How To Attract Talent In Times Of Workforce Shortages

America is facing a crisis. As baby boomers retire in droves, critical skills and institutional knowledge are walking out the door. At the same time, the skills and expectations of younger generations of workers don’t always align with employer needs. The result? Over 10 million vacant jobs that employers are struggling to fill with qualified candidates.

This widening skills gap spells trouble for organizations across every state and industry. Without the right talent, companies can’t innovate, meet customer demands, or reach their full potential. As open positions stay unfilled for longer periods, productivity and revenue suffer.

How do organizations begin to shorten the gap between their needs and the available talent pool – and how can they fast-track the onboarding process for new hires to ensure a smooth transition into their roles?

Let’s take at some of the current realities and how they may outline the future and outline actionable strategies your organization can implement right now to attract, retain, and develop the top-tier talent you need.

The Skills Gap Landscape Across States and Industries

The skills gap crisis unfolding across the country manifests differently depending on location and industry. Here’s a snapshot of some of the most impacted areas:

States With the Biggest Talent Shortages

Several states stand out for their extreme talent voids, including:

  • Nevada – With 134,000 open jobs but only 90,000 unemployed residents as of August 2022, Nevada’s worker shortage is most dire. The state only has 0.67 available workers for every open job. Healthcare, transportation, protective services, and food service roles are especially starved for talent.
  • Georgia – Georgia currently lists over 414,000 vacant positions. With a worker shortage index of 0.85, they have fewer than one available worker for every open job. Hiring challenges are particularly pronounced in skilled trades.
  • North Carolina – North Carolina faced 309,000 job vacancies as of July 2022, but only 257,000 unemployed workers were looking for jobs. The mismatch has North Carolina employers struggling to fill 1 in 4 open roles.

Key insight: Certain states like Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina are facing much more extreme talent gaps than the national average. With fewer than one ready worker for every open job, these states will need to get creative to avoid major economic repercussions.

What Industries Have the Biggest Skills Gaps?

In terms of industries nationwide, these face some of the largest skill gaps:

Why is There a Growing Skills Shortage?

The complex employee skills gap choking companies and industries stems from multiple economic, cultural, and demographic factors. So, what are the forces behind these skills shortages hitting so many fields?

Talen is Less Interested in Skilled Trades & Vocational Paths

A generational shift away from hands-on roles in construction, manufacturing, and transportation has drained talent pipelines that once relied on trade schools and apprenticeships to train emerging workers.

Despite higher wages, job security, and satisfaction in skilled trades, negative stereotypes portraying vocational careers as “less than” white-collar jobs persist. This deters potential talent from pursuing these essential roles and contributes to shortages.

The Accelerating Pace of Automation

As AI and automated solutions integrate across sectors, they’re gradually replacing or changing many jobs. Industries must re-envision talent strategies to focus on uniquely human strengths like critical thinking, creativity, empathy, and collaboration.

The World Economic Forum predicts automation will displace 85 million jobs by 2025 while creating 97 million new roles. Companies will need to help reskill existing workforces for these emerging opportunities.

The Retirement of Baby Boomers

As older generations rapidly exit the workforce, only Gen Z and Millennial workers remain to fill the massive gaps. These workers have much different expectations around work arrangements, career development, and company culture – much of which don’t match traditional expectations.

When boomers retire, they take decades of institutional knowledge and specialized skills out the door with them. Younger employees aren’t interested in staying with a single employer for 40+ years either, necessitating new talent retention strategies.

Geographic Job-Skills Mismatch

While rural areas grapple with severe workforce declines, companies in cities and metro regions still struggle to fill roles.

This absence of skilled talent where jobs are concentrated demonstrates a geographic mismatch. Location-based hiring flexibility could provide part of the solution. Remote work options enable employers to access talent beyond their immediate locale.

The Rising Cost of Higher Education

Surging college tuition rates and the resulting explosion of student loan debt deter some talented candidates from pursuing fields that require a 4-year degree, like healthcare and technology. Over 44 million Americans currently grapple with a total student debt exceeding $1.7 trillion. More prospective employees seem hesitant to add to that burden without a guaranteed return on investment.

Pandemic-Era Career Changes

The Great Resignation saw 47 million Americans voluntarily leave their jobs in 2021 alone, with many changing careers entirely. Employees exited industries like hospitality, retail, and healthcare services in search of remote work, career growth potential, and improved work-life balance. This tremendous job churn set off hiring challenges across these already strapped sectors.

The mismatch between employer needs and talent realities will require cooperation across the public and private sectors to reach solutions.

But the insights above shed light on some of the most disruptive drivers so organizations can tailor their strategies accordingly. Taking early action within their sphere of influence gives companies the best chance of overcoming dire skills deficits.

A Roadmap for Business Leaders

With roles going unfilled for longer periods, employers are feeling the tangible impacts of the skills gap on their operations and bottom lines. While the talent shortage stems from economic and demographic forces beyond any organization’s complete control, leaders can expand their candidate pipelines and cultivate the human capital they need.

Let’s look at six key focus areas for executives and specific, actionable steps to put their companies on the path toward closing existing skills gaps and future-proofing their workforces.

1. Analyze Role Needs & Projected Gaps

You’ll want to start by identifying roles most susceptible to employee retirements in the next 5-10 years. Take a close look at teams and departments with higher average employee age and tenure.

Some common hotspots tend to be:

  • engineering
  • technical fields
  • executive leadership
  • specialized professions
  • Sales
  • and tenured administrative positions.

Catalog how many soon-retiring employees hold deep niche skills or institutional knowledge that won’t be easily replaced, then develop a transition plan.

Research emerging trends in your industry and objectively assess their human capital implications down the line.

Are capabilities like AI implementation, sustainability measures, digital transformation, or data analytics expected to substantially impact your business model and success factors? Gauge whether your workforce currently possesses strength in these areas or ease of adapting through reskilling. Identify likely skills deficits.

Take those data points and map out projected talent gaps between the workforce competencies you need for business continuity and future plans compared to the realistic candidate supply available. Look closely for mismatches between required aptitudes and what emerging talent pipelines prioritize.

For example, note soft skills disconnects that could deter qualified candidates whose expectations and preferences differ from some company norms. Transparent visibility into your upcoming talent needs versus supply volumes enables smarter resource allocation toward closing the most critical skills and hiring gaps expected.

2. Cultivate Talent Pipelines

Partnering with local trade schools and community colleges allows you to collaboratively develop training programs that feed into open positions. Given their regional industry connections and nimble curriculums, bridging the classroom with your talent needs provides an early talent channel.

Don’t forget the power of apprenticeships, internships, and co-ops to welcome prospective candidates to gain real-time experience while actively contributing value to your organization. These earn-as-you-learn models enable smooth full-time hiring transitions down the road.

Getting creative with outreach and candidate engagement demonstrates commitment beyond just posting openings online.

  • Sponsor hackathons inviting students to solve real business problems.
  • Have ambassadors from technical teams participate in high school career day events.
  • Leverage digital platforms like TikTok to authentically convey your workplace culture to help sway hesitant prospects.

Sustained community engagement and relationship building over transactional interactions expand sourcing avenues long-term. Diverse pipelines across education levels, from high schoolers to mid-career professionals, yield candidate flow over time.

3. Make Roles More Attractive

It’s crucial to take proactive steps to override outdated stigmas that may stop prospective talent from pursuing particular functions. Be transparent about career advancement trajectories, salary upside, and daily experiences to contradict any existing misperceptions.

A great way to do this? Featuring employee spotlights, where individuals share their unique career journeys and what they love about working at your company. Showcase a range of perspectives and backgrounds to highlight the diversity within your organization.

While you’re at it, revisit whether your current roles, workplace policies, and people practices realistically align with the priorities emerging talent pools value most now. Assess aspects such as:

  • market competitiveness across compensation
  • flexibility in when/where work happens
  • and other preferences that may have evolved across generations.

This will help draw attention to the essential societal functions certain roles enable to spotlight meaningful impact. Use this to highlight opportunities to develop solutions with customer impact and convey the “why” behind the work.

4. Work to Start from a Place of Empowerment

Allocating the budget to subsidize relevant outside coursework, certificates, and nano degrees shows investment in talent development without micromanaging the details. Set broad guidelines for pursuits that could enhance existing capabilities or build future-proof skills, then empower people to take ownership over their own growth trajectories based on interests.

You can develop stretch assignment programs for internal cross-training, like temporary project work across teams and rotational roles. Empower your managers to nominate promising employees for these tactical development periods to motivate capability building aligned with succession needs. Allow for self-guided exposure tailored to individual passions.

Remember – you likely already have pockets of unrealized talent and insights within your organization that could be amplified. When you spotlight internal subject matter experts, it validates the niche capabilities that are already present and says you’re open to organic innovation opportunities.

5. Begin from Day One by Setting Up Success

This roadmap should extend across the hiring and retention journey, but starting with this focus in key is crucial. From day one, create strategies to address talent needs, such as:

  • Plan onboarding processes with structured support in place from the start so new hires transition smoothly into roles.
  • Assign mentors to provide social connections and advice.
  • Build onboarding checklists and training dialogues so responsibilities are quickly grasped.
  • Recognize that the initial 90-day experience shapes longer-term engagement.

Work to enable lateral moves between departments or short-term project assignments to spark interest in developing well-rounded capabilities. Allow employees to self-nominate for rotational opportunities that expand perspectives. Multi-functional experience enhances talent flexibility and cross-pollinates fresh mindsets while keeping employees invested.

Look also at small and large ways to reinforce ongoing talent development, such as hosting regular peer-led ‘lunch & learns’ on specialty topics or setting time allowances for self-directed study. Employees feeling like their growth is fueled internally cultivates loyalty. The more you can spotlight advancement paths and promote mobility, the better retention outcomes.

6. Forge Bonds Beyond Your Walls for Collective Growth

How early does this process start? From the moment the future workforce starts thinking of their careers. Get involved with nonprofit organizations leading STEM education and experiential learning programs for district schools. Provide financial support if possible, volunteer mentors, host site visits for inspiration, or sponsor future-focused innovation challenges students can help ideate on – it can only help boost your employer brand among potential hires!

In a similar vein, partner with workforce development boards, community colleges, coding bootcamps, and peer companies to co-sponsor skills training initiatives targeted for in-demand roles in your industry. Collective action splits costs while allowing all stakeholders to share pipelines and placement of motivated talent. It also builds notoriety for your brand’s community leadership.

But don’t stop there – even competitors can be collaborators when it comes to nurturing regional capability growth. Explore creative talent-sharing partnerships, allowing you to source specialized candidates from one another during peak needs.

Realizing the Stakes, Stepping Forward

The data paints a sobering picture of the talent landscapes facing leaders across sectors. With unfilled positions dragging on productivity and bottom lines, companies cannot afford inaction. The strategies outlined equip executives with an initial roadmap to expand pipelines and cultivate the human capital that business continuity and future progress require.

While certainly not an easy fix, dedicated investments now in both internal workforce development and external community partnerships can set your organization on the right path. The earlier action is taken, the better-positioned companies will be to snag the right talent when it’s needed.

Let USIQ Help You Meet the Needs of the Future Workforce

Organizations like USIQ offer both the rigor and incentives needed to propel your company where it needs to go. Through comprehensive employee surveys yielding unbiased insights paired with recognizable seals verifying your organization as a top employer or World´s Best Employer, USIQ certifications reinforce credible commitment.

Certification affirms your genuine efforts to strengthen company culture and provides the marketable proof talent now expects from employers of choice.

The stakes are high, but by realizing the reality of the skills crisis and resolving to take deliberate steps forward, leaders can work to close gaps. Partnering with USIQ demonstrates the sincerity of your intentions while granting access to data-guiding decisions. With both internal convictions and external confirmations, your organization can convey the authenticity top talent seeks when choosing where to apply their skillsets next.

author avatar
Oliver Scharfenberg CEO