For small and medium-sized organizations, content is usually the trickiest part of putting together a website. That often results in it being the one thing web designers are left waiting for when trying to finish off a project. Even if the overall design and functionality are a go, a lack of content halts progress.
Over the years, I’ve found myself asking why this is such a challenge. But after seeing it time and again, a few things have become clear.
First, clients are generally not content creators. Most don’t sit there and write on a daily basis. Therefore, they don’t necessarily know what to say. Or, even if they have some talking points, they might struggle in articulating them.
Then there is also the obstacle of time. People who are busy running their business or non-profit may simply have trouble finding a few hours to concentrate on writing. Content strategy takes a back seat to other tasks.
This presents an opportunity for web designers to come in and save the day. With a little help, we can get the processes of creating and organizing content moving in the right direction.
Focus on the Most Important Details
If you’re redesigning or completely rebuilding an existing website, some of the hard work may be done for you. You can look to that content for clues regarding what’s important.
Even if that existing content is messy, it can still be useful. Search out the key selling points and discuss them with your client. Present them as a means to achieve their goals for the project.
Each organization will have their own unique message to share. An eCommerce shop, for example, may want to talk about their attention to detail when it comes to customer service. Meanwhile, a medical practice will want to concentrate on their expert staff and specialties. This type of information can prove vital in content creation.
The goal is to help your client to narrow their focus. Having a better understanding of the task at hand can provide them with confidence. They’ll be better positioned to produce compelling content.
Provide Visual Guidance
Another way to help clients develop a successful content strategy is through visualization. We do this by providing templates or prototypes that outline the various sections of a page.
This offers an immediate form of guidance that your client can reference when writing. They’ll have a better idea as to the desired length of content, along with how to make it easy to digest. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the process.
Of course, they may not exactly stick to the standards you’ve set. But that’s not the point. It’s more about getting them to think in terms of how that content will be seen by users. Even if they’re not initially thrilled with the mockup, you can work together on finding the right balance.
Another side benefit is that this trains clients to take a more consistent approach. In practice, this means that although the content may change from page to page, the format doesn’t. Users won’t be treated to succinct descriptions on the Services page while being expected to read a meandering, 20-paragraph opus on the About Us page.
By providing visual guidance, clients can simply fill in the blanks. It’s more efficient and less stressful.
Promote Common Sense and Ease-of-Use
When it comes to organizing content, things can get out of hand in a hurry. And they often become extreme.
Some clients may insist on cramming a massive amount of information onto a single page. Others could be just the opposite, with secondary pages that contain no more than a sentence or two. Neither of these strategies is likely to be a hit with users.
Thankfully, a little education can go a long way. When discussing content organization, focus on these fundamental questions:
How easy is it for users to navigate?
Is all the content on a particular page truly relevant?
What is the overall point of the content, and, is it obvious to the user?
Should a long page be split up into multiple sub-pages?
Are we missing any key information?
What’s best for SEO?
By asking these questions, you have the opportunity to fill your clients in on the finer points of a user-first approach. The answers should lead everyone in the right direction.
Write It Yourself
There are certain clients who may never become comfortable with writing and organizing content. Or they may just be unlikely to get around to doing the work. This is not only fine, but it’s also an opportunity for web designers.
By offering to write the content yourself, you will take some pressure off your clients – not to mention make some extra money. It could be a win-win situation.
You may find clients who are very happy to delegate this responsibility and pay you for it. In addition, it allows them to act in more of an editorial role. They can review what you’ve done and then collaborate with you to make the content the best it can be.
However, your work will likely be better received if you put in that initial research. As mentioned above, have a discussion about the most important messaging points. This will ensure a smoother process and better end result.
A Proactive Approach to Content Strategy
As with other areas of web design, being proactive with content is often key to a successful project. Keep in mind that your clients are most likely looking to you for some guidance. Therefore, your expertise and leadership may be just what they need to move forward with confidence.
And, just maybe, it means you won’t have to wait around nearly as long for that content to arrive.
The world of work has been changing for some time, with an end to the idea of jobs for life and the onset of the gig economy. But just as in every other field where digital transformation is ongoing, the events of 2020 have accelerated the pace of this change dramatically.
The International Labor Organization has estimated that almost 300 million jobs are at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of those that are lost, almost 40% will not come back. According to research by the University of Chicago, they will be replaced by automation to get work done more safely and efficiently.
