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How EHS Can Help Solve the Worker Shortage

As an EHS professional, you might not think of recruiting as part of your job description. 

However, EHS professionals are uniquely well-positioned to support their company’s efforts to attract and retain talent. 

And given the fact that at least 4 million workers — or nearly 3% of the total workforce — have resigned every month since September 2021, your company most likely needs all the help it can get. 

With that in mind, let’s look at four ways EHS can help solve the worker shortage: 

1. Promote a safe return to work

By now, many companies have returned to their physical offices. According to a Gallup survey, only about a quarter of full-time workers were still working exclusively from home as of December 2021. However, many workers still have concerns about COVID-19. They or their family members might have health conditions that put them at greater risk. Or, they might have small children at home who are too young to be vaccinated. 

While you might not have direct control over your company’s return to work policy, there are things EHS professionals can do to help workers feel more comfortable. It all comes down to keeping the lines of communication open: Check in periodically on both in-person and remote workers’ well-being. Provide a way for employees to report their concerns without fear of retaliation, such as through an anonymous safety reporting software. And let employees know their concerns are heard and taken seriously, even if they don’t always agree with the company’s policies. 

2. Improve employee engagement 

Disengaged employees are leaving the workforce in droves, which in turn puts more pressure on remaining workers and tanks employee engagement. It’s a vicious cycle. No wonder maintaining employee engagement is a top priority for 80% of companies, according to SHRM

Put simply, engagement is the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their jobs. A big part of that, once again, is feeling like their voice is being heard. EHS can support this through initiatives like worker surveys, focus groups, and safety committees that get workers engaged in improving safety processes and conditions. These are mutually beneficial efforts that help you both make the workplace safer and more supportive. 

3. Support worker wellbeing  

Because of the worker shortage, stress and burnout is becoming an even bigger problem than it was before. A recent survey from Deloitte found that more than three-quarters (77%) of workers have experienced burnout at their current job. What’s more, nearly 70% feel their employer isn’t doing enough to prevent or relieve burnout.  

EHS can play an important role here, too. You can advocate to management for employee wellbeing initiatives that provide support for nutrition, exercise, and mental health. Alternatively, you can direct people to existing programs your company offers that they may not be aware of or understand how to access. 

For instance, if you send out a health and safety newsletter, you can add a short description of your company’s wellness programs and a link to additional information on how to participate.  

4. Share your sustainability mission

More than ever, today’s employees want to work for companies that are making a positive contribution to the world around them. That desire is shaping employees’ choice of where to work. For instance, a survey by Unily found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees say they’re more likely to work for a company that is taking strong climate action. This is especially true among millennial employees, who now make up the largest share of the workforce. 

EHS departments can support recruiting and retention efforts by leveraging their current sustainability efforts to make the company more appealing. This might mean hosting a community food drive or volunteer day. It could mean promoting company-wide recycling programs. Or, it could simply mean rethinking the way you talk about and market your ESG initiatives internally and to the community.  

Key takeaways

The gap between the number of job openings companies are hiring for and the number of available candidates is widening every month. And while many of the changes necessary to solve this problem need to come from the top, EHS professionals are in a powerful position to improve the employee experience and help their companies compete for talent in the current labor shortage. 

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