Tackling the talent scarcity in the staffing industry
Good help is hard to find. And that’s not just a feeling you’re having—in economic terms, there are only 0.8 unemployed persons for every one job opening, according to the Department of Labor, so there are currently more jobs than people looking for jobs.
“There’s been a long period of economic growth, the longest in recent history, and it just means that labor markets have gotten tighter and tighter,” says John Nurthern, executive director of global research for Staffing Industry Analysts. “It’s also pretty widespread. It’s not just the top-end, highly skilled professional part of the market, it’s in the lower-skilled blue-collar market as well.”
In addition to the rapid expansion of the jobs market, there’s also the fact that Boomers are starting to retire. “When you look at what’s going on with demographics and the number of Baby Boomers moving out of the workforce and how many people are available to replace them, it’s the perfect storm,” says Roberta Matuson, president of talent firm Matuson Consulting.
What industries are getting hardest hit?
While the talent draught is evident across the board, there are some areas that are really feeling the pinch. “I would definitely say IT, engineering, healthcare, manufacturing, finance and accounting,” says Henna Pryor, an executive coach and recruitment expert and president of Pryority Group. “Those positions are typically ones where a degree is required, so it’s a smaller pool of candidates.”
In one recent survey, 92% of healthcare organizations were at least somewhat concerned with finding candidates with the right skill set, and 35% said the talent shortage was one of their top three challenges. Another study found that the skills gap in manufacturing may leave 2.4 million positions vacant between 2018 and 2028.
Pryor doesn’t credit the lack of skilled candidates to fewer people getting degrees and certifications—but rather to a rapid development of the market. “The economy has been expanding for a decade,” Pryor says. “It’s growing faster than colleges are able to spit out qualified people.”
What can staffing firms do to combat a talent shortage?
1. Be willing to train workers
“Rather than trying to find people with the right skills, you’ve got to be able to find people with the wrong skills and then upskill them,” says John Nurthen, executive director of global research for Staffing Industry Analysts.
This is something that more staffing companies are incorporating. Notably, for instance, staffing firm Adecco recently acquired digital retraining firm General Assembly. And Kelly Services has partnered with Kenzie Academy “to tackle the education demands of the nation’s workforce.”
The American Staffing Association has gotten involved with the administration and revitalization of apprenticeship programs, and they’ve launched an awards program to identify best practices in upskilling and retraining. “We’ve got healthcare staffing companies that are offering credential certification courses so nurses can achieve specialty certifications,” says Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association. “Making the training work for our industry is a combination of doing it on the company’s own [dime], doing it in partnership with clients, and in some cases, looking to tap into third-party grants from federal and state governments.”
2. Go local
Now that recruiting has gone national in a big way – job posts are online, people can do them from anywhere – it’s more important than ever to connect with people on a local level.
“Getting back in front of people [is important],” Pryor says. “Getting where those people are, whether that’s in person at networking things or using social media in a more local way. Where are they hanging out on social media?”
This is especially helpful since the best talent may be passive candidates who aren’t actively looking for work. Get involved in local business groups or chambers of commerce. “Get back onto that local small business circuit to see where people are hanging out, and then passive candidates who are scrolling through their hometown social media might perk up,” Pryor says.
3. Get back to basics
When was the last time you talked to your Uber driver? Or your barista at Starbucks? There are potential job candidates everywhere, but you must look up from your smartphone.
“I’ve had people working on their PhDs driving me around, and I’ve had people who were just laid off,” Matuson says. The counter person at that coffee shop might be working that job because they’ve got student loans and they’re finishing up their education, but you might have something else to offer them that’s more appealing.
“You have to really be willing to talk to people and you’ll find talent in the most unexpected places,” Matuson says. “I had a woman tell me that her most successful sales hires were from the cosmetics counter at Bloomingdale’s. If they could sell her a product, she gave them her card, and she hired a number of them.”
4. Use a better job description
Often, companies are posting job descriptions that talk about what’s required of candidates for the position—but not why that candidate would want to work there.
“Really make an effort to use language that highlights why this place is amazing to work,” Pryor says. “That job description should have at least five things that make somebody perk up and go, ‘That sounds really interesting.’”
Besides job particulars, considering outlining company benefits, perks, if there are flexible hours or generous parental leave, and if there are promotional opportunities. “That information is missing from half the listings I see,” Pryor says.
5. Maintain relationships
When you’re trying to find the diamond in the rough—over and over again—you’ve got to provide top-notch service. That means keeping in touch with candidates even if they weren’t the right fit, or even if they’ve been placed with a company.
“We continue to emphasize that the recruiting business has always got to be human centric and high touch,” Wahlquist says. If a candidate isn’t the best match for a position, think about what you could do to help them train for something else. Get back to people promptly, and keep up relationships with those you’ve helped employ, because you never know where their career will take them.
Keep in mind, too, that every interaction you have with anyone is an opportunity to further your business and mission. “Every individual you’ve sourced into an employee is going to be a brand ambassador or brand detractor,” Wahlquist says. “You really want to cultivate every single touch point.”
Finding enough qualified candidates is tough in any market, but when there’s a talent shortage, you may need extra support for your recruiting team for access. Use Monster Hiring Solutions to expand your pool of applicants.