Particularly at risk are so-called “frontline” jobs – customer service, cashiers, retail assistant, and public transport being just a few examples. But no occupation or profession is entirely future proof. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), even tasks previously reserved for highly trained doctors and lawyers – diagnosing illness from medical images, or reviewing legal case history, for example – can now be carried out by machines.
At the same time, the World Economic Forum, in its 2020 Future of Jobs report, finds that 94% of companies in the UK will accelerate the digitization of their operations as a result of the pandemic, and 91% are saying they will provide more flexibility around home or remote working.
If you’re in education or training now, this creates a dilemma. Forget the old-fashioned concept of a “job for life,” which we all know is dead – but will the skills you’re learning now even still be relevant by the time you graduate?
All of this has created a perfect environment for online learning to boom. Rather than moving to a new city and dedicating several years to studying for a degree, it’s becoming increasingly common to simply log in from home and fit education around existing work and family responsibilities.
This fits with the vision of Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online learning platform Coursera. Coursera was launched in 2012 by a group of Stanford professors interested in using the internet to widen access to world-class educational content. Today, 76 million learners have taken 4,500 different courses from 150 universities, and the company is at the forefront of the wave of transformation spreading through education.
“The point I focus on,” he told me during our recent conversation, “is that the people who have the jobs that are going to be automated do not currently have the skills to get the new jobs that are going to be created.”
Without intervention, this could lead to an “everyone loses” scenario, where high levels of unemployment coincide with large numbers of vacancies going unfilled because businesses can’t find people with the necessary skills.
The answer here is a rethink of education from the ground up, Maggioncalda says, and it’s an opinion that is widely shared. Another WEF statistic tells us 66% of employers say they are accelerating programs for upskilling employees to work with new technology and data.Models of education will change, too, as the needs of industry change. Coursera is preparing for this by creating new classes of qualification such as its Entry-Level Professional Certificates. Often provided directly by big employers, including Google and Facebook, these impart a grounding in the fundamentals needed to take on an entry-level position in a technical career, with the expectation that the student would go on to continue their education to degree level while working, through online courses, or accelerated on-campus semesters.
“The future of education is going to be much more flexible, modular, and online. Because people will not quit their job to go back to campus for two or three years to get a degree, they can’t afford to be out of the workplace that long and move their families. There’s going to be much more flexible, bite-sized modular certificate programs that add up to degrees, and it’s something people will experience over the course of their working careers,” says Maggioncalda.
All of this ties nicely with the growing requirements that industry has for workers that are able to continuously reskill and upskill to keep pace with technological change. It could lead to an end of the traditional model where our status as students expires as we pass into adulthood and employment.
Rather than simply graduating and waving goodbye to their colleges as they throw their mortarboards skywards, students could end up with life-long relationships with their preferred providers of education, paying a subscription to remain enrolled and able to continue their learning indefinitely.
“Because why wouldn’t the university want to be your lifelong learning partner?” Maggioncalda says.
“As the world changes, you have a community that you’re familiar with, and you can continue to go back and learn – and your degree is kind of never really done – you’re getting micro-credentials and rounding out your portfolio. This creates a great opportunity for higher education.”
Personally, I feel that this all points to an exciting future where barriers to education are broken down, and people are no longer blocked from studying by the fact they also need to hold down a job, or simply because they can’t afford to move away to start a university course.
With remote working increasingly common, factors such as where we happen to grow up, or where we want to settle and raise families, will no longer limit our aspirations for careers and education. This could lead to a “democratization of education,” with lower costs to the learner as employers willingly pick up the tab for those who show they can continually improve their skillsets.
As the world changes, education changes too. Austere school rooms and ivory-tower academia are relics of the last century. While formal qualifications and degrees aren’t likely to vanish any time soon, the way they are delivered in ten years’ time is likely to be vastly different than today, and ideas such as modular, lifelong learning, and entry-level certificates are a good indication of the direction things are heading.
You can watch my conversation with Jeff Maggioncalda in full, where among other topics, we also cover the impact of Covid-19 on building corporate cultures and the implications of the increasingly globalized, remote workforce. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?
