6 Tips for Recruiting in the World of Skilled Labor Shortages

Skilled Labor Workers

While a low unemployment rate can create a great boost for the economy and thus strong business growth, for many employers it also translates to trouble in finding enough workers to keep up with growing business demands.  After decades of pushing would-be workers entering the workforce toward a career paths requiring four years or more of secondary education through a combination of propagating negative blue-collar stigmas and promoting tuition programs and college degrees, this has become a glaring reality in skilled-labor industries such as manufacturing, nursing, transportation and building trades where a continually-expanding skills gap has been created.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the course toward finding and attracting the skilled talent you need:

1. Give College Degree Requirements the Third Degree

It seems far too many job descriptions these days have a requirement for some type of college degree.  In a study backed by Harvard Business School titled, “Dismissed by Degree” researchers noted that too often qualified applicants are being passed over simply because that box is not checked when in reality a college degree does not necessarily guarantee success in the role.  Too often, employers get stuck in the rut of ruling out applicants for interviews using a handful of inconsequential criteria rather than truly considering and screening for qualities and skills a candidate may need which perhaps cannot be taught or gauged by completion of a degree.  If you are less restrictive in requirements for roles that do not truly require post-high school studies, you will find your applicant pool to be much more robust and have a greater chance of finding a diamond in the rough that is perfect for your position and to grow with your company.

2. Hold Multi-Day Job Fairs

Would-be job seekers, perhaps even those already working in your industry, who would suit your workforce may have difficulty getting away for interviews during the week and/or have less flexibility with scheduling.  By holding open job fairs encompassing both weekdays and extending into the weekend, you open up the opportunity for more candidates to attend.

3. Create Apprentice, Internship and Scholarship Programs

Connect With High Schools, Trade and Vocational Schools as well as  your existing workforce to offer training opportunities to candidates who show an interesting in learning specific trade skills to build your workforce.  Skilled-labor professions often require hands-on, technical training and if you are in need of workers who have the exact skills that match your specific business then you and your team of already skilled laborers are in the best position to train them the abilities and expertise that they’ll need to succeed.  Internship and apprentice programs also provide job seekers a chance to test out your company to see if they like the culture and the role itself, plus they are much more likely to form bonds with other workers and their mentors which may make your business all the more attractive when they actively start seeking employment and give you an edge in recruiting talent. Offering scholarships to trade and vocational schools is also a great way to potentially help your future workers and gain positive name recognition for your employer brand. Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs and Discovery Channel narrating) recognizes the importance of skilled trades and created the Mike Rowe Works Foundation to help support individuals interested in learning a trade.  They even offer scholarships, which you could also steer prospective workers toward: http://profoundlydisconnected.com/

4. Kick Your Employee Referral Program Into High Gear

Employees work best with other people that they like.  And when you have an employee referral, you are more likely to have some assurances of getting a good candidate as existing employees often will not want to put their neck out to vouch for someone who does not quite cut it and then have to suffer the embarrassment of being the one responsible for getting them in the door and/or having their friend or family member fail.  Take a look at your employee referral program and/or consider implementing one if you do not already have one in place.  Employee referrals can also be a good gauge of your existing employee engagement/satisfaction – if you are not getting any referrals and/or only a handful, you may have a problem that needs to be addressed with existing morale.

5. Offer Great Benefits & Compensation

Many employers make the mistakes of offering the same benefits package as their competitors and/or base their offerings on what is an industry or regional standard and/or comparing 9-5 roles with ones requiring weekend work and/or 24/7 on call status.  If you have a specific job that is more difficult to fill or work in an industry like manufacturing, nursing, construction, public service or other skilled trades where qualified candidates are hard to come by, then you likely need to up your game in order to attract the right individuals.  Keep in mind that you may be fighting an uphill battle against a long line of historically negative marketing campaigns that steered people away from such roles and/or the positions may in fact be less desirable due to schedules, work environments and/or physical requirements, so you might need to offer more attractive compensation package incentives and/or richer benefits for these roles.

6. Make Sure You Have Great Managers

If you have a toxic manager, it does not matter how great of a recruiter you are, your qualified, valuable talent is going to walk out the door.  Managers have a direct impact on whether or not their reports are happy and if you have a bad manager, it should not take that much to recognize it.  If you have a department where you have to continually fill open positions, you should investigate further.  Keep in mind that it is likely more costly for the business in the long run to continuously replace talented workers than it will be to replace a mediocre or sub-par manager, particularly with such competition for productive workers in today’s marketplace.  Make sure to also periodically scan sites like Glassdoor and Indeed to see if there are any unflattering reviews from current or past employees that might shed some light on areas of improvement your company may need to consider.

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