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Recruitment is Getting Harder, That’s the Trend

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Does it feel like filling an open position is almost impossible these days? You (or your AI) digs through the résumés but candidates ghost before they’re even interviewed. Required skills are hard to find among interested applicants. Get to the offer stage and far too often the response is something like this: “Thank you so much, but I’ve already accepted another position.” 

If this is your experience, you’re not alone—not by a long shot. Hiring is getting harder. The bad news? Recruitment is not likely to get easier anytime soon. A variety of factors are contributing to employers’ struggles, but understanding what’s behind the ever-increasing hiring difficulty can help you find the answers you need.  

Here are some of the underlying issues that should inform your strategies.

Labor shortages span most industries 

Invoking the word “crisis” as it relates to hiring has become so common as to fall on deaf ears. Non-profits are facing a “workforce shortage crisis.Higher education is, too. Look at healthcare and there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, or support workers. Transportation and trucking companies are short at least 80,000 drivers and the gap is growing. Manufacturers warn that 2.1 million positions could unfillable by 2030.  

Employers are even struggling to fill jobs for which you’d think people would be beating down the doors. A talent shortage in the video game industry? Yep, it’s a thing

It may seem unbelievable that almost all of us are dealing with similar problems. These are the realities, however: Labor market participation has surged. Unemployment keeps bottoming out near 50-year record lows. Still, there aren’t enough people seeking the millions of jobs employers have available. 

Demographics work against employers at every turn 

What’s behind the extensive labor shortages? Root causes include a wave of retiring Baby Boomers and declining birth rates in the U.S. In manufacturing, for example, you’ll find more than half of workers are age 45 or older. The non-profit and higher education workforces are graying as well. Retirements are gutting the employee ranks. 

Women going to work eased the pressure for a long time. The Baby Bust that took the U.S. from the post-WWII era into the 1970s was accompanied by more women taking up careers. Female workforce participation peaked in the late 1990s, however, so they aren’t making up the difference anymore. Plus, women’s career expectations have evolved.  

Gender stereotypes affecting work can also complicate matters. Look at nonprofits and you’ll see as much as three-quarters of the workforce is female. In past eras when most women were not the primary breadwinner, taking the usually lower pay offered by nonprofits may have been more financially sustainable. Not today. Most women—indeed, most nonprofit employees—need competitive compensation to make ends meet. 

Could this be the reason behind why nearly half of nonprofit workers say they intend to leave their jobs, often for work outside the nonprofit sector? 

Remote and hybrid work schedules are the new work/life balance issue 

We’ve been talking about work/life balance since at least the 1980s, but solutions have never been easy to find. Employees’ lives are getting busier and busier. Fewer families than ever can afford to keep someone at home full- or even part-time to manage the cooking, cleaning, errand-running, and kid chauffeuring. Nearly everyone is doing double-duty on the job and then at home.  

Employers have explored four-day workweeks, flex schedules, and other options. In the post-COVD era, employees are by and large looking for remote and hybrid opportunities to help them keep family life together.  

Unfortunately, some types of work simply can’t be from home. 

Making real things you can touch, as manufacturers do, cannot be done entirely digitally. Many non-profit services need to be delivered face to face. Driving a truck means being in that truck. Higher education frequently values in-person interactions with students on campus, but recruiters say that when they tell candidates about such on-site requirements, interest in the job plummets. 

Organizations are doing their best to adapt. For manufacturers, remote monitoring technology, for example, can transform some on-premises work into more flexible oversight from anywhere. Non-profits and educational institutions are striving to divide jobs into at-home tasks, such as report writing, and in-person requirements serving clients or students. There are limits, however, which can affect which industries and companies struggle most with talent gaps.  

The changing—and unchanging—perception of jobs based on sector  

The non-profit sector has long depended on workers willing to take on meaningful employment for rather less plentiful pay and benefits. Sadly for them, newer research indicates purpose is no longer enough, especially when non-profits expect advanced degrees and demand long hours. Younger workers also want to be compensated for their efforts and to be offered flexibility, opportunity, and work-life balance. 

Similarly, higher education institutions have long considered themselves great places to work. Recent investigations into public sentiment, however, reveal broad-based negative perceptions among younger individuals, people of color, and LGBTQ+ Americans. The upside these employers long relied on to attract applicants has eroded. 

Other industries have the opposite problem. Perceptions are stubborn. Manufacturing, for instance, is plagued by a reputation earned a century ago. Most job seekers told about a manufacturing opening will imagine only hulking machines, hot factories, and low pay. Many younger people don’t think of manufacturing as innovative and technology-driven or know that the annual salaries are about 40% higher than the median U.S. income. Stereotypes remain despite years of effort by manufacturers to get the word out.  

The solution is part of the problem: a lack of STEM-skilled workers slows efficiency-driving innovation 

What about Amazon’s efforts to create stores without checkout lanes, where the carts and the shelves would monitor and charge you for what you select? Wouldn’t they need fewer retail employees? Aren’t robotics doing more and more of today’s factory work, which should reduce the need for manufacturing employees? And ChatGPT and other AI—why can’t generative language models and machine learning take over writing fundraising letters, analyzing data for donor reports, and other tasks in the non-profit world? Can’t chatbots help in counseling or anthropoids perform various aspects of hands-on caregiving by non-profits? 

We have good reason to believe that these types of solution will soