The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently revealed that for every unemployed American, there are 2 open jobs available. In other words, there are twice as many open jobs available as there are unemployed Americans (2022). Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workforce participation declined rapidly in April of 2020 and has yet to fully recover (2022). This data in real-time translates to unfilled positions, staff shortages, and difficulties hiring skilled labor. In response to these challenges, here are 10 strategies businesses can use to find and hire talent amidst a labor shortage.
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Strategy #1: Steal aways
With 3.6% unemployment, most candidates are already employed by others. This requires mastering the "art of the steal."
Recent research from Gallup states that “1 in 4 U.S. employees say they have been recruited in the past three months” and that “1 in 10 employees say they have been recruited in the past 3 months even though they were not actively looking for a new job or even watching for opportunities” (Barry, 2022). According to their analysis, this data represents a 57% increase in the number of “non-job seekers being actively recruited” (Barry, 2022). Because the population of unemployed job-seekers is smaller than the number of open jobs available, business leaders and recruiters have taken to hiring those already employed in other organizations—signifying an increase in the power employees have in the employee-employer relationship.
To attract employees who can now barter for more, businesses must be prepared to increase compensation, flexibility, and benefits as the success of a steal-away hiring strategy depends on the benefits of working for one company versus another. According to Pew Research, the #1 reason employees quit their job in 2021, was not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because the “pay was too low.” Employers can increase their attractiveness to those currently working for organizations with fewer benefits and compensation by offering increased benefits and salaries. Businesses can also search for job candidates who are looking for lower costs of living or relocation. For example, states like California are experiencing high rates of migration. According to the New York Times, the population in coastal cities in California is continuing to decline as a result of the high cost of living and a variety of other factors (Arango, 2022).
“Recruitment is marketing. If you’re a recruiter nowadays and you don’t see yourself as a marketer, you’re in the wrong profession.” - Matthew Jeffery
Strategy #2: Employees seeking refuge
...Refuge from turbulent bosses, companies, and industries (e.g. layoffs, hiring freezes, M&A take over targets, and aging industries).
As the economy continues to change and businesses navigate turbulent times, business leaders can increase their employee pool by recruiting employees from companies facing the challenging season. For example, in early June of 2022, Elon Musk indicated that he had a “super bad feeling” regarding the economy and because of this he plans to reduce or lay off salaried staff by 10% in the future (Isidore, 2022). Executives and other salaried employees of Tesla are facing uncertain futures within Tesla. Because of this, they may be more inclined to transition to other employment opportunities with better horizons.
Strategy #3: Graduates
Recruit emergent workers earlier from high schools, vocational schools, and universities.
While those with a bachelor’s degree or higher have the “highest labor force participation rate” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates can still experience some difficulty when entering the professional workforce (2022). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' “College Enrollment and Work Activity of Recent High School and College Graduates Summary” release, “the unemployment rate for recent college graduates with a bachelor’s degree” was 13.1% (2022). By investing in the life skills and development of younger employees, recruiters and employers can gain access to new knowledge, new perspectives, and a larger pool of potential employees.
“I am convinced that although training and development are important, recruitment and selection are much more important.” - Stephen R. Covey
Strategy #4: Rural-insourcing
Seek to engage available geographically dispersed talent that is knowledgeable about your industry or needs.
According to the U.S Census Bureau, 8.4% of Americans moved in 2021, “the lowest documents rate in over 70 years” (2021). Where people did move was different across the United States. For example, “for the first time since 1995” 57% of all moves in California were those leaving California (Carter, 2021). Furthermore, Pew Research states that “Americans are less likely than before COVID-19 to want to live in cities” and that they are “more likely to prefer suburbs” (Parker et al., 2021).
In some cases, some individuals have not simply moved to new locations, but adopted what is called “digital nomadism.” Digital nomads might have a primary residence for mail and other important documents, but they live a “nomadic lifestyle” doing remote work or “location-independent” work (Sorensen, 2021). For more information on what digital nomadism is and how it impacts the workforce read our insight article: Digital Nomadism’s Impact on Returning to Work Post-Pandemic.
