Tune out the noise and depravity and try to reach those who are making it.
If The Great Resignation gave you heartburn, antiwork may cause a coronary. It doesn’t have a positive ring to it for a reason. Antiwork is a “movement” that has gained momentum in the last several years as a community on the social media platform Reddit. It now boasts 1.7 million followers in its community and was the fastest growing community on Reddit in January 2022.
In short, r/antiwork seems to be against just about everything including getting out of bed in the morning, especially when it comes to having a job. The forum says that work is pointless and humiliating. If you’re an employer, this is a mind-numbing journey down the rabbit hole of madness. But don’t lose sight of the forest in the trees.
Gen-Z and Millennials are consistently blamed for the labor shortage. r/antiwork is also taking its fair share of blame. The community isn’t defined by any political ideology that may exist on Reddit. The founders “simply” argue for a utopian employment system that deprioritizes output and/or production. “Unemployment for all, not just the rich!” That’s the catchphrase of r/antiwork. Sounds fair.
On January 25th, Fox News interviewed the moderator or “mod” of the community, Doreen Ford. It did not go well. It went so poorly, in fact, that the community retreated to a private sub-reddit, and Ford was terminated as moderator of the forum. This may be the smoking gun that proves the community was fan-fiction and under blistering cross-examination, not a serious movement that has any lasting impact.
But, where do the misguided go now?
If you’re unfamiliar with Reddit, it is a network of communities each with their own front pages. Reddit is sometimes referred to as “The Front Page of the Internet” and is the tenth most popular social network. It’s demographics skew young and male. 36% percent of adults 18-29, and 22% of adults 30-49 use Reddit regularly. Just under half have a college degree. Almost all have a high school diploma. They’re venting anonymously against all the forces of life pushing in on them: student debt, housing, wages, inflation. They’re not all lazy, and not against having a job, even if the loudest comments say otherwise. They just want to feel some positive momentum. They’ve seen the rich get richer, while they themselves have not.
You’ve increased wages, reduced overtime, offered more flexibility, and improved your workplace culture since the pandemic took hold. What more can you do? Weirdly, why not embrace r/antiwork…or at least the platform choice of the youth who have recently guided toward their beliefs before they went underground. (again)
Manufacturers should create pathways to tomorrow’s jobs today. Left unabated, the manufacturing skills gap — which is now anticipated to leave 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030 — could cost the U.S. economy as much as $1 trillion.
Utilizing Reddit is an opportunity to present yourself to a still impressionable demographic to show them what makes you unique. Find creative ways to show those pathways to success for those who are looking for a way forward after years of frustration treading water personally and professionally. Changing their minds about what it means to work and who you are as an employer may be the only way to save the future. You can start your own Reddit profile. Join communities also known as “subs”. Create an ad campaign (called Promoted Content). Beware though, unlike Facebook or Instagram, non-promoted branded material that feels like a generic advertisement could get downvoted or marked as spam. Here is a great guide to how to develop content on the Reddit platform without pandering to those on the platform. Users will always respect honesty.
Create memorable content to post and advertise to grab their attention. Take time to listen to what they want. Both the antiwork crowd and Employers are going to have to give a little to solve this massive problem of unfilled jobs coming over the next eight years. Manufacturing can help with their incentives and flexibility, and workers can help with willingness to kickstart their output. As a business, the best ways to show this very deliberate demographic that you have a great culture worthy of their time is to celebrate your diversity, your commitments to the community, your commitment to their values, and a digital evolution in your operations that only they can solve. Empowerment comes from the knowledge that we are not victims of circumstance.
The people who are going to fill these jobs are on this platform and you can’t ignore them. There’s just too many of them. Be authoritative—yet gentle, transparent, self-deprecating, unique, funny, and compassionate. Showing this young generation that your business sees them as part of their future, is going to be part of your successful growth. The time to plant the seed is now…even if it is on Reddit.