In the aftermath of COVID-19, workforce numbers haven’t rebounded as vigorously as many had hoped. In fact, there are 1.4 million fewer Americans working today compared with February 2020.
What accounts for this shortage of workers? Contributing factors post-pandemic include early retirements, long COVID, and shifting priorities around work-life balance. It’s clear that innovative solutions are needed to attract and retain new workers to fill today’s nearly 10 million job vacancies.
Industries hit hardest by the labor and worker shortage include food service and hospitality, retail, manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare—in large part because they employ more hourly, frontline workers who have consistently higher than average quit rates. As a result, organizations whose businesses depend on large hourly workforces are experiencing a critical lack of employees but continue to have problems finding them as many of these workers are instead moving to gig-type jobs or exiting the workforce altogether.
So, what can businesses do to navigate through this situation? Addressing the issues across industries and worker types associated with today’s labor crunch might seem complicated, but there are some effective creative strategies that organizations can implement to help smooth the path forward.
Five creative strategies for addressing a skill and worker shortage
#1: Reskill/upskill your existing employees
In times of economic uncertainty, organizations must do all they can to stay competitive and boost the bottom line. A logical first step is to optimize existing talent to develop the skills the business needs now and will need to be successful in the future—and that means implementing reskilling and upskilling programs. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need an enterprise-size budget to make this happen.
Starting with identifying skills gaps in your new business model can help you determine exactly how many and which employees will need reskilling or upskilling. Next, you’ll need to assess and update your existing training and development programs to ensure they can deliver the right types of learning for the business’s evolving needs.
Building learning into your work culture creates an environment where people are encouraged to learn not only to make them more effective in their roles, but also for their personal and professional development. Human capital management (HCM) technology solutions often already include the tools you need to make reskilling and upskilling efforts successful, including workforce assessment, learning and collaboration, and performance measurement capabilities.
#2: Implement flexible scheduling
Post-pandemic, the concept of the traditional 9-5 has changed forever, giving rise to the concept of flexible scheduling. Giving employees more control over their work schedules with options such as remote/hybrid work or nontraditional shift schedules has been shown to make them happier and more productive and engaged at work and less prone to burnout and stress.
So how can offering flexible scheduling help you address today’s shortage of workers? For starters, it can give your organization an edge when it comes to attracting new talent—and making it part of your company culture can give your current employees a strong incentive to stay.
Providing employees with more control over their schedules also helps them better balance both their personal and professional lives, ensuring the highest levels of productivity. With modern scheduling technology, you can pinpoint their needs and output more effectively to create a more agile workforce to better meet customer demand.
#3: Create an employer-educator partnership
One of the reasons many jobs remain unfilled today is because employers can’t find workers with the necessary levels of education and training. More than 60% of workers over age 25 are considered middle-skills workers—those with less than a four-year college education but more than a high school diploma.
Due to the rapid growth of technology, community colleges often struggle to keep their curriculums up to speed. Consequently, graduates are finding themselves unprepared for the realities of employer requirements, while employers complain they can’t find the quantity, quality, and diversity of talent they need.
Closing this gap lies in business and community college leaders partnering to offer training and education that better meets current industry needs. This can take many forms, but top solutions include working together to co-create curriculums, dedicating staff time to work on building employer-college relationships, and collecting and sharing local-talent data to monitor and improve talent supply and demand.
These solutions aren’t difficult or expensive to implement but require an investment of time and effort in building mutually beneficial partnerships to improve both education and the quality of available talent to help address the shortage of workers.
#4: Create a culture where employees want to work—and stay
Creating a workplace culture where people want to work is one of the best ways for your business to find and keep good employees. After all, who doesn’t want to work at an organization where they feel supported and valued every day?
Although it may sound easier said than done, there are steps you can take now to start building that culture.
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEI&B): DEI&B initiatives aren’t just good for ensuring employees can be their true selves at work—they have definitive business benefits as well. Research from McKinsey & Company found that organizations that embrace DEI&B have a 36% higher likelihood of outperforming organizations that don’t. Regardless of your company size or budget, you can start by setting goals and creating a plan for building initiatives and programs to support your DEI&B goals based on the core value of belonging.
- Autonomy: Promoting employee autonomy is another good way to provide your people with the kind of environment that empowers them to work how they want and in ways that can benefit both them and the company. This kind of self-governing approach has been shown to improve engagement and job satisfaction and decrease absenteeism—and can be achieved with basic changes to culture and policies.
- Purpose: Connecting to purpose at work is essential to helping people align with your organization’s mission and their roles in fulfilling it. This boosts engagement and job satisfaction, which in turn increases business success. You can help your people find their purpose by clearly and consistently communicating your company goals, recognizing them for how their work contributes to everyone’s success, and providing learning opportunities for continual growth.
#5: Actively solicit and implement employee feedback
Candidate and employee feedback is invaluable to employers because it provides an inside view of recruitment and work experiences into what is working, and more importantly, what is not. Gathering feedback via such channels as experience and engagement surveys and one-on-one meetings—and then acting on it—is a relatively easy way to ensure higher morale and retention.
Navigate the labor shortage with a people-centered solution
Today’s shortage of workers can have a less negative impact on your business if you partner with a technology company that can provide the HR solutions you need to better align with the way people want to work today.
For organizations with leaner teams, the UKG Ready® suite can help you offer such people-centered advantages as flexible schedules, learning and development opportunities, and an inclusive culture that will both attract the candidates you need and help you retain the talent you already have to keep your business on track for success.