The Human Touch

Poet Robert Frost once said, “The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.” Then again, there are those who are willing to work but can’t find a job.

jb-june-1Photo Credit: Vermont Public Radio

Today’s job market stands dramatically changed from what it was during Frost’s idyllic years in rural Vermont. Employers disproportionately prefer younger workers with college degrees.

A recent CNN report points out that older workers spend over nine months to find a job while workers in the 35 to 44 range spend an average of six months. A Psychology Today piece even points out how workers aged 55 and older are unemployed three times as long as younger workers. Older workers may often be the most in need of employment due to a fast-approaching retirement age, families to support, and an increased need for job benefits such as a pension plan and health insurance. Yet the older a worker is, the more difficult it is to find work.

Willingness to work is no longer enough. On top of age barriers, there is the machination of hiring processes altogether. Job seekers spend hours completing online applications and personality tests to assess if they’re a “good fit.” Despite these efforts, a real human being never sees it if a black box algorithm decides that candidates with a better college grade-point average, higher personality test score, and more years of experience deserves an interview instead.

When job seekers are lucky enough to secure an interview, few letters are sent out afterward. There may be only silence with not even an acknowledgment thanking candidates. In today’s job market, when hiring decisions are made, employees may receive a brief computer-generated email and not a paper letter: “Thank you for your interest in XYZ company. We have selected a more qualified applicant for this position. Best of luck in your future endeavors.”

jb-june-2Photo Credit: Professor Astronomy blog

Eventually, some job seekers tire of endless hours invested in arduous online forms and give up the hunt altogether. They’re willing to work but are unwilling to submit to a hiring process which inherently lacks humanity and reduces their personhood into an impersonal number.

Weighing past performance is essential to the hiring process. However, we cannot forget that sometimes, people thrive by new opportunities which develop untapped skills. Sometimes, less experience is an asset, not a risk. How can workers gain more experience, if no one offers it?

Surely there are some corners of our forever evolving civilization which shall always demand a human touch. It’s our enduring citadel to guard against the mechanized nets of automation and digitalization. Employers should never forget to extend basic respect to job seekers, modeling core courtesies which reflect dignified treatment. Human resources managers should consider unconventional candidates for untapped potential. Create a workplace community which boosts morale with the same fervor used to pursue an organization’s bottom line. Give older workers a chance to learn new skills. This approach will diminish long-term attrition, fostering a more loyal and productive workforce. To prevail that human touch must trickle down from the top.

jb-june-3Photo Credit: Books Tell You Why, Inc.

It was another poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who pointed out the same:

What then? Shall we sit idly down and say

The night hath come; it is no longer day?

The night hath not yet come; we are not quite

Cut off from labor by the failing light;

Something remains for us to do or dare;

Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear…

Submitted by Jason Bowns


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