When considering rural insourcing, consider the research on movement and relocation specific to your area. Are those in your area leaving or are new people coming? According to United Van Lines 2021 National Movers Study, the top outbound states for 2021 were New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, and California while the top inbound states were Vermont, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida (2021). By adopting remote work employment models, business leaders and recruiters can accept job applicants from anywhere in the world. This is especially important for those businesses in states like California, New York, and New Jersey where access to local in-person skilled workers has been affected by increased relocation to other areas.
Strategy #5: M&A
Consider aquire-hires by buying businesses that have teams assembled that fit your culture and needs.
Other challenges that can encourage employees to look toward new opportunities include M&As with culture mismatches, new CEOs, new executive leadership, new leadership teams, or corporate relocation.
As the market continues to change, businesses will face new challenges and some of these challenges will leave currently employed individuals questioning their future. Business leaders and recruiters can take advantage of this by offering greener pastures and brighter futures to employees questioning their future with their current employers.
Strategy #6: Retirees
Consider bringing knowledge worker Baby Boomers and other early retirees who have left the workforce back in part and full-time positions.
According to an article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, there were “2.4 million excess retirements due to COVID-19, which is more than half of the 4.2 million people who left the labor force from the beginning of the pandemic to the second quarter of 2021” (Castro, 2021). In other words, 2.4 million Americans retired early due to the pandemic. However, a survey from Express Employment Professionals and The Harris Poll states that 79% of those who retired during COVID-19 “say they’d be likely to partake in semi-retirement.” 66% of retired respondents stated that they would be interested in “transitioning to a consulting role,” and 59% would be interested in “working reduced hours with reduced benefits” (2022). Interestingly, only 21% of survey respondents stated that their “employer offers semi-retirement” (Express, 2022).
The gap between those interested in semi-retirement and the availability of these options indicates that there is a population of experienced and knowledgeable workers that are seeking employment that is flexible to their lifestyle. By creating semi-retirement programs and recruiting those who have already retired into the workplace, employers can fill vacant positions and increase the age diversity of their workforce—ultimately improving their productivity and resiliency. For more information on how hiring can benefit your workplace, read our insight article, Avoid Ageism and Add Resiliency to Your Workforce.
Strategy #7: Young persons (ages 16-24)
Youth participation in the workforce have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Consider hiring apprenticeships, internships, trade schools, and tech boots camps.
According to Statista, 8.2% of youth aged 16-24 are unemployed in the United States (Statista, 2022). Of those who have graduated high school but are not enrolled in college, 21.6% are unemployed. According to Indeed, many of these youth have little to no work experience or skills that are gained in the workplace (2022). These youth and high school graduates can be valuable resources for employers and recruiters.
Strategy #8: Veterans
Turn to retiring and/or transitioning military personnel who have valuable training.
According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S Armed Forces at any time since September 2001” was 4.6% in 2021. Among the unemployed veterans in 2021, 56% were between the ages of 25 and 54, 39% were 55 and older, and 5% were aged 18 to 24 (BLS, 2021). While the unemployment rate for veterans is slightly lower than the average unemployment rate for those who are not veterans, according to a study from the Society of Human Resource Management, “55% of veterans still report employment as a top transition challenge” and that “veterans with a service-connected disability are still having trouble getting and retaining jobs” (Bradbard & Schmeling, n.d.).
By creating recruitment and hiring strategies that specifically target veterans, employers have greater access to a wider pool of skilled job applicants. Research from Call of Duty Endowment and ZipRecruiter indicates that 59% “of employers report that veterans perform ‘better than’ or ‘much better than’ non-veterans” (Barrera & Carter, n.d). The Society of Human Resource Management also states that employers who hire veterans “can tap into corporate tax benefits” such as The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (SHRM, n.d.). There are a variety of veteran hiring services for business leaders at the federal and state level. However, for those interested in hiring veterans, the U.S Department of Labor outlines several resources for employers to reference. Some of these resources include Regional Veterans’ Employment Coordinators, the National Labor Exchange and Veteran Readiness and Employment.
