Over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed a disturbing business trend for organizations interested in continued growth: Hiring has been getting harder. For the first time, the number of job openings exceeded the number of unemployed workers in the U.S. In order to fill vacant positions in such a competitive environment, companies need to look beyond traditional candidate pools to keep the talent pipeline flowing.
The shortage of skilled workers is affecting all industries, but a few are being hit particularly hard. According to data from the Korn Ferry Institute, the financial and business services industries will be lacking as many as 10.7 million workers by 2030, costing a staggering $1.313 trillion in unrealized revenue. The same research projects a shortage of 4.3 million workers in the technology, media, and telecommunications industries by 2030, which will cause these industries to lose out on $449.7 billion of unrealized output.
While technological innovations in automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning promise serious productivity gains, these gains won’t materialize without skilled human workers. For companies to maintain a growth trajectory and keep critical positions filled, they must supplement old sources of talent that are now drying up. By thinking creatively and engaging employees with the following four strategies, businesses can continue to grow despite constricting labor markets.
- Partner with educators.
Most companies wait until students are graduating to begin the recruiting process, but getting an earlier start can provide big benefits. In some cases, employers can partner with educators to teach specific skills needed in their business, increasing the likelihood that students go into careers utilizing those skills.
According to MDR, the education division of Dun & Bradstreet, nine out of 10 teachers think that proficiency in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects leads students to pursue employment in STEM fields. When companies step in to help teach skills and donate resources, such as JPMorgan Chase’s $350 million investment in community college curricula, they get to groom potential job candidates while students gain valuable skills that improve their job prospects.
- Diversify your talent pool.
Most companies start with similar baseline job requirements, like a four-year degree, and then look to narrow down the field. For example, they might hire from honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa or the Society for Collegiate Leadership & Achievement to find candidates within a certain GPA range. In doing so, they may be missing out on otherwise qualified candidates who could do good work.
Online platforms such as Udemy and Coursera have democratized learning, and major companies including Google, Apple, and IBM have all announced that college degrees are not a job requirement (although academic credentials are still a consideration). U.S. Census Bureau data from 2016 shows that one-third of Americans 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree. While this is the highest percentage on record, it nevertheless shows that looking beyond college graduates will expand your hiring pool to include a huge number of candidates that other companies are overlooking by default.
- Increase your flexibility.
If you’re looking for full-time, on-premise employees, you’re committing yourself to just those candidates who can be found in one geographic area. This decision has a profound impact on your job pool, particularly since 75% of Millennials want a flexible work environment, and Gen Z workers consider it a top perk as well.
By expanding your workforce to include freelancers and remote workers, you can tap into talent pools on the other side of the country — or the globe — while keeping your organization agile. Instead of waiting until your workload demands a full-time employee, bring in highly qualified freelancers to advance high-level projects. Over time, you’ll build up a contact list full of capable contractors who can help you accomplish your goals despite the unavailability of full-time, on-site employees.
- Reskill your existing talent.
With qualified job applicants in such high demand, you can’t wait for the perfect candidate to come along. Instead, take your proven performers and reskill them to fill positions that provide even more value to your business. As the pace of technological change renders certain skills and positions obsolete, reskilling is gaining increasing attention.
With the talent shortage limiting access to skilled workers, companies can save a fortune on recruiting costs by retraining the workforce they already have. Amazon recently announced one of the largest reskilling efforts in history: a $700 million initiative designed to retrain 100,000 employees by 2025. Start your reskilling effort before automation makes it imperative, and you’ll get more value out the employees you already have.
Qualified job candidates are scarce, and the talent gap isn’t going away any time soon. Instead of settling for second-rate job applicants, implement the strategies outlined above. By playing the long game and pursuing prospects through nontraditional avenues, you can access the employees you need now while also preparing your organization to weather any staffing storm in the future.
Written by Rhett Power.
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