, their place of work is the most diverse environment they find themselves in,” far more than their neighborhoods, schools, or houses of worship. “[I]f you work at a big enough company, you’re going to work with a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and experiences. And if you show up and listen, you can hear things that that you would never hear before.” That’s what changes perspectives; that’s what opens minds to the work, he says.

He shared a story told to him by an Asian American colleague who spent two hours begging their parents not to go to the grocery store, afraid they’d be targeted and attacked. “That’s something that I’ve never had to beg my mother for,” he says. “And it’s very different when I’m hearing it from someone that I know, then then the abstraction of seeing it somewhere else.”

Listen to our conversation here.

Wishing you a happy weekend.

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Jack Long.

On point

Front line workers of color are languishing in the workplace A new report from McKinsey shows that it will take much more than upskilling to ensure that frontline workers of color will advance to the next stages of their lives and careers. Frontline workers include everyone from wage-earning cooks and clerks to salaried teachers and nurses. They are the most vulnerable to financial disruption and are the least likely to have meaningful benefits or a chance to move up the ladder. All of these issues are amplified for workers of color. And they’re miserable. According to the report, Frontline hourly employees of color are nearly 20% less likely than corporate employees to believe that DEI policies are effective, 45% of hourly employees believe they can’t take things like sick or parental leave without jeopardizing their jobs, and just 30% of workers in the lowest paying jobs had sick leave at all.

Working from home isn’t working for women In fact, it’s just doubled their load, and with no safety net. Though surveys show that a majority of women will jump at a flexible work schedule if offered, home is not a utopia. It’s child care, it’s chores, it’s life, reports Bloomberg. “That additional flexibility opens up a space, and that space is quickly filled with responsibilities that were once more equally distributed: between partners in a relationship, but also between citizens and the society of which they are a part.”

Teachers: We are not brainwashing your kids This is the big takeaway from a handful of sometimes exasperated-sounding teachers who spoke to the New York Times to explain what they do all day. For one thing, there’s no critical race theory, at all. “I had no idea it was a thing until I was accused of teaching it,” says one teacher, echoing many others. The experiences run the gamut. One teacher reported being “devastated” after being attacked in the media, and another who identified as “center-right,” thought some of the more “activist” teachers might have gone a little too far. Race remains a central tension. The founding fathers were complex. “We all want good guys and bad guys,” said one. But that’s just not how life works.
New York Times

On background

What would the world be like if we had always known who Edmonia Lewis was? The New York Times has been working to address the overrepresentation of white men in its obituary pages for years with its Overlooked series, and the body of work it's created is now a monument to an alt-history that we are poorer for not knowing. Get lost in the archives, there are no wrong choices. I loved the addition of Edmonia Lewis to the permanent record. Lewis was of West Indian and Chippewa heritage and was one of the first Black sculptors to achieve international fame—before it all went away. “It was risky enough for a free woman of color to pursue such a career,” writes Penelope Green, “but to claim marble as her medium was to tilt at the Victorian conventions of the time, which decreed gentler aesthetic forms for the second sex, like poetry or painting.” A true international celebrity, she even inspired condemnation from writer Henry James. She was part of a group of expat artists living in Rome when he wrote, “One of the sisterhood was a Negress whose colour, picturesquely contrasting with that of her plastic material, was the pleading agent of her fame.”
New York Times

Parting words

“I can trace eight generations of my Lakota ancestors being removed from the land of their lifeblood to the reservation, just as I can trace seven generations of Norwegian and English ancestors taking that land…When we acknowledge the Boise Valley ancestors and their land, we make room for that story of removal that was genocidal in purpose. When we tell those stories honestly and fully, we heal, and our ancestors heal with us.”

—Boise State University doctoral student Melanie Fillmore, in a “land acknowledgment” convocation speech she wrote for incoming freshmen. The speech was canceled amid fears the state legislature would pull school funding.

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