How to Solve the Labor Shortage Problem

Available for Interviews: Dara Barlin

Dara Barlin is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Transforming Culture and the author of the new book, A New Kind of Power: Using Human-Centered Leadership to Drive Innovation, Equity, and Belonging in Government Institutions.

What Dara Barlin Can say in an interview on
How to Solve the Labor Shortage Problem:

Approximately 4.3 million jobs are going unfilled in the U.S. and the labor shortage is wreaking havoc on supply chains and crippling some industries. Researchers have been scratching their heads trying to come up with the root causes, yet there is one factor that has been largely ignored while being the most consistent determinant of people quitting—terrible workplace culture. Reports show 79% of employees that leave their jobs do so because they didn’t feel appreciated, while another study reveals 58% of people trust strangers more than their own boss. The factors of the pandemic have simply been exacerbating a trend already in place: people tend to leave their job when they are fed up with the level of disrespect they receive at work.

A recently published book called A New Kind of Power, is offering some answers that might make it easier for managers and organizational leaders to address this issue by taking a more nuanced approach towards culture-building in the workplace. Here are the highlights. 

1) Design Systems to Support
More Choice and Voice for Employees

Many successful organizations are finding ways to enable deeper listening of employee needs and offering more opportunities for staff to have a say in decisions that affect them. This gives employees a sense of agency and ownership, meaning they are likely to feel appreciated and stick around longer. In addition to better employee retention, these intuitions are also experiencing large returns on investments through increased productivity, decreased sick days, more nimbleness, better collaboration, and a much more engaged and inspired workforce. 

2) Spark Innovation through
Human-Centered Design

Human-Centered Design is growing as an emerging trend to improve systems efficiency and innovation, while making employees feel valued and even enthusiastic about their jobs. The process invites people from all layers of the organization (from front-line workers, to middle managers, to senior leaders) to team up in clusters and work together to generate new solutions for pressing problems. The process makes employees co-designers in important institutional decisions, which fosters a sense of belonging and doubles the chances that employees will stay. Other side benefits include increasing the number and quality of innovations, improving performance at work, and decreasing sick days.  

3) Create Psychologically Safe
Environments in the Workplace

Because of the “gotcha” mentality and incessant blame-gaming, many employees don’t feel safe admitting when they make mistakes or speaking up when they see problems. As a result, important issues get ignored, workstreams get derailed, and employees feel scared to come to work. However, institutions putting time into creating psychologically safe environments are noticing employees feel more confident in speaking their truth and are staying in jobs longer. In addition, these institutions have more successful change efforts, a deeper sense of inclusiveness and belonging, increased innovation, trust in leadership, and even an increase in positive press.

4) Pave a Human-Centered Path
Towards Equity & Inclusion

Institutions are beginning to use Human-Centered Leadership strategies to develop a sense of unity around equity issues, without stoking conflict that creates divisions and hurts culture. Some are finding success by creating powerful leadership opportunities for DEI groups (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and ERGs (Employee Resource Groups). Others are bringing in naysayers to serve as co-designers of equity initiatives. And some are reaching out to the community to include them in the design and rollout of equity initiatives. These efforts are creating meaningful positive change without triggering backlash. They are also fostering empathy across institutions so that deeper listening and understanding can take place across communities of difference.

5) Find, Hire, and Promote Leaders
with High EQ

Many institutions are starting to revamp their hiring process to give more priority to finding leaders who have high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), in addition to having strong analytical and technical skills. The data show that EQ is twice as important as IQ or analytical skills when hiring and 71% of hiring managers now say they value EQ over IQ. The institutions engaging in efforts to hire these types of leaders are seeing stronger workplace culture which translates to better recruitment and retention. In addition, employers are seeing more inclusive pathways to leadership and less likelihood that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder end up in influential positions.

A growing number of institutions are using the strategies described above to improve workplace culture in ways that make employees want to join and stay. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of companies and government institutions are still using old-school traditional methods of management which is creating a toxic culture and driving away employees. The pandemic has exacerbated the issue to the point where senior leaders will have to start paying attention to these issues. The question that remains is, will they choose to do anything about it?


Interview: Dara Barlin

Dara Barlin is an international bestselling author and the CEO of the Center for Transforming Culture. She has over 20 years of experience partnering with organizations to support innovation and positive change through Human-Centered Leadership.  Dara’s research has been featured in the United Nations, U.S. Congress, Women in Government, and Harvard Education Spotlight Series. She has written numerous articles on how to inspire creative solutions on global issues for the World Policy Journal, Huffington Post, and Education Week. Her Kaleidoscope Method for community engagement has been touted as “the best ever seen” by White House leaders, state legislators, and UN officials. In 2012, she led a global campaign that helped to develop trust and a common blueprint for positive change across 97 countries.  Dara has a Master’s with honors in Public Policy from the London School of Economics and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Barnard College.

Barlin is the author of the new book, A New Kind of Power: Using Human-Centered Leadership to Drive Innovation, Equity, and Belonging in Government Institutions.

Jo Allison
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

Leave a Reply