In the past four weeks, more than 22 millions Americans filed for unemployment. People across all industries have been impacted in some way either through losing their job or having their hours reduced. As unemployment surges, gig workers and the self employed are also struggling to keep their businesses afloat. Funding for small businesses ran out faster than anticipated leaving the self-employed and gig economy with no other option than to join the millions of other workers seeking work.
Data published by C Space, sponsored by Monster, revealed more than a third (34%) of employees are actively seeking a job, though confidence is low. The job search process will undoubtedly prove to be difficult for college seniors, some gig workers, self-employed and the unemployed. If job seekers want to prevail, they need to be adaptable, persistent and have a strong mindset to overcome mass rejections.
Here are seven things to help job seekers be successful in their job search during this crisis.
Explore Alternative Possibilities
Candidates shouldn’t overlook the possibility of contract, temporary or gig roles. Additionally, they should remain open-minded about flexible hours. Brandi Frattini, Talent Acquisition Manager at CareerBuilder, recommended “job seekers should also look for opportunities in other businesses within similar sections where the demand is growing.”
Focusing on in demand industries and companies such as healthcare, telecommuting software, shipping and delivery services, tech support, warehousing and logistics and food supply chain are great ways to increase ones chance in finding a job.
How To Quickly Improve Liquidity In An Uncertain Economy
CareerBuilder released new data sharing current in demand companies and jobs.
The top businesses hiring are:
Decker Truck Line
The jobs with the highest growth are:
Financial analysts and advisors
Sales (retail and insurance agents)
Customer services representatives
Data entry and administrative support
Managers (frontline, project, etc…)
There are alternative ways to gain experience while job searching. Unpaid opportunities provide invaluable experience and keep skills relevant while job hunting. For this reason, job seekers shouldn’t overlook internships, apprenticeships, volunteering or organizing virtual efforts such as masterminds.
Ditch Desperation, Lead With Purpose
Competition for jobs are higher than normal resulting in heightened emotions for everyone. Monster conducted another poll and found 73% of employees are experiencing mental health stress such as depression due to the impact of the Coronavirus. Common advice is to spend eight hours a day applying for jobs. The job search process should be about quality over quantity. Additionally, when a job seeker is burnt out, their effort is affected. Avoid burnout by prioritizing self-care through walks, short breaks and anything that can help increase motivation and energy. Don’t become discouraged with the belief that finding a job isn’t possible. It is, but it will require extra patience.
Most job seekers act out of desperation and accept the first job offer without doing their due diligence. As someone who was bullied by my HR boss, I know the consequences of accepting a position out of desperation. The immediate income wasn’t worth the experience or the impact it had on my health. Thoroughly research the company, ask specific questions during the interview and make sure all red flags and doubts are addressed before accepting.
Leverage And Cultivate An Online Network
The old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” still holds true even during a crisis. If ever there was a time to focus on leveraging and cultivating a network, it’s now. Due to social distancing, people are more receptive to virtual connections than before. LinkedIn is an underrated platform that helps bridge the gap between job seekers and employers.
Job seekers can utilize LinkedIn to seek out organizations and opportunities they’re interested in and reach out to people currently working in that department or company. While LinkedIn has more than 20 million open job listings, 80% of new jobs are never posted because they’re found or created through networking. According to the Undercover Recruiter, employee referrals account for 40% of all hires.
Job seekers can maximize their social media platforms by joining groups, putting out a post to their network and making new connections. Facebook, Reddit jobs thread, Twitter #jobsearch or setting a job alert for words or phrases such as “hiring”, “we’re looking” or “join my team” are a few creative ways to find opportunities outside of traditional job boards like Indeed or Monster.
Be Proactive And Schedule A Follow Up
This pandemic blindsided many companies to the point where companies like Amazon are unable to keep up with hiring demands. As a result, candidates are being lost in the process and recruiters are forgetting to follow up. Candidates should make it a priority to follow up. If an interview is conducted, job seekers should always ask the interviewer when they can expect to hear back. Then, based off of the answer, they should set a reminder to follow up if they haven’t heard anything by that date.
Build A Personal Brand
Northeastern University describes a personal brand as being “who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values.” A job seekers personal brand is what will set them apart from the competition. A personal brand forms regardless if someone is intentional or not about creating one. The more clear and aligned someones brand is, the more it appeals to an employer.
