Opinion: This Is How New Mexico Is Planning to Bring Workers Back

Daniella Cressman

New Mexico is in dire need of more workers—our state's unemployment rate is extremely high compared to the national average.

"The number of non-working adults has been a longtime concern for the state, with the labor force participation rate standing at roughly 57%, according to recent data. That compares to the national rate of 62%." —Matthew Narvaiz & Colleen Heild

As a result, state and business leaders are changing their approach, hoping to attract more people into the office.

"Fewer New Mexicans are joining the workforce compared to other states. And that begs the question: What will it take to draw people back to work?" —Matthew Narvaiz & Colleen Heild

Honestly, this shift could benefit New Mexicans.

"State and business leaders are coming up with ideas ranging from providing employers funds to pay higher salaries to helping teens gain interest and skills in trade positions. Those were among the initiatives the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions described to policymakers during a Legislative Finance Committee meeting last month." —Matthew Narvaiz & Colleen Heild

In my opinion, a lot of folks have become accustomed to working remotely thanks to the pandemic, and many are quite reluctant to go back to an office or a job in an industry that needs to be done in person.

For this reason, it's paramount that businesses provide a fair amount of perks and benefits to their employees so that they feel as though they are compensated fairly and honored for their work by the company, regardless of their position.

Admittedly, employers must actually have the resources to make this happen.

Fortunately, it looks as though the Department of Workforce Solutions is making efforts to help businesses recruit employees during this time.

"One focus for the department is on reimbursing businesses, specifically in the hospitality and tourism industry. The department earmarked $2.5 million in federal funds for businesses to attract new hires by raising wages or 'whatever they have to do to compete...The program allows for $5,000 for every new fulltime hire and about half of that for hired part-time employees." —Marcos Martinez (DWS Employment Services Division)

The program is partnering with the New Mexico Tourism Department and the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

"The program is partnering with the New Mexico Tourism Department and the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department. It has been ongoing for a little more than half a year, and is now planning to expand the program in the next three months to include businesses in the health care and child care industries." —Matthew Narvaiz & Colleen Heild

To be fair, going back to work has certainly become a bit cushier, with many companies offering employees increased benefits, higher wages, and longer periods paid sick leave.

"The program is partnering with the New Mexico Tourism Department and the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department. It has been ongoing for a little more than half a year, and is now planning to expand the program in the next three months to include businesses in the health care and child care industries." —Legislative Finance Committee Analyst Eric Chenier

I myself am partial to self-employment and am planning to relocate in the next few years, but here is my two cents:

  • Offer more remote work options.
  • Be open to people who want to work part-time hours and have a relatively flexible schedule.
  • Make sure you schedule service workers—waiters, cashiers,etc.— for at least three days per week so that they can count on a fairly sustainable income to support themselves: too many people resign because they can't make ends meet due to an unpredictable schedule.
  • Enforce strict anti-discrimination policies—Too many people leave the workforce due to sexism, racism, or homophobia or stay and feel uncomfortable every single day: while these policies are stated in writing, the reality of the situation is often very different, and in my view too many have been pressured to leave or been ostracized at work after actually reporting an issue.
  • Reward your employees with a free pizza every now and then—It will make them so happy and grateful. Honestly, this could be any form of reward: giving them a gift card if they've done a stellar job, honoring them during a meeting for their efforts, making a point of celebrating their accomplishments, giving them a card if it's their birthday, etc.—We all just want to be humanized a bit more.
  • Make a point of acknowledging employees: Some jobs are thankless, and employee of the month initiatives almost always spur motivation, but sometimes it's the little things that count, like thanking someone for commuting an hour to work each day, giving them a gift card to their favorite restaurant if their performance was phenomenal on a certain week, or simply acknowledging how much they've improved since they started working for your company with a few kind words!
  • People want paid sick leave and more time off—Organizations that do this—even for part-time employees—tend to attract more candidates.
  • Offer hybrid options: I am almost certain more individuals would want to work if they knew they could complete their tasks from home 2-3 days per week, although I know this would only work with some careers!
  • People need more parental leave!
  • Employees, generally speaking, seem to want more support from their employer when it comes to childcare needs and demands.

It makes sense that a lot of folks want to work from home or have gotten a little too comfortable on unemployment but, in my opinion, adopting these measures will likely help!

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Canadian-American author writing about local politics, personal finance, & dining in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque, NM
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