Camp Fire Stories

Share This:

Employers Must Shift What They Care About

Employers Must Shift What They Care About

Letter from Joshua Todd, President & CEO – Camp Fire Columbia

Stores are closing early or not opening at all.  Job postings languish with little interest from potential employees.  Employers offer signing bonuses, higher wages, and more flexibility yet struggle to hire.  Many pundits, politicians, and armchair prognosticators will tell you that unemployment benefits are to blame.  They have incentivized people to stay at home- made us soft, lazy, pampered.  I think the answer is fundamentally different than this grim analysis.

Over the past two years, employees have been able to rethink their relationship to work- prioritizing their health and well-being.  A funny thing happens when we stop, pause, and reflect.  We start to see things from different perspectives and like an optical illusion once you see the trick it is hard to unsee it.  Employees now know that when they were asking to work from home and employers said it just wouldn’t work, that it could and did, and happened pretty quickly.  As movements developed to fight for $15, they were laughed at and told the economy would collapse and unemployment would soar because employers would have to lay off employees to afford to pay those that remained a living wage.  Fast forward a couple years and the pandemic caused labor shortages that forced fast food chains and grocery stores to raise wages to $15/hr and in many cases higher!

Employees have seen that changes can happen, and with urgency, when employers shift what they care about.  As an employer managing COVID, there are a lot of decisions to make. Will we require employees return to office-based work? Will we require masks or not? When should someone who tests positive for COVID return to work and will they be paid while they are out?  In too many cases, what is transparent are the decisions employers are making actually communicate they care about staying open, care about maintaining revenue, but rarely that they care about their staff.

At Camp Fire Columbia we have chosen to center the health and safety of our staff and the youth we serve.  Nothing we (or any other business, nonprofit, or government agency) do happens without our staff.  We call it ‘collective care’ and it is the belief that every decision should start with what is best for our staff- because caring for them IS caring for our bottom line and our community.  For us that has meant providing upgraded KN95 masks and rapid tests to staff, free of charge.  It has meant providing employer sponsored time off so staff don’t have to worry about making rent and paying their bills if they get COVID or are forced to quarantine.  It has meant offering COVID hazard pay of $3 per hour, recognizing they are putting their health and possibly lives on the line to do their jobs (and that $3 is on top of an already livable wage- (our lowest paid employees start at $16/hr with the majority at or above $18.40/hr).

Maybe labor shortages wouldn’t be so severe and the “great resignation” nonexistent if potential employees saw prospective employers treating their staff with dignity, respect, and above all care.  Caring Effectively for Others should be the real job of CEOs.