Building a personal brand goes beyond a resume and cover letter. Employers are known to Google candiates to see what their online presence portrays about them. Employers want to avoid hiring potential liabilities and those who contradict their core values. An example would be a company promoting inclusivity but has employees making discriminatory comments.
In addition to maintaining their current social media channels, job seekers should entertain additional avenues to demonstrate their skills. These can include creating a YouTube series, writing a blog, contributing to industry publications or designing a website to showcase their talents.
Uplevel Your Marketable Skills
This quarantine provides ample opportunity for job seekers to uplevel their skillset through courses and certifications. Harvard, MIT and Yale are a few of the Ivy League schools offering courses for free through Class Central to help job seekers bolster their qualifications.
Some in demand skills job seekers should focus on are
Communication (written and verbal)
Monster also has a dedicated Coronavirus page where job seekers can find advice and content on in-demand jobs, working from home, managing a team remotely, conducting a video interview and more. It never hurts for a job seeker to practice and improve upon their interviewing skills by utilizing friends and family to provide feedback.
Optimize Your Resume
Recruiters typically receive around 250 resumes per position and only spend 7.4 seconds reviewing each resume. This is why it’s important to focus on quality rather than quantity. Job seekers should optimize their resume and tailor it for each role they apply to. To do so, they should utilize the keywords in the job description and appropriately modify their resume.
I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia. I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com.
Join career and leadership expert and award-winning author Andrew LaCivita for today’s video on how to job search during the coronavirus pandemic! You’ll learn all the adjustments you need to make to job searching, networking, job interviewing and more during the COVID-19 outbreak! ——————– FREE JOB SEARCH CHALLENGE VIDEO SERIES ——————– This is an amazing 5-part video series that teaches you exactly how to actually job search! Learn the most valuable steps and techniques that help you surface job interviews fast! I cover the overall approach, how to target companies, identify people to contact, and teach you how to craft networking messages that get replies. Plus, I show you the problems you’ll encounter and how to overcome them! Check it out here and start NOW: https://www.milewalkacademy.com/andre… ——————– FREE DOWNLOAD: INDUSTRIES THAT WILL THRIVE DURING COVID-19 ——————– Make sure to keep your job search thriving with my handy list of 36 industries and position types that will rise as a result of the coronavirus: https://www.milewalkacademy.com/growi… ——————– FREE BOOKS ——————– Make sure to get your FREE INTERVIEW INTERVENTION Hardcover, ebook, and audiobook while supplies last! Details here: http://bit.ly/YTFreeInterviewInterven… ——————– SUBSCRIBE: NEW VIDEOS + LIVE OFFICE HOURS WEEKLY ——————– SUBSCRIBE for new career and life videos weekly and join me Thursdays for Live Office Hours: https://www.youtube.com/andylacivita MORE FREE CONTENT: For much more, see my training and coaching site: https://www.milewalkacademy.com/ ——————– HOW TO JOB SEARCH DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC ——————– The coronavirus (COVID-19) has certainly changed the way our world will operate and it has undoubtedly put a crimp in your job search! In the special one-hour video, I teach the key points: – Every crisis leaves an indelible mark – Revolutions, slow then accelerate – Impacts for you going forward – Industries at risk, likely to rise – Tactical changes to your job search – What to expect with job interviews – Tips on video interviewing – Skills employers will NOW look for – Questions to ask the employers – Following up, networking, interviewing I hope you can join me for how to job search during the coronavirus pandemic! ——————– RELATED VIDEOS ——————– Video Interview Tips for Job Seekers: https://youtu.be/05WWE0Afz1k Hirevue: How to Ace Video Interviews: https://youtu.be/z0uwx6r5z8c ——————– JOIN MY JOB SEARCH BOOT CAMP ——————– Get my worldwide proven system, resources, and live support for job search success. It comes with lifetime access, ongoing support, 24-30 live, private, group coaching sessions every year and so much more. Learn to… – Start in the right place (your headline/pitch, your why, your needs, your questions to employers) – Create marketing material that wows (resume, cover letters, LinkedIn Profile) – Run the perfect job hunt (most advanced job search strategies) – Interview to win the job (ace any type of interview and learn advanced selling techniques) – Negotiate like a pro (learn the nuances, psychology and steps to get paid what you deserve) Learn more here: http://bit.ly/LaCivitaJobSearchBootCamp
Every detail does matter.When you have big dreams, and a grand vision for your career, it’s the little actions, and the small details you prioritize that will set you apart. Sure, you can work on adding habits and incorporating new skill sets into your daily life. Nonetheless, it’s key to stop and ask yourself: what do you need to eliminate or change today?
