How Human Resources Can Help Solve the Labor Shortage


The labor shortage, which is a result of the Great Resignation, continues. In fact, 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the entire workforce, quit their jobs in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by NPR. Human resources leaders are tasked with recruiting and retaining top talent to deal with this growing challenge.

However, since the start of the pandemic and the seismic changes that came with it, people are questioning on which team HR plays. 

Get on Team Employee

Is HR’s function to support the vision and, in some cases, the defense of employers, who have different needs of the people they hire? Or is it to nurture and provide a safe space for complaints and concerns of employees? Can HR leaders simultaneously address both constituencies? Is that even possible?

All these questions and more are bubbling to the surface in these challenging times. Recently, the BBC tackled this dilemma in the article, “Is HR Ever Really Your Friend?” Experts reveal that HR leaders are in a tough spot.

“Employees think that the function of HR is to support employees,” said Gena Cox, an organizational psychologist, according to the BBC. “That contrasts significantly from what a leader of an organization would say, and it also contrasts significantly from the reality of how HR spends its time. There is no role within HR departments as it is currently defined, that is 100% for the employee.”

The fact of the matter is that HR leaders are going to have to evolve to be more responsive to employees if they want to win the ultra-competitive talent wars. Here is the to-do list for HR leaders trying to shift their relationship with employees and recruits alike:

Talk to Leaders

Human resources has to convince those in the C-suite to buy into an employee-first culture. Senior executives have to be willing to give HR the resources and the freedom to turn their attention away from solely defending the interests of leadership (and the bottom line) over those of the employees. This is no easy task. Honestly, some won’t be able to do it because of either closed-minded leadership or fear of repercussions for having a dissenting voice. But others will be empowered by forward-thinking leaders, who are willing to give in a little and recognize the urgency.

READ: The Great Resignation: How to Get Women Back to Work

Communicate with Employees

As an HR leader, you have to be as transparent as possible, so employees trust you. People need to have those they can turn to in HR when they have a question or concern. Constant communication will help HR leaders develop a healthy rapport with employees. You have to clearly define job roles and expectations. Connect employees with the people and resources that are going to help them onboard and work successfully. Tell them what the rules are and why you have them. This means that you have to explain the process for filing grievances and complaints and be honest about what’s happening as an employee is going through it.

Bridge the Gap and Allow for Flexible Work

There is a divide between employers and employees. For example, executives who work remotely are nearly three times more likely than employees to prefer returning to the office full-time, according to the Future Forum and reported by Forbes. In fact, 76% of employees do not want to return to full-time office work according to the same survey.

HR has to serve as a diplomat of sorts to get leadership to understand that offering flexibility is a key component of recruitment and retention at this moment. Allowing for remote work can help them attract top talent. If you dig your heels in, then you will lose out during this labor shortage. As the old adage goes, give the people what they want.

Support the Well-Being of Your People

By all accounts, the pandemic accelerated the mental health crisis, which motivated HR departments to enhance their mental health and wellness programs and benefits.

“I would say that by taking positive actions regarding health and well-being, companies are putting people first. It’s all about people at the end of the day,” said Carine Rolland, head of People and Culture in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East at ManpowerGroup in an interview with HR Exchange Network. “It’s an investment that is likely to result in employee loyalty, raise engagement, and enhance productivity on a longer term basis.”

READ: A Solution for the Talent Shortage

Show You Truly Care

People feel disconnected and stressed out in a way that is palpable. Often, companies come off as heartless and only interested in the bottom line. Human resources leaders, who set the tone and make newcomers and current employees feel cared for and nurtured, will win the day.

This could mean helping connect employees with mental health services. It could also mean helping them receive learning and development that will foster the success of the individual and the organization. It might just mean organizing a social gathering or sending a thoughtful holiday gift. Of course, you have to continue to fight for the best benefits, fair compensation, and solid policies just as anyone would expect of HR.

Still, all these gestures can help the company develop a reputation as an organization that cares for its people. Recruits will want to work there, and current employees will want to stay. Word of mouth is powerful, and it gets around, especially on social media nowadays. Ultimately, HR has some power to influence the culture of an organization by being transparent, communicating well, and caring for the people who join their organization.

Photo by cottonbro for Pexels

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