A new report from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) shows that there were 7 million job openings in the U.S. in December, but only 6.3 million unemployed people looking for work. A full three-fourths of human resource professionals indicate there is a significant skills gap between what employers want versus what job seekers currently have. As the labor market remains tight, this gap is predicted to get worse with many job seekers lacking necessary technical or soft skills. What can employers do to address these challenges?
- Look at alternate candidate pools … this could be retirees, foreign workers, or those with a nontraditional academic background. For example, can you consider candidates who have the right skills, but do not have a university degree? How about a two-year degree or vocational certificate instead of a four-year degree?
- Invest in the employees you already have … how can you provide additional training to your existing employees? Is there a way to enhance their skill sets? Do you offer tuition reimbursement or other incentives for them to further their development?
- Consider alternate work relationships and environments … Can a contractor or remote worker fill the gaps in your workforce? Would a flexible working arrangement make it easier to find or retain the right person?
- Partner with local educators to develop co-op or internship programs … And these do not need to be limited to those who are currently in school! How can you work with local institutions to upskill or retrain workers who are already on the job? What skills are most in need in your workforce? How can you ensure those skills are being taught to students (both traditional and nontraditional)?
- Is your job attractive? There are roles that do not suffer from a lack of qualified applicants, but the jobs themselves may currently offer low pay or benefits that are out of alignment with the current market. If you’re having trouble attracting people to your open jobs, do some research to make sure you are offering competitive pay and benefits. It’s possible that a skills gap isn’t the primary stumbling block to your hiring efforts.
- Is your brand attractive? Over and above pay and benefits, is your company a place where the best and brightest want to work? Are you effectively selling your brand in the marketplace? Perhaps you need to invest in repositioning your brand or the types of roles you offer. For example, there is a perception that manufacturing jobs are “dirty” or unskilled … but this is patently false in many environments.
Whether it’s a direct skills gap or simply a shortage of people, labor conditions are expected to be difficult for a number of years. Employers that are creative and forward-looking will be in the best position to attract and retain the best available talent.