It is easier to add a new habit than it is to break an old one because habits are comfortable and we are hardwired to want that safety. What if that one conversational habit you had was blocking you from the success you want to create in your networking efforts, or what if the nervous tick to repeat “umm’” over and over was what didn’t get you that big break?
The first step is recognizing that you have a habit that needs to be broken in the first place. Here are six of the most common habits I have seen ruin someone’s credibility without them even realizing it.
1. Constantly apologizing.
When you use “sorry” in every conversation, people are not only going to be confused, but it leaves the impression you don’t value your own thoughts, ideas, and actions. If you are constantly apologizing for everything, you are planting one seed inside of your coworker’s minds: that you don’t do things right.
I like to tell coaching clients to replace “I’m sorry” with “thank you”:
“I’m sorry I’m late” becomes: “Thank you for waiting for me.”
“I’m sorry to ask you for a favor” becomes: “Thank you for helping me out.”
“I’m sorry I made a mistake” becomes: “Thank you for pointing out my mistake.”
2. Using “uptalk” in your dialog.
Uptalk is a speech pattern that completes each sentence with an ascending inflection in sound, like that of a question. This happens in the typical “valley girl” accent we all know and love from the movie Clueless. Often this inflection sound leads those you talk to, to wonder if you are asking a question or providing an answer. It creates doubt in you from your listener, and triggers questioning as to whether what you’re saying is true or not. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it, and when you speak with uncertainty, you convey just that. The pitch of your voice does matter, and a Science study proves it. There is a group of neurons that actually track changes in someone’s tone of voice- and our brains give meaning to sounds.
In order to instill confidence and trust in your communication, you want your statements to sound like declarations, not questions. If you are uncertain of whether you do this, record yourself talking and listen to hear whether your sentences are floating suggestions or sound like you are stating a fact.
3. Having poor manners.
Using good manners is so simple, yet so underrated. I have seen some of the most powerful people in a room completely disregard standard manners by picking their nose, forgetting to say thank you when someone opens the door, interrupting people when they talk or shoving someone when they’re walking by—and unknowingly pay a price for it. We have all been in a room with that person who doesn’t thank the wait staff or causes a scene because something simple wasn’t granted to them. In the moment, they get what they want, but in the long haul, it’s off-putting. No matter how established someone may be, let’s be honest:this sort of action casts a negative shadow over them that isn’t easily forgotten. Be the person who says “please” and “thank you” with your coworkers, managers, sales team, and vendors.
4. Being a conversational vampire, or narcissist.
A conversation narcissist politely shifts the focus of the conversation from someone else to themselves. This could look like:
Coworker: “I just recently gave a presentation to the management team and I forgot to pass out the handouts that I printed. I feel like such an idiot for forgetting.”
You: “Oh that’s nothing, one time I was talking to the entire upper-level executive team and I only made a few copies, I didn’t know everyone was going to come. Luckily they all loved the presentation…”
This style of communication diminishes the other person and immediately dismisses their question, request for guidance or story altogether. By shifting the focus to you, and using their share as a start to talk about yourself, you may be minimizing their needs or concerns, and discrediting what they are sharing. This leaves those around you feeling pretty dismissed and misunderstood, and you can bet that over time, they’ll realize they cannot come to you for connection or guidance in the future.
One way to avoid being this archetype is by practicing validation with people. That means, whether you agree with what they’re saying or not, showing that you appreciate or respect their point of view however you can. Often that will sound like, “I can see where you’re coming from with that,” or “I’m sorry you’re feeling [insert their feeling here.” Once you validate someone, considering asking them for more information on their story, so that you can stay in curiosity and heart-centered listening, without making it about you. This is the work of strong leaders.
5. Participating in workplace gossip.
Gossip causes people to view one another differently. Whether you are speaking the truth or not, gossip creates friction between coworkers and leads to a toxic workplace culture. You may think being the “in-the-know” person in the workplace is going to get you ahead, but the truth is that gossip causes cynical behavior among employees and harms your value at work creating decreased trust. In fact, the person talking smack always looks worse than the person they’re speaking about.