Strategy #9: Reformers
Consider hiring reforming felons (parolees, half-way house labor, and minimum security prison labor).
Another resource for job applicants are organizations that help employ those with criminal backgrounds. According to Prison Fellowship, “for the 70 million Americans with a criminal record, there are over 28,000 legal barriers to just employment.” By legally hiring these employees in a way that is both safe for employees and employers, uplifting to local communities, and uplifting to those hired and their families, employers can gain access to dedicated employees with previous training, skills, and increased dedication to employment, according to the Prison Fellowship.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, many of these former inmates have “completed programs designed to help them develop the skills needed to achieve success” and have completed “training in Federal Prison Industries… vocational and occupational training programs.” If you’re concerned about the perception of your business from the consumer’s eye, consider research from the Society of Human Resources has found that 78% of Americans “feel comfortable buying goods or services from a business where the customer-facing employee has a non-violent criminal record.”
There are a variety of resources that employers can use to employ former inmates and those with criminal backgrounds. One organization, 70 Million Jobs, has a job posting board specifically for those with criminal backgrounds and also helps those applying for jobs with their resumes. The U.S Department of Labor has also established The Federal Bonding Program which provides “fidelity bonds for ‘at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers. The bonds cover the first six months of employment at no cost to the job applicant or the employer.”
Strategy #10: Utility task implementers
Consider hiring for neurodiversity needs and simply work in tasks and 'jobs to be done.'
According to the Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation, “unemployment for neurodivergent adults runs at least as high as 30-40% which is 3 times the rate for people with disability, and 8 times the rate for people without disability.” They state that neurodivergent adults “who are eager to work professionally are often left out of the workforce or forced into lower skills jobs for a variety of reasons” such as “non-inclusive hiring and retention practices, lack of employer education and training, absence of support ecosystems on the job, and skill differences or needs that often do not align with standard business operations.” However those in the neurodiverse community can offer a different approach to problems and “innovative solutions and ideas” among other skills to their workplace (UCONN, n.d.).
By recruiting and hiring those from the neurodiverse community, employers can access a large population of skilled workers that otherwise might go untapped. There are several ways that businesses and recruiters can look to employ those from neurodiverse communities. Consider EARN the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. They offer several strategies and resources for employers looking to hire those from the neurodiverse community, and recommend employee resource groups as a way to “boost disability recruiting and hiring.” NeurodiversityHub also provides several resources for business leaders and those in the neurodiverse community. There are also a variety of other hiring platforms and organizations that focus on neurodiversity such as inclusively, Neurodiversity in the Workplace, and Exceptional Individuals that work to help connect those who are neurodiverse to employment opportunities.
By adopting remote and flexible employment arrangements, employers can further support the hiring and development of those with neurological differences and/or disabilities. Research from Szulc, McGregor, and Cakir has indicated that for some individuals in the neurodiverse community, remote employment when routine can help them avoid “sensory overwhelm” and build a “healthy work-life balance” (2021). Szulc and her team's research also indicate that employers should work “towards building a more neurodiversity friendly post-pandemic workplace” that offers “working arrangements, which better suit employees’ domestic and personal circumstances (Szulc et al., 2021).
“We should celebrate neurodiversity—the world would be poorer and life duller if we were all the same.” - Neil Milliken
The main takeaway
As we navigate the talent selection process amidst the scarcity of new employees and job candidates, business leaders and recruiters can look toward more unique hiring practices to help fill the gaps in their labor needs. These strategies for managing the reduced workforce can help employers meet potential employees where they are at and increase their chances of finding potential applicants for their available positions.
“Change is the only constant in life. One’s ability to adapt to those changes will determine your guess in life.” - Benjamin Franklin
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