Recruiting During a Labor Shortage

Talent Acquisition

50%.  That’s the percentage of human resource managers that tell CareerBuilder1 they currently have open positions for which they cannot find one qualified candidate.  Finding the best talent for your company has never been more difficult than it is in 2020.  To add insult to injury, 32% of workers2 say they are planning to change jobs this year. 

Putting it bluntly, a labor shortage exists and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  The reality that it coincides with a growing skills gap makes for a very challenging time for human resources professionals. 

Countering this new reality is of paramount concern for HR. 

First, it’s important to set the stage.

If we look at the labor shortage from an economic perspective, a shortage doesn’t necessarily translate to a lack of available workers although that is how it is usually framed.  It can also mean there are workers who are voluntarily remaining unemployed and/or there are available workers that companies simply don’t want to hire.

The labor shortage, as an issue, is still very much in its infancy having only plagued HR since 2018.  As of the writing of this report, the latest information from the U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics states job openings remain at 7.2 million, while just 6 million people continue looking for work.  It’s the first time since the Department of Labor began tracking job turnover that a situation like this has existed.

For some, however, it’s not really a shortage.

“It’s not so much a lack of talent as it is a misalignment of talent expectation and available roles,” Eric Torigian said.  He’s the Vice President of US Human Resources and Assistant General Manager of Global HR for Akebono Brake Corporation.

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“It’s having the right skills in the right places.  And if you can see there’s a trend of technical skills and skilled laborers from electrical, mechanical, technician-level… everything from blue collar to white collar,” Chief People Officer Mark Dickenson said.

Lack of Education

And it’s not just white collar workers employers are struggling to find.  It also includes blue collar workers as well.  Examples include home health care workers, hotel staff and even restaurant workers.  Another example:  manufacturing workers.  Elkay Manufacturing chief human resources officer Larry Brand says the industry about to see a huge impact in the lack of skilled workers and it’s connected to education.

“20 years ago, many kids would get out of high school and go for job training programs or one or two year technical degrees like HVAC or refrigeration or plumbing or the trades,” Brand explained. 

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor agrees.

“Ultimately, this is a PK-12 challenge,” Taylor said.  “We got away from all of those trade job education tracks because we thought manufacturing was gone forever.  Now manufacturing jobs are back and we don’t have anyone to do them.  Now the demand is there, but these kids coming through do not have the skills for the job.  It really is an interesting dilemma.”

The Consequences

A dilemma that has some real consequences according to Brand.

“Now this unbelievable 10 year shortage that’s going to come here in about five to 10 years where it’s going to be really, really hard for companies like us to even manufacture because everyone is going to college and nobody wants a blue collar job,” Brand said.

All of this drives to one significant point Brand wants to highlight.

“If I don’t have a manufacturing workforce, this really doesn’t concern me… but it will become more of a national concern because this is going to have an effect on supply and demand and the presence of products.”

The Way Forward

As HR professionals continue to work toward dealing with the ongoing labor shortage, there is a desire for actionable tips that can point toward success.  Here are 10 tips for recruiting the best talent.

1. Workforce Planning

Workforce planning must be conducted regularly.  HR professionals must understand talent supply and demand.  Focus should be put on what is happening in the labor market and how it relates to the business goals of the company.

Other areas of focus should include:

  • What products and/or services are the company planning to provide or is already providing?
  • What is the competition doing?

2. Improve the candidate pool

In many cases HR misses out on their best candidate because they’ve not built the candidate pool in advance.  The majority of these names in the pool belong to passive candidates, or candidates who are currently working for someone else and are most likely not actively looking for a new job.  Other ways to build the candidate pool:

  • Look to and build relationships with universities, recruiters and search firms.
  • Allow current staff to take part in external professional activities to help attract new talent.
  • Look for potential employees on LinkedIn and other social media outlets.

3. Look internally

Providing promotional and lateral opportunities for current employees increases morale.  It also makes staff feel their talents, capabilities, and accomplishments are appreciated. Giving an internal candidate an interview gives HR a chance to know them better. In return, the employee learns more about the goals and needs of the organization.

4. Modern Recruiting tools

There a lots of tools out there HR teams can and should be using in the recruitment process.  These tools often improve effectiveness.  Take smart recruitment technology.  AI-equipped recruiting technology allows for some key increases.  It allows for faster screening.  It also allows for more fairness in the process.  Translation:  it can help combat bias.

5. Focus on Candidate Experience

Next, HR should give adequate attention to the candidate experience.  The best way to better the candidate experience is to simply respect the potential new employee as you would a current employee.  The same can be said for those internal employees.  What does this entail?  For starters:  transparency.  HR should be completely open and honest and communicate as much as possible.  81% of job seekers say continuous communication betters the overall experience3.

6. Employer Branding

HR should take a look at the company’s employee practices for retention, motivation, accountability, reward, recognition, flexibility in work-life balance, promotion, and involvement. These are key to becoming an employer of choice.  If these practices are successful, current employees will brag about the organization being a great place to work.  This will help increase the odds of candidates searching out the company.

7. Involve current employees

As mentioned previously, current employees can be a big asset in attracting new talent.  Look to employees to recommend candidates.  They can event assist in outlining the qualifications of potential candidates.  Employees can help in the interview process.  As they are the ones doing the job, they can help ask questions that go to the reality of the job.

8. Offering the best pay and the best benefits

This often goes without saying:  the company that pays better and has better benefits will attract the better employee.  It is important for HR to keep track of the pay scale both at their company and their competitors.  The same can be said for the benefits.  Being able to compete in this way will help HR attract the best candidate possible.

9. Check references

HR should ALWAYS check references and do background checks.  In today’s society, HR needs to pursue every avenue to assure that the people being hired can do the job, contribute to the company’s growth and development, and have no past transgressions which might endanger the current workforce.  In fact, the company may be liable if a background check was not conducted and it was later learned the new employee attacked another employee at a previous job.

10. Offboarding is as important as onboarding

The majority of the information included in this article focuses on finding and hiring the best talent.  Many of those strategies include using current employees.  HR should also harness the power of former employees.  Not all relationships that have ended between employee and employer are negative.  Those who left the company on good terms will often speak positively to other potential employees.  Even better, these former employees could turn into boomerang employees meaning that they eventually return to work for the company.  If the relationship ended on bad terms, neither of these prospective strategies will work.

The Future of Recruitment

Recruitment is more important now than it has ever been.  The face of recruitment itself is changing and HR has to find ways to adapt quickly to that transformation.  The overall challenge is staying ahead of that transformation and being able to read the proverbial “tea leaves” and predict the next big change to come.  In the meantime, HR continues to search and acquire the right and best candidates.  Talent is the lifeblood of a company.  Without it, a business cannot hope to survive.  The stronger the recruited talent, the better the future of the business.

NEXT:  Recruitment – Talent Management Pillars Part I

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Photo courtesy:  Pexels

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