Instead of engaging in the gossip, work on removing it. Be the example, and change the topic when gossip enters the room. If they circle back around to gossiping, you can nod your head through kind listening, and validate them with “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and change the subject. If they keep coming to you with gossip, consider setting a boundary that it doesn’t feel right for you to speak about colleagues in this way. Chances are that your colleague won’t like being the recipient of this conversation, but their discomfort with your boundary is truly not your responsibility, so long as you deliver it as kindly as possible.
6. Dressing inappropriately.
If you want to appear credible, you must not only fit the part on paper, but in how you dress. Back when I worked in counterterrorism in my early 20s, I’ll never forget a roommate I had who’d leave the house looking like she was going to a nightclub, except she wasn’t… she was off to work in the U.S. Senate! She was stuck without growth in the same role for years, and looking back, her clothing choices are a realistic reason as to why her career was stagnant. If you want to get ahead, what you wear matters more than you think. People perceive you differently based on what you wear, and studies have also have found that wearing formal attire makes your abstract thinking capabilities increase, making you more adept in your role.
There are a handful of fashion do’s and don’t I share when it comes to workplace attire, but a great rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. And if you have to ask yourself if an outfit or accessory is appropriate for work, it likely isn’t. Keep the club-inspired trendy attire for the weekends and be the credible professional you want to be viewed as.
Don’t let these habits wreak havoc on your career credibility. Take responsibility for your actions, thoughts, and words. At the end of the day, you’re the one that makes yourself credible.
I’m a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you’re excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Publishing, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.
Sue Reich worked for 27 years at Shopko, a Midwest retailer that sold clothing, shoes, housewares, and electronics, until, one day, her employer didn’t exist anymore. Shopko, which employed 14,000 people across 26 states, filed for bankruptcy last year and closed all its stores last summer after it couldn’t find a buyer.
The same story is happening across the country as the retail apocalypse continues. In 2019, retailers including Payless ShoeSource, Dress Barn, and Barney’s closed 9,200 stores; Payless alone cut 16,000 jobs. Already this year, chains including Macy’s, Pier 1, and Fairway have announced closures and layoffs. Employment in retail in January was down 8 percent from the same time last year, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released Friday morning, at the same time, jobs in transportation and warehousing, industries critical for e-commerce, were up 28 percent. Department stores have shed 241,000 employees in the last five years, according to BLS data, and clothing stores cut 67,000 jobs.
But there is no national outcry as workers like Reich lose their jobs, no movement to protect the people being thrust out of work, calling for an end to store closures, or to find funding to ensure these workers end up in better jobs. Sure, there was a @SaveBarneys campaign, but it traded on nostalgia, featuring vintage TV spots and magazine ads, rather than on concern for workers, and it failed. The high-end retailer, which filed for bankruptcy last year, was sold to Authentic Brands Group, which started closing and liquidating stores in November.
Compare this with the commotions that have surrounded smaller job losses in industries such as manufacturing or mining. When Carrier, an air-conditioning company, said it was moving 1,400 jobs to Mexico, then-candidate Donald J. Trump seized on the issue in his stump speech and eventually struck a deal to keep some of the jobs in Indiana. “We hear politicians talk about the loss of factories and manufacturing and mining, but there has not been the same level of outcry around the loss of retail jobs,” says Nicole Mason, the president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank based in Washington, D.C..
“I would conjecture that one of the reasons we’re not talking about it is that it impacts predominantly women.” Nearly 80 percent of cashiers were women in 2018, according to IWPR data. As online shopping grows, and employment in warehouses grows, retail jobs for women are shrinking, while men’s jobs are growing — an IWPR analysis found that the retail industry lost 54,300 jobs between 2016 and 2017; over that time, women lost 160,300 jobs while men gained 106,000.
In the past, when factories shut down or jobs moved overseas, the government stepped in to protect workers who lost their jobs. The federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, first authorized in 1962 and expanded in 1974, 2002, and 2009, assists workers whose jobs have been displaced because of trade; it offers training subsidies and a weekly income for people who have run out of unemployment benefits.
