The Current Status of the Labor Shortage and What it Takes to Survive

As the nation rebounds from the massive COVID shutdowns that forced huge portions of our workforce into a period of hibernation, it might come as a surprise to some that supply chain shortages and service delays continue to loom, even after most economies have fully opened back up. While it’s difficult to draw a straight line between these continuing outages and any single underlying cause, it’s impossible to have a discussion on the matter without taking into account the current status of the talent market. 

While demand is surging and “Help Wanted” signs are appearing just about everywhere, many ex-workers seem slow to return to their pre-pandemic jobs. And businesses everywhere, particularly those that depend on lower-paying positions with long hours to operate, are feeling the squeeze. Is this a phenomenon purely related to COVID? And what can businesses do to not only entice candidates to come back to work, but keep them engaged and on the job? 

There’s No Doubt the Jobs are There

Right now, it is a candidate-short market across the board. Specifically, for industries that suffered from pre-pandemic attrition due to quality of life, hours, pay and benefits issues. These include lodging, restaurants, travel, manufacturing and construction, to name a few. 

Looking for answers, I polled my team of professional recruiting partners for these industries. Every single response indicated that at this moment in time, candidates for jobs are more difficult to come by than clients looking for candidates. If asked the same question one year ago, it undoubtedly would have been met by more mixed responses. 

But it’s important to also recognize that these trends were already there. For example, the hospitality sector alone was already projected to be short 1.8M managers over the coming decade, pre-pandemic. Once the post-pandemic numbers are posted, I expect this shortage to grow dramatically. For many industries with already challenging talent markets, the pandemic has simply accelerated pre-existing trends toward crisis. 

Big Changes are Necessary

There will have to be a systemic change in attraction and retention. Employers are in a transformational time right now. In our current conditions, staying afloat and competitive in the market means making some fundamental changes to your organization. My advice to beleaguered hiring managers is to consider the following points. 

Review and Improve Employees’ Work/Life Balance and Compensation Programs

With so many opportunities available, it’s natural for talented candidates to choose the one that offers them the most reward. Take a closer look at your current staff’s work/life balance to see if you can offer any improvements. And, as always, stay competitive with your compensation packages. A solid staff of talented and hardworking employees is a worthy investment in your future. 

Culture Is Key

In addition, organizations’ culture and core values are going to have to play a bigger role in keeping people engaged in their sector. Besides competitive pay, benefits and paid time off, focus on ways you can improve employees’ time while they’re at work. Identify your core values, align your current staff and hire the right people who reflect these values and help build that desired culture. 

When Necessary, Ask for Help

For businesses suffering from severe talent shortages, it is easy to focus on operations and push hiring to the back burner. Don’t make the mistake of treating the symptoms of the pain and ignoring the cause. Partnering with a third-party recruiter that you trust can not only assist you in finding great people, but as a constant resource and consultant, is an expense that many organizations have realized they can’t afford to sacrifice.