The Great Resignation (Wiki) got another one. In mid-February, a friend, colleague, mid-career OHS pro, with credentials that include the CSP, informed me that not only did he quit his corporate group plant-site OHS job with good pay and benefits, but he’s leaving the profession, too, at least for the foreseeable future. My friend plans to be a stay-at-home dad to help raise his two children, while he gives his wife the opportunity to rekindle her marketing and sales career that went on a decade stall when their first child was born.
The Great Resignation, Big Quit, and Big Strike are just a few of the terms used to describe the phenomenon of the large number of people who, during Covid times, took drastic actions to remedy dissatisfaction with their job.
The Great Reshuffle, and other terms, are being created to consider the aftermath of Big Quit decisions. What will life be like for my friend above, for example? The effect of some of his decisions are predictable. If he stays on the stay-at-home dad path, he will lose his CSP at its next recertification cycle. When his kids eventually go off on their own, college or whatever, will he want to rekindle his safety career? Unfortunately, his midcareer decision to leave the safety field, as honorable as it may be, likely locks him into mid-level safety positions in the future.
Did people who quit their jobs during the pandemic find greener pastures? Did higher pay at a new job offset new job dissatisfactions? Did people who changed careers find contentment and meaning? People who examine the Great Reshuffle will try to find answers to these and many more questions.
What is the purpose of a business? The time-honored logic for nearly every organization is to meet objectives. The primary objective for nearly every business is for the shareholders of the business to profit ethically from their investment. This logic is known as the “principle of shareholder primacy.”
In August 2019, the Business Roundtable, comprised of nearly 200 CEOs among the U.S.’s leading corporations, issued a Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. The statement declared that modern businesses must exist to deliver “long-term value to all of their stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, the communities in which they operate, and shareholders.” Shareholders were intentionally placed last the within the statement. Among other things, the Statement commits Business Roundtable members to “Invest in employees.”
What did the Business Roundtable’s collective radar see that caused the organization to abandon the principle of shareholder primacy and adopt the new principle of stakeholder primacy? The radar likely detected the new psyche of American investors. This psyche is seen in the 2020 thru 2022 trends in annual proxy proposals. Proxy votes come from shareholders that express their views on how the business should be run. Shareholders, comprised of liberals, conservatives, and whatever, are pushing corporations to be more engaged on employee, environmental, social, and governance (EESG) issues. You may expect to see numerous analyses of what EESG proxy votes were successful after the 2022 proxy season ends – mostly about mid-June.
During the era of shareholder primacy your job, as viewed by CEOs, mostly was considered as a cog in the big wheel that turned to make an ethical profit for investors. The cold reality of shareholder primacy jobs is something like the following: “Gump! What’s your sole purpose in this army? To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant.”
The new era of stakeholder primacy will see a growing engagement among managers and employees to fully describe the purpose and value of each job in the business.
The CEOs of major U.S. corporations are adjusting to the evolving EESG stakeholder mindset. Workplace diversity, for example, is among the top 2022 proxy proposals. Achieving true diversity will be an enormous challenge. Consider for example the BLS 2021 Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Data from the survey finds that women account for 47% of the US workforce but they dominate in caregiver occupations. Women account for 96.8% of preschool and kindergarten teachers, 94.6% of childcare workers, 91.1% of medical assistants, and 86.7% of RNs. Women, however, scarcely populate occupations such as electricians at 1.7%, machinists at 3.4%, construction and extraction occupations at 3.9%, and installation, maintenance, and repair occupations at 4.3%. The OHS field has an imbalance, too. Women account for only 30.9% among occupational health and safety specialists and technicians. Among industrial engineers, including health and safety, participation by women drops to 26%.
We like to think we have a free choice of what job or career we pursue. Where you live geographically, gender, age, race, societal expectations, income needs, and many other influences, such as the Covid pandemic, help chose the work we do – or the work we are directed to do. Sometimes there is a misfit with the job and person. The misfit creates dissatisfactions. Unresolved dissatisfactions often lead to disinterest, distractions, mood change, and other changes that may cause injury or illness, particularly mental stress.
Occupational health and safety, along with various environmental “green” jobs, are in high demand at the moment. Combating risks such as Covid at offices, public venues, healthcare locations, and everywhere, may substantially increase the OHS workforce size. EESG needs at businesses that now prioritize stakeholder values will drive demand for OHS and environmental jobs, too.
OHS work may appear glamorous and enticing to outsiders. The realty is OHS and environmental jobs may at times be very stressful. These jobs may not be a good fit for everyone. Although a school counselor and other such vocational advisors may an idea of what OHS work entails, it may be best if OHS pros communicate actual job expectations, including possible job dissatisfactions to interested parties. Communications may come in various forms: offering to speak at schools and colleges, keeping family and friends up to date on what you do, and talking about your OHS job at other opportunities, may help ensure job fit and satisfaction for someone else. This communication also helps define and refine the purpose of the work you do.
Dan is an independent environmental health and safety consultant. He can be reached at (419) 356-3768 or by email at [email protected]