Workers over 50 who find new jobs at a lower wage than they’d been making can also receive money from a wage insurance program to supplement their new income. But those funds aren’t available to retail workers. “Because they weren’t trade-affected, they can’t get that monthly stipend,” says Liz Skenandore, a career services specialist at Great Lakes Training and Development in Wisconsin, who deals with a steady flow of laid-off retail workers. “It would be ideal, if there was a ‘you were affected due to the internet’ category.”
Similarly, in the 1980s, after a series of factory shutdowns in the Rust Belt, a group of Ohio legislators pushed for the WARN Act, which required employers to give advance notice of mass layoffs and plant closings and to pay back wages if they did not provide that warning. Around the same time, under pressure from unions, Congress created Manufacturing Extension Partnership programs, which use federal, state, and private dollars to retrain displaced manufacturing workers for jobs in high-demand fields.
Another thing Sue Reich didn’t receive when she was laid off from Shopko: severance pay. She spent decades working for the company, and says she was told that if she worked through the store’s liquidation, she’d receive severance. But Shopko never paid Reich or workers like her anything beyond a small sum for vacation days they hadn’t taken. “It’s been challenging every month,” says Reich, who scrambled to find another job and now works part-time at a credit union, though it has not turned into full-time work as she had hoped.
Her husband, a saw operator at a factory, is working overtime so the family can pay its bills. In contrast, the thousands of workers who have lost jobs at places such as General Motors and Ford over the past year have received months of severance pay based on the amount of time they had worked at the companies. Sun Capital, a private equity firm that owned Shopko, did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.
It’s no accident that there are government policies protecting workers in industries such as manufacturing. These are industries that have long been unionized, and in the 1980s and 1990s, as the United States negotiated trade deals such as NAFTA, unions worked with elected officials from districts that were in danger of losing factories, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. They made sure that any trade deal included programs to help workers who would be displaced. To sell the trade deal, Congress had to agree to fund worker retraining and subsidy programs. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who served in the Labor Department under President Clinton, says the administration tried to introduce a universal dislocated worker training program in the 1990s that would have helped retrain any displaced worker, but couldn’t get widespread support.
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But retail is disappearing not because of a trade deal, but because the way consumers buy things is changing. Tech companies like Amazon didn’t have to negotiate with Congress to be able to sell things online; they could just start doing it. That’s meant that there is no constituency that must make sure retail workers end up on their feet in order to get a bill passed. “When people lose their jobs in the service sector and retail sector, those are women and people of color, and there is no Congressional constituent for them like the ones that were negotiating the trade bill,” Bronfenbrenner says.
Factory shutdowns are visually jarring; hulking. Abandoned factories dot landscapes across the United States; in Detroit, entrepreneurs made a business out of giving tours of the ruin. Retail’s meltdown is also visually jarring, but is hidden inside America’s malls. TIME recently walked through a mall in Green Bay, Wisconsin that had lost a Shopko and Payless store, and there were twice as many vacant stores as operating ones. The lights were off in large sections of the mall that were blocked off with crime tape, and the only foot traffic was women in workout clothes walking the long, wide corridors for exercise in the cold winter months.
As more sudden retail layoffs happen, Jack Raisner, a professor of law at St. John’s University, says he sees an opening for states or the federal government to pass more protections for retail workers. He recently helped New Jersey pass a bill that updates the WARN Act to apply to more retail workers, which he hopes will inspire similar bills in other states. The New Jersey bill, which was signed into law last month, was a response to mass layoffs that left hundreds of Toys “R” US workers who had worked through the holidays with the promise of severance without any such pay, he says. It says that any company that employees at least 50 people in the state is required to give 90 days notice of a mass layoff; without such notice, it must pay all laid-off workers at least four weeks of back pay.
If they don’t give 90 days notice, employers must also pay terminated employees one week’s pay for every year they’ve worked there. “Putting people out on the street after years of service without anything is a horror and a tax on the public,” says Raisner. He also worked with Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Chuck Schumer of New York to craft the Fair Warning Act of 2019, which would update the WARN Act nationally. The bill was introduced in November. “The anxiety over these layoffs is unabated despite what everyone says about this economy,” Raisner says. “I think there’s a real grassroots movement interested in something happening about this.”
Though business owners in New Jersey say that the state’s new law will deter companies from coming to the state, broader protections for retail workers in the form of retraining or re-education programs could be good for the larger economy. As technology changes the nature of work, people who get more education or increase their skills are best positioned to do the types of jobs that computers and robots can’t yet do. This in turn grows the nation’s productivity rate, and its economy. Now, technological change is happening faster than ever before; McKinsey estimates that by 2030, growing automation will mean that as many as 375 million workers (14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories.
In retail, where the average hourly wage for people who aren’t managers is just $16.86, laid-off workers don’t have the resources to stop working for six months or two years to get a certification or degree in another industry. “For the most part, these workers are living paycheck to paycheck, and the idea of being without a job is scary,” says Anthony Snyder, the chief executive officer of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board in Northeast Wisconsin, which helps laid-off workers find new jobs. That’s why many retail workers are on what Snyder calls the “retail merry-go-round,” where their employer dissolves or closes down, they find another retail-related job, and then get laid off from it, too.
Amanda Padgett has been on this merry-go-round for years. Padgett, a 36-year-old mother of two, was laid off from Shopko last year. Before that, she worked at an ice cream store and a call center for a national retail chain that laid off all its employees. With each layoff, she has wanted to go back to school and get a degree in something that would get her out of retail—maybe learning to become a medical coder or a radiology tech. But as long as she needs to pay the rent, put food on the table and take care of her kids, she needs to bring in a paycheck, so she finds herself in another low-wage job, making minimum wage, until it, too ends. When she heard the rumblings last year that Shopko was closing, Padgett says, “all I could think was, ‘here we go again.’”
The United States has systematically disinvested in resources that would help low-wage workers without a big financial cushion go back to school. Federal investments in workforce training have fallen 40 percent over the past 15 years, when adjusted for inflation, according to the National Skills Coalition, a group that advocates for worker training. This means many federally funded job centers only offer perfunctory classes such as building a resume or using a computer, rather than the type of longer-term interventions that typically help people switch careers, says Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, a senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition.
“You have a lot of workforce boards trying to figure out what interventions they can provide that are meaningful to the lives of workers and responsive to the needs of the industry,” says Bergson-Shilcock. “But at the same time, they’re doing it with less and less money from the federal level.”
There are some scattershot examples of states trying to help retail workers specifically. In Wisconsin, a grant for laid-off retail workers will pay for tuition for retraining in high-demand fields as well as help with mortgage payments and cover books, transportation, and child-care. It’s helped people like Ginger Gillis, 42, who did data entry for Shopko for 14 years until the company closed. Gillis always wanted to go back to school but never could make the financials work; she’s now getting an associate’s degree in Architectural Technology from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. But Gillis has an advantage: her husband has a good job, which means she doesn’t have to worry about having an income while she’s going back to school. Many retail workers “don’t have a nest egg, so they run into the next retail job before we can even talk to them,” says Snyder, of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. Only 27 of the 400 dislocated retail workers in his district have taken advantage of the grant, and even then, he’s run out of money to give out. “There is not enough money to serve everyone we’d like to serve with the greatest investment,” he says.
Other countries have much more robust safety nets for laid-off workers, whether in retail or other fields. In Canada, workers whose jobs are eliminated in mass layoffs are guaranteed termination pay if their employer doesn’t give at least eight weeks’ notice, and severance pay if they have worked for an employer for five or more years. In European countries like Sweden, laid-off workers receive financial support, a job counselor, and money for retraining, provided they are members of a union, which about 70 percent of Sweden’s workers are.
In the United States, those types of strong supports are almost only available to workers in a union, which is a shrinking share of the workforce (just 10.3 percent of American workers were members of a union in 2019.) But those unionized workers are reaping the benefits. Some partnerships between labor and management have started training low-wage workers for new positions before they even lose their jobs. In the Building Skills Partnership in California, a local union struck a deal with dozens of businesses, agreeing that the businesses could take a small amount out of workers’ paychecks to fund retraining efforts. UNITE-HERE, a union that represents service workers in Las Vegas, bargained with casinos such as MGM Resorts International to require that they alert the union to new technology being used and guarantee job training for all displaced workers.
The question now is whether the government will step in to protect retail workers as it did manufacturing workers, even though retail is not unionized. Economists largely agree that retail is about to go through what manufacturing did, says Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Manufacturing was once one-third of the workforce; now it’s eight percent. “There’s no question,” he says, “that retail is up next.”