May 6, 2020

Surprise! Employees Like the Way Their Bosses Handle the Pandemic

A chat with a recruiting specialist—and a guest cameo by Procol Harum!

By Ed Goldman
Since I’ve always believed an unwritten requirement for most jobs is “Griping, as needed or assigned,” I was surprised to learn from a recent national survey that almost 70 percent of employees in the western part of the country are “very satisfied” with how their companies have been responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. With another 26 percent saying they’re “somewhat satisfied,” that makes nearly 96 percent tickled pink or at least lavender-blush pink.

(Note: Procol Harum fans might enjoy calling “lavender-blush” a lighter shade of pink. Note to rest of galaxy: Procol Harum is a British rock band whose biggest hit was called “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The guys got together in 1967, broke up a decade later, then got back together 14 years after that. Their hits since then have been, uh, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”)

Okay, back to the Department of Earth. 

For the employee satisfaction survey, states considered to be in the “West” segment of the country are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah.

Shantel Poole manages the Sacramento region’s branch of the Robert Half staffing agency, which did the study. She told me late last week that one of the reasons for the satisfaction is that these employees work for places that “keep them in the loop, via video conferencing, emails and whatever it takes. If employees are going through self-isolation and feel ignored, they get resentful or just plain bored and leave their jobs.”

The photo of Shantel Poole is courtesy of the Robert Half Agency

Job-leaving almost qualifies as a pastime in California’s capital, by the way. In a story I wrote for the Sacramento Business Journal last year, Poole had pointed out to me that while California’s then-seemingly-unstoppable economic boom had made the job market “incredibly competitive” for employers, their workers could “pretty much pick and choose their next positions and make demands they’d never been able to make” of companies wishing to not only hire them, but, more important, to keep them. “Fifty-nine percent of job seekers in the Sacramento market get at least two offers before they settle on their next job,” she said at the time. “And 46 percent in our region feel underpaid in their current jobs and are actively looking for new ones.” She added that the ”quit rate”—how many people leave their jobs without having another one lined up—is “at an all-time high.”

Consider that fact alongside the finding that Sacramento recently held the dubious distinction of being what Poole called “the number one place among 28 U.S. cities in which people were planning to look for another job in the next year.” She had added that Sacramento  “also ranked Number 4 for burnout in the workplace.”

That was then. So why aren’t these same people burning out during what I’ve referred to as Global House Arrest (ankle bracelets optional)? “Well, communicating, which I mentioned before, is a big part of it,” Poole said. “I also think that since most of the job categories we recruit for here remain strong, people may be realizing that, at least during the pandemic, staying put might be the best option, that there’ll always be another place to go.” Half’s recruiting specialties are in accounting, administration, finance, human resources and information technology, fields whose jobs have remained safe during the current crisis.

I asked Poole if the results of her agency’s survey, conducted from April 7-12, represent only a snapshot when the government response to the coronavirus has been more of a moving picture, with “re-open” orders sometimes conflicting with “continue to stay home” edicts within the same news cycle.

”Oh, things are changing all the time, no doubt about it,” she said. “It’s a very fluid situation. But we’re actually faring pretty well in the western states. We think it’s because at first there was an adjustment period, where people were getting used to this new way of working. Now that they’ve settled in, it’s mostly a matter of being back at work, even though the workplace might be your home.”

Personally, I won’t believe things are back to normal until everyone returns to griping.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).