26 Sep Desperate Times Call for Smarter Hiring Measures

By Caitlin Shostak

The labor pinch is real, with almost half of all US employers stating they can’t find the workers they need.

While some companies can wait out the scarcity of candidates in relative comfort, those in light industrial markets are feeling the pain. For industries that make, move or process material, a lack of people can result in lost production, failure to fill orders or an inability to take additional business.

The shortage of qualified candidates is hitting companies requiring skilled labor talent even harder.

By this point, most of us are aware the 4.0 percent unemployment rate – at its lowest point in almost two decades – and the 62.9 percent labor participation rate aren’t exactly ideal for employers.

Wages are creeping upward, but many companies have found small to moderate wage increases still aren’t attracting enough qualified people to meet hiring quotas. With some states possessing more job openings than active job seekers, this isn’t a surprise.

In other words, it’s rare to find numerous employees who desire full-time work, possess the desired skill set, have multiple years of experience, have high school diplomas or GEDs, don’t experiment with recreational drugs and have maintained a spotless criminal record.

We all want this ideal candidate, but finding a small quantity of these people within your price range may, literally, not be possible in your area.

So what’s a company to do with the current labor force situation? As we like to say at Ōnin, yesterday’s benefits aren’t attracting today’s talent. It’s time to think outside the box and develop a solution that fits the needs of both your business and your local workforce.

1. Turn full-time positions into part-time positions.

Nearly one in 10 workers between the ages of 25 and 54 voluntarily work part-time at 34 hours or less per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Teenagers, young adults and older workers are even more likely to desire part-time jobs, with women preferring part-time jobs at a rate three to five times higher than men of a similar age. The less education a woman has received, the more likely she is to be employed part-time voluntarily.

After all, part-time work is a desirable solution for those who want to care for children, attend school, earn extra spending money, care for ailing relatives, earn supplemental income in retirement or attend to other personal obligations.

If you’re struggling to hire full-time people in your area, a significant portion of your local population may be interested in part-time positions.

If this solution sounds like it could work for your company, start by determining if any positions can be divided between multiple, part-time workers.

We’ve found this method is often particularly helpful for filling less desirable night shifts.

2. Determine if your applicant background criteria are too demanding.

Your ideal employee doesn’t have a criminal record, and they definitely don’t smoke weed in their recreational time, but the truth may be that most of the people in your area who are currently unemployed may have some personal “baggage.” < Ask yourself, “If a person doesn’t use any illegal substances, has a high school diploma and stays out of trouble, is a job at my company the best local opportunity he or she can get?” If the answer is someone with a clean background and lifestyle could get a better job elsewhere, you may want to consider one of the following options: a) Make do with a hiring deficit as you hire quality people slowly. Determine substitutes for hiring more personnel such as automation, cross-training or assigning additional duties to current employees when possible.

b) Offer great perks that out-match other employers in your area to attract your ideal applicants. These perks could include great pay, outstanding benefits, flexible hours, a fun atmosphere, etc.

To attract the limited pool of applicants with ideal legal and educational backgrounds, companies are paying high wages and offering extraordinary benefits. These perks must be exceptional to entice workers from surrounding areas to commute longer distances to your facility. Likewise, this strategy can convince workers employed elsewhere to quit their current jobs and join your company.  

c) Reduce your hiring criteria. For companies that can’t afford high wages or out-of-this-world benefits, this option is your best choice. If the supply of applicants with your desired background is limited in your area, it may be time to adjust your standards to meet your hiring quotas.

What qualifications are non-negotiable? Can you amend the hiring criteria to widen your net of applicants? Although not ideal, sometimes lowering the bar is the only way to find the people you need in this tough recruiting landscape.

  3. Reassess how much experience is needed for a position.  

There’s a steep learning curve for an employee who doesn’t have much experience. Most companies prefer enjoying the efficiency and aptitude of a seasoned professional without enduring the mistakes of a beginner. But in the face of an ongoing skills gap, the number of unemployed, tenured professionals is limited.

Eighty-three percent of companies report moderate to serious shortages of skilled workers, and almost 70 percent of companies expect the shortage to worsen in the next three to five years.

Even more concerning, the average tradesperson only has five to 15 years left until retirement, and most 18 to 24-year-olds aren’t interested in pursuing skilled trades.

With a limited supply of skilled talent available, it may be time to reassess how much experience is necessary for a given position. Instead of requiring applicants to have a minimum number of years of experience, consider creating opportunities for new talent to perfect their craft at your company.

Likewise, consider designing an internal training program for specialized positions by developing the skills of entry-level employees. Creating room for advancement within your company may attract millennials and motivate your employees to shoot for your higher-paying jobs within the organization.

4. Give young people a chance.

For students who aren’t college bound, finding a career is difficult, and discovering the jobs they are best suited for can feel overwhelming.

Ōnin has been deeply involved in a Ready to Work program in Alabama, so we’ve noted first hand that newly graduated high school students gravitate to familiar, low-paying jobs in the service industry (like fast food) because they are unaware of higher-paying jobs in the light industrial sector of their community.

Young adults miss opportunities to develop careers in thriving industries while companies are missing opportunities to employ an entire demographic of the population that is eager to work.

Many employers would benefit by reaching out to high schools and senior students to begin establishing connections. Even better, creating apprenticeships – especially for hard-to-fill skilled trades positions – can help fill positions while giving young adults valuable skills that will allow their careers to flourish.

Obviously, these less conventional methods of hiring may not be popular internally.

You may hear others (or perhaps yourself) say something along the lines of, “But, we’ve always sought full-time, experienced people with no background issues. That’s how our company functions!”

That may be true, but the current employment landscape is one of the most difficult to navigate in recent history.

While the adage “desperate times call for desperate measures” may come to mind, the current scarcity of ideal candidates offers opportunities to create a variety of less conventional, win-win opportunities. In other words, “Desperate times call for smart, creative, realistic measures.” It doesn’t have quite the same ring, but it’s accurate.

Caitlin Shostak is Ōnin’s content marketing manager.

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