The Morning Call “Lehigh Valley Workplaces” column: The employee shortage hits home
Many companies are struggling to find good employees. In fact, a survey conducted late last year by the National Association of Manufacturers reported that 73 percent of manufacturers said attracting and retaining a quality workforce was a chief business challenge. Seventy-three percent!
Let’s look at some reasons why:
- Our population is aging out. By 2025, more than one in five Pennsylvania residents will be 65 or older, according to U.S. Census projections. Only six states have a higher median age than Pennsylvania.
- There is a persistent skills gap, due in part to the bullets below.
- Fewer people are entering the workforce.
- More students than ever before are going to college versus heading directly into trades or entering the workforce right after high school, resulting in less hourly staff and tradespeople available.
- More parents are staying home to raise and homeschool their children instead of entering the workforce.
- The last few generations have produced fewer children.
Recently it was reported that Trans-Bridge Lines, one of the largest Lehigh Valley private bus operators, had to reduce its services due to a shortage of drivers. This problem hits home in a big way. Like Trans-Bridge, many small and mid-sized businesses across the Lehigh Valley and the nation are downsizing operations in order to manage with the workforces they have. Others are putting their management teams back into the trenches. These temporary solutions don’t allow a business to sustain or grow in the long run.
Smart businesses realize the solution lies beyond placing intermittent ads online. They are working to attract top talent continually. Here are three things you can do to make a difference in your hiring program.
Make sourcing for candidates a year-long process, even if you plan to hire only a few people annually. Post your current and future job openings on your website, and use an Applicant Tracking System (APS) that can accept resumes for currently available and upcoming positions. Once your jobs are published online, “spider sites” such as Indeed.com will pick up your job postings and share the ads at no additional cost. It is a relatively passive way to source candidates, but it is good a way to collect resumes all year long.
Brand your workplace. Employer branding is like traditional marketing, but it’s focused on attracting employees instead of customers. To do this successfully, you should:
- Update your website to showcase what makes your workplace different and desirable. Ask your top employees what they would recommend you promote about your organization to attract the best talent.
- Make your leaders visible. Employees don’t just work for companies; they work for people. Make sure your management team is reputable and are the kind of leaders that future employees will respect and want to emulate.
- Build a sterling reputation. Smart applicants are checking you out before applying — and not just your careers page. Websites such as Glassdoor give a view into your organization with ratings, comments and pictures. Make sure you and your top employees are providing your perspectives on these public sites.
- Get used to the fact that it has become an “applicant’s market.” While you do not have to be the highest-paying employer, you will have to offer a heck of a great workplace in order to be below the average in pay and benefits and still compete with other businesses for the most desirable job applicants.
Don’t drag the process out. Be thorough in your pre-hire interviewing and screening but move the process along. Conduct more than one interview, but do them all in the same week. Consider offering the option of evening interviews if applicants cannot take time off. Conduct activities like your reference checks, skills tests and shadowing expediently. Remember, great employees have options! Don’t lose good people because you took too long.
The days of employees being thankful just to have a job are over and likely will not return for a while. Instead, the onus is on employers to cultivate and appreciate talent. By taking proactive and purposeful measures, employers can improve their ability to attract quality employees in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
This article first appeared in the Lehigh Valley Business Cycle section of The Morning Call on June 19, 2018. The original article can be found here.