Bill Neese is vice president of talent acquisition at human capital management company Paycor. The views expressed here are the author's own.
The U.S. labor market is tighter than a drum. With unemployment rates hovering around 4%, hiring managers and recruiters are acutely aware of the challenges involved with finding qualified candidates.
There are a few factors at play. To start, baby boomers are retiring faster than their replacements can be found. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 10,000 will turn 65, the typical retirement age, every day — a trend we can expect to continue into the 2030s.
And although there are 53 million Gen Xers working or looking for work (as of 2017), they're not always able to take up the slack. Gen X has limitations. Adults in this age range oftentimes are in the midst of raising children or taking care of aging parents (or both) and aren't looking for full-time employment.
Which means millennials are going to save the day, right? Not quite. While they represented the largest segment of the workforce about three years ago at 56 million, millennials don't have the necessary work experience to immediately fill the shoes of retiring boomers.
That brings us to the final factor: the skills gap. The demand for skilled labor (that which requires the worker to have specialized training or a learned skill) continues to increase while technological advances are shrinking unskilled labor opportunities. A recent Deloitte survey revealed the skills gap could leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028. Semi-skilled workers, such as truck drivers and customer service representatives, are in demand as well.
The trick to filling these positions is to move unemployed “unskilled workers” into the “skilled” category, but this can be time consuming and, sometimes, frustrating. The most serious skill deficiencies are technology and computer skills as well as problem-solving skills. This is compounded by some employers' struggles to find skilled or semi-skilled workers who can pass drug tests and don't have a criminal record.
Alas, all is not lost. There are many ways to unearth talent and add to your workforce, despite these hurdles.
1. Woo current employees
It might sound like a no-brainer, but keeping your current talent should be a priority. It can cost thousands — sometimes tens of thousands — to replace an employee. From loss of productivity to time spent recruiting, interviewing, onboarding and training a new hire, the costs add up quickly.
Retaining talent doesn't always have to mean increasing salaries or bonuses (although, that certainly helps). According to a 2017 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 65% of employees derive job satisfaction because they experience respectful treatment across all levels.
So don't be stingy with the compliments. Celebrate a job well done. Keep in mind that rewards aren't one-size-fits-all, and consider tailoring your praise based on the employee's personality type. Encourage employee development and explore opportunities to use their skills. Make employees feel appreciated.
2. Review company benefits
A well-rounded benefits package needs to be competitive to attract prospective employees. This most likely will require a bit of tailoring on your part as a multi-generational workforce will require different options.
To attract a wide pool of applicants, be open to telecommuting, part-time hours, unlimited parental leave, compressed workweeks, short sabbaticals, job sharing, shift trading, project-based contracts or temporary jobs. The results might surprise you.
3. Keep tabs on candidates
Closely track job applicants, in a non-creepy way of course. It's important for your recruiting team to use a modern applicant tracking system to track past applicants. While a candidate might not be a fit for one role, he or she could be the perfect person for a future opening. Maintaining a database that's easy to search reduces the burden of sifting through candidates.
Create an employee referral program, dig deep into job boards, network — even check out the competition. All are reasonable ways to beef up your employee pipeline so when a new job arises, you already have a list of contenders.
4. Think outside the box
Don't pigeonhole your job positions. Sometimes it pays to think out of the box when gathering a pool of applicants.
For example, can you ignore a resume gap and consider a stay-at-home parent returning to the workforce? Maybe someone looking for part-time work could fill a position previously deemed full time. Some jobs might be perfect for someone who was previously incarcerated looking to get back on his or her feet. Perhaps a candidate doesn't have the right degree or enough experience, but has said all the right things in the interview.
The point is, don't discount an applicant based on unconscious bias. You could be overlooking some hidden potential.
5. Offer appropriate compensation
Job seekers know what they're worth. Thanks to websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, salary information is regularly culled and published, arming every potential hire with compensation intelligence.
To remain competitive when hiring, it would behoove your HR department to research the salary associated with a particular job position in your city and align your offer accordingly. You can even sweeten the deal by offering more than the norm, which can help lure talent away from a competitor. Consider signing bonuses, company equity and make sure your benefits package is top-notch.