The Great Resignation of 2021 is a mass movement that employers are facing as employees turn in resignations at a record pace.
Your chamber of commerce has been dealing with this on behalf of your members who are struggling to find help, especially in hospitality. You’ve stepped up and created job fairs, networking events, and valuable content and advice to help your members survive this hiring challenge.
But if you and your members are still struggling, here’s why.
In April of 2021, according to a summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 4 million people left their jobs. In June it was 3.87 million, and July saw an exodus to the tune of 3.98 million. And it’s not likely to stop.
According to Bankrate’s August job survey, 55% of people in the workforce (i.e. currently working or actively looking for employment) said they are likely to look for new work in the next twelve months.
What will the chamber industry do as the Great Resignation of 2021 rolls into its realm? Will we see a mass exodus of chamber pros? If so, what can be done to avoid it or adapt to it? What will YOU do if it impacts your chamber staff?
Here’s why you want to be prepared.
Chamber Professionals Will Be In Demand
As a chamber professional, you know that the work you do for the chamber would fetch a higher (sometimes much higher) salary in the corporate world. It would also mean more time off and, likely, better benefits.
So why do chamber pros do what they do?
For most chamber professionals, it’s a business career and an act of service to the community rolled into one. When a business person decides to work for the chamber, they are likely sacrificing salary for the enjoyment behind knowing they are a pivotal part of the growth of their community.
But it’s trade-off that may be in jeopardy as more employers seek to recruit the kind of qualified people who are likely working for chambers.
Chamber pros are a solid hire in any business because they know how to:
- work with all types of people in a variety of positions throughout the public and private sectors
- navigate out of an emotionally tense situation, helping everyone feel like they were listened to and heard
- deal with stress and long hours
- make contacts and friends out of strangers
- support all sizes of businesses
- recruit and advocate
- find solutions that are good for the community
- leverage their connections in a charming way
- advocate for the economic development of the area
- bring lots of different groups to the table to accomplish in a short time what takes most people years
While these skills make chamber pros excellent additions to most teams, it takes a special person to run (or work for) a chamber.
If the Great Resignation starts to trickle over into the chamber profession, individual employers may benefit from their chamber recruits but business in general could be in trouble.
While I don’t have any specific numbers for the chamber industry, it would not be surprising to see high rates of burnout among chamber professionals and quite a few not only leaving their current positions, but the chamber world altogether.
Is The Great Resignation Going to Put Your Chamber Leadership in Jeopardy?
Before we answer that question, let’s examine the struggle chambers have had recruiting young people as members because this struggle likely applies to leadership as well.
Someone has to be aware of what the chamber is and what it does before they will consider leading one or applying for an open position. It seems only logical that if membership recruitment is a problem among the younger generations, recruiting a young person to be a chamber exec may be as well.
There are several things that may be holding young people back from joining the chamber industry as a career move such as:
- they don’t know it’s a career option
- a lack of flexibility when it comes to schedule
- a lack of feedback
- fewer fun perks (ie., no snack cart)
- fewer creative benefits (like gym memberships)
If the chamber profession fails to bring on young leaders in a volunteer or employment capacity, and their current leadership retires or leaves, chambers could begin to see the same staffing difficulties that their members are having.
While it’s important to fill vacated positions with young leaders, it’s also important to understand why some chamber professionals are leaving the industry altogether.
How To Prepare for a Potential Great Chamber Staff Resignation
The Great Resignation trend is something you want to incorporate into your upcoming strategic plan because this is a very seriousness potential obstacle.
Here’s what to look for and how to prepare to counter each challenge:
Chamber pros are always on call. Even when they unplug and go to the grocery store, someone recognizes them as the “chamber lady” or “chamber guy.” The role can feel like the local version of being President of the United States (and we’ve all seen the before and after pictures of that profession).
Industry burnout is very real. People are discovering too late that there are no rewards for driving full speed into exhaustion. The challenging thing about burnout is reaching the point of no return, where it is difficult–if not impossible– to reverse it.
What can be done?
Encourage self care. Create and nurture an environment where it’s okay to step back and take a moment. Make sure everyone knows to do this before it becomes critical.
Also, hiring enough staff (or freelancers and/or volunteers) and budgeting for the efficiency tools that can streamline daily operations are essential to avoiding burnout on your team. The cost of these things is small compared to replacing your staff every few months (or even years).
Crumbling Safety Nets
Many people opt for certain types of jobs because they view them as “safe.”
The chamber of commerce may have appeared that way to many. After all, these organizations have been around for years. As the voice of business, the chamber is essential to the community.
However, the pandemic changed the definition of “safe” in countless ways. Some chambers merged. Most changed how they operated. We even lost some along the way.
The idea that no job is completely safe (along with the fact that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow) has many people reconsidering career paths.
What can be done?
It’s impossible to say for sure what jobs are safe and which aren’t (other than perhaps that of the pharmaceutical industry). We’re in unchartered territory here and we’ll likely remain there for some time.
So the conversation should be elevated to talk about the exciting possibilities of how the chamber can help with reopening, rebuilds, and re-creations of the community.
In the same way that recruiters get people excited about start ups and the possibilities behind them, those hiring in the chamber industry should consider building on the energy behind future potential and heading up innovation.
Heads of business, lobbyists, and business consultants make a lot more than the average chamber professional who likely has the same skills and experience.
We must acknowledge the reality that the people leading our chambers could make more elsewhere. And while the chamber industry is partly a labor of love, sometimes things happen within budgets and families that make this “labor” no longer a viable choice.
For instance, if a chamber salary is a second income for the family whose main provider lost their job or shuttered their business, knowing that the chamber pro can make more elsewhere (and with so many open positions available), may create a situation where they have to leave. Or with student loan debt, a beginning salary at a chamber may not cover what it needs to for a recent graduate.
What can be done?
It would sure be nice if chamber salaries could match that of the corporate world (or even the government) but it’s not realistic. We have to do what we’ve encouraged our members to do–get creative.
How do you make your chamber a preeminent employer in town, an entity that people wait to hear about openings in so that they can apply?
It may involve creating some flexible work arrangements or going to a member to offer discounts to staff as a benefit. Maybe it’s giving more vacation or flex time. Talk with startups in the community to see what they’re doing to recruit and retain when higher salaries aren’t an option.
Get creative, be prepared and take your own wisdom to heart as we continue to navigate the Great Resignation of 2021.