If you want to get a job, stop doing drugs, work on your attitude and show up on time. No, that’s not some big secret, but Alabama has feedback from employers that suggests those truths might not be obvious to many seeking work.
According to the 2013 Skills Gap Survey conducted by the Alabama Department of Labor “67% of respondents selected poor attitude as one of their top 3 reasons for rejecting applicants. However not passing a drug screening was most often selected the #1 reason.”
The survey sampled 6,926 employers in Alabama in the utilities, construction and manufacturing industries. The fact that over 5,000 employers actually responded suggests that gravity of the challenges facing Alabama’s workforce.
Most of us have probably heard the phrase “soft skills,” but what we’re really talking about are life skills. Workers need technical capacity to execute various jobs, but solving problems, adhering to a dress code and working with a team are examples of equally important abilities.
According to the Skills Gap Survey, the most deficient life skill—by far—was showing up for work.
“Of the employers who have identified gaps in soft skills, 65% stated that attendance was a problem. Following directions and time management were the next most often identified soft skill gaps (39% and 36% respectively).”
While the survey offers broad insight into the labor market that’s actually facing Alabama’s employers, it also suggests improving our workforce is more than merely focusing on reading, writing and math.
We have serious room for improvement in the technical areas, but we need to broaden and focus our efforts on improving basic life skills in the workforce.
Showing up to class on time, turning in assignments when due and honoring scheduled meetings is, in many respects, as important for future employment prospects as the substantive work itself.
We need to teach children and prospective workers that arriving and departing on time isn’t just a matter of courtesy; it has a serious economic impact.
Take this example from Creative Business Resources. “An employee earning $60,000 per year in salary would have a charge out rate of about $78.20 per hour, ‘cost loaded time.’ If that employee is 15 minutes late every day, his direct cost to the company would be $4,692 per year, based on a 48 week work-year for lost productivity.”
That doesn’t include the impact on colleagues and others affected by tardiness. The importance of timeliness itself needs to make its way into our educational curriculum…repeatedly.
We also need to change our posture towards drugs like marijuana. We can argue about their social impact. We can debate whether we need to change laws. That’s a fine political argument to have. It doesn’t change the fact that employers are going to be checking for drug use regardless of our personal perspectives on the matter.
Finally, we need to work on attitude and work ethic. This is more show than tell. Children and young adults emulate what they see. If you’re always complaining about your work and cutting corners at the office, you’re part of the problem. It’s not easy to stay positive after a tough day on the job, but there’s no government program that can replace a good example.
It would be great if Alabamians were picking up these skills at home, but it’s pretty clear that many aren’t getting these lessons at all or they simply aren’t being reinforced.
The relaxed attitude of “letting kids be kids” might sound nice, but it’s failing one generation after the next. We don’t all need to turn into tiger moms and dads, but encouraging good attitudes, expecting drug-free lifestyles, and enforcing timeliness isn’t exactly a tall order. Little things like that alarm clock often have a pronounced impact, and paying attention to them won’t merely improve individual lives but possibly Alabama’s economy as well.