4 Untapped Groups to Recruit During the Labor Shortage

Talent Acquisition

The labor shortage is a true challenge for companies in a variety of industries that hire a wide range of personnel. Those in need of manual laborers, white-collar workers, or something in between are feeling the pain. The Great Resignation, as many are calling it, is a complex problem in need of thoughtful and creative solutions.

Revamping your recruiting strategy is one way to address the need for hard working and hungry new hires. To do so, organizations are going to have to transform their thinking about who makes a good candidate.

For some time now, Human Resources leaders have been debating the merits of skills-based versus experience hiring. There were many questions about whether having a college degree or a certain number of consecutive years in a particular job was enough to qualify people.

READ: 10 Employee Retention Strategies for the Great Resignation Era

Some people were shifting their mindset because of the skills gap. Even before the pandemic and labor shortage, 75% of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM said they were having recruiting difficulty because job candidates lacked certain skills.

The thought was that an organization could look for hard workers with potential, who might lack certain credentials or expectations, but could be taught how to do a necessary job. Frankly, this approach to lifelong learning and development is gaining traction across the board.

If your organization is starting to think less about pedigree and more about capability, then you might consider recruiting from some of the untapped groups that are often ignored but are ripe for courting: 


Women have left the workforce in droves since the start of the pandemic. In fact, the number of women in the workforce is the lowest it has been since the 1970s, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many moms had to leave their jobs to care for young children and aging parents. Without schools and daycares open regularly, they had no one to help them watch their kids.

In fact, even now that vaccines are being doled out, child care services are in crisis. As a result of having to exclusively care for their kids, moms remain either unemployed or underemployed. Many of them have gaps on their resume. This can have consequences on women’s finances for years to come. Organizations, however, can start recruiting these women.

Moms often know how to multitask, organize, and plan. They are dedicated, especially because getting a paycheck means feeding and caring for their children. For now, their talents are missing in the corporate world.

To win them over, companies have to provide flexibility and some sort of child care benefits or at least support the government’s efforts to do the same. They also need to pay women equitably and make sure the compensation and benefits they provide make it worth it to moms to take away time from their families.

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

Young People

There was a time when high school kids had jobs, especially after school and during the summer. They earned money for their education or saved up for a car. Some high schools even allowed students the chance to work at someplace like a supermarket for school credit. Those programs are long gone.

While some young adults still have some sort of part-time or seasonal work, they haven’t been on the radar of employers for a long while. A select group of young people with great opportunities have had cushy internships that they did for free. But landscapers, construction companies, fast-food and chain restaurants, hotels, and more could benefit from the labor of young adults. Certainly, many of them could take on roles that included using technology or doing something like data entry.

Most of them will have to work on a part-time basis while they attend school, but this can be helpful to employers, too. They can hire more of them without having to dole out benefits like health insurance. Also, it could be beneficial because the organization can immerse them in the company culture and help them grow into other roles. An example would be the Disney College Program, which serves as a virtually never-ending pipeline of talent for the company. 

Retired and Semi-Retired Seniors

Ageism is the last “ism” that people accept in the United States. The fact is, however, that may seniors continue to have sharp minds and vibrant lives. They can continue to contribute to various companies. Many seniors already seek part-time or seasonal employment as cashiers or at places like theme parks and entertainment venues.

They have great experience and wisdom that they can pass onto others in the organization. The cost of living continues to inflate and healthcare, on which many seniors rely, is most expensive. Having a regular paycheck is a benefit many seniors would not quickly overlook. And employers can get solid workers who can hit the ground running. 

Those Outside Your Industry

The future of work is an often-visited topic among HR leaders. One of the big problems is that automation and scientific advancements are eliminating certain jobs. For example, coal miners are dwindling in numbers because governments and businesses alike are seeking alternatives to fossil fuels as a result of climate change. In addition, artificial intelligence is allowing organizations to automate processes that have previously been conducted by humans.

At the same time, employers need people to acquire certain skills of the future. They need those who can understand functions like blockchain, data analytics, and cybersecurity. Creating programs – with or without government leaders – that would upskill or completely retrain those who are in jobs at risk of soon being eliminated could help with the labor shortage.

Of course, investing in the education of individuals would be more of a long-term solution. You could build apprenticeships and make L&D a part of their job responsibilities. Ultimately, this solution could solve the problems of the skills gap and the elimination of certain jobs from technology. Taking this approach demonstrates that an organization is dedicated to the humans who need to work even if it is seeking efficiency through new technology.

Rethinking your recruiting strategy and considering untapped groups is a must in this historic labor shortage. To ensure that your company is part of the Great Transformation, rather than the Great Resignation, you should consider outside-the-box thinking about the kinds of people you hire. In the future, HR leaders will probably be looking more at one’s potential, behavior, emotional IQ, and ability to learn than they will a list of previous jobs and degrees.

What do you think? Would you recruit from these untapped groups? Why or why not? Let us know in the Human Resources (HR) Exchange Network LinkedIn group or talk to me on Twitter.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto for Pexels

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