George Lessmeister is CEO and founder of LGC Hospitality, a national staffing firm headquartered in Indianapolis. Views are the author's own.
Ten million. That's the number of workers United States businesses need to fill job openings. Yet, only 8.4 million people are seeking work, according to the most recent data. Everyone thought pandemic benefits ending would send workers back to the market. Then we thought a pay increase would be the panacea. Yes, there was a small bump. But now what? As we roll into 2022, here are the staffing trends we're watching that could influence these figures.
There are several hypotheses among economic pundits about where all the workers have gone. Many have become remote workers once they figured out how to work from home. In fact, a new World Economic Forum report says 84% of employers plan to expand remote working.
For a staffing company like ours, what's more interesting in the report is that 43% of responding leaders say they're set to reduce the workforce due to technology integration and then another 41% say they'll use contract workers for task-specialized work through 2025.
This coupled with the fact it's a job seekers' market means human resources teams need to be forward-thinking and creative to sell a desirable workplace environment and culture, especially for gig staffing jobs where workers need to be on-site. Here are the trends our team predicts for the New Year.
Hiring immigrant employees
In a normal year, the U.S. welcomes roughly 1 million immigrants, and roughly three-quarters of them end up participating in the labor force. In 2020, with borders closed due to the pandemic, the number dropped to about 263,000. Industries with labor shortages currently include hospitality and warehousing. Traditionally, 21% of immigrants accept jobs in both of those sectors. With the U.S. reopening borders post-pandemic, we'll be welcoming these job seekers while watching and waiting to see the impact to these sectors.
Focusing on employee experience
Smart business leaders will focus on the employee and their experience in the workplace. How many years have businesses done employee opinion polls with results telling what employees want, yet the feedback is disregarded? Smart C-suite executives will listen and respond quickly to employee ideas, feedback and requests in the New Year.
Workers have a lot of choices. Often their asks are small. No email after 5 p.m., for example. It's these small things that make a difference in retaining talent.
Valuing upskilling workers
The top reason people leave a job is their manager. In fact, two-thirds say their manager is not properly trained, according to a study of 2,000 employees from Predictive Index. There is an upside. According to the World Economic Forum report, a large majority of employers recognize the value of human capital investment.
- There's a newfound emphasis on personal development courses, with a growth of 88%.
- Employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to just over 70% of employees in the next three years.
- And an average of 66% of employers surveyed expect to get a return on investment in upskilling and reskilling within one year.
New focus on internal talent
A recent Gartner survey of 550 human resources leaders says one of their focus areas in the New Year is current and future leadership bench strength (45%). It might sound strange for the head of a staffing company to point out that human resources teams should focus on internal talent. It's not. We have over 40 offices across the country staffed with creative and talented team members. Keeping them engaged and investing in their talent is a priority. In addition, we have thousands of gig workers across the country who we want to keep in our talent pool for client jobs. Focusing on the talent we have available is critical to operations.
Finding soft skills
It's often been said, "Hire for culture." That's never been truer. According to a recent LinkedIn Global Talent Trends survey, 92% of hiring and talent professionals stated that it's "increasingly important" to hire candidates with well-developed soft skills, especially in today's changing workplace. In the same survey, 89% said that bad hires "typically have poor soft skills." Solid soft skills can increase both retention and productivity, both critical to business operations in a marketplace where it's tough to find new employees.
Smaller venues and outdoor space
This trend is specific to the hospitality industry. Smaller venues are in vogue. With more families staying home and ordering for takeout, large restaurants are a thing of the past. Newly built venues come with takeout windows and outdoor spaces. That smaller venue comes with the need for less staff, and we're finding that makes our gig workers happier. Being around fewer people feels safer.
This is a trend that started over the last year, and it's here to stay as it becomes clearer what can and cannot be offered. The traditional business leader with an office is trying to figure out how to define flexible work — hybrid, work-from-home, four-day workweeks. Businesses with customer-facing jobs, including retail and hospitality, have figured out how to make it work for their teams since traditional schedules demanded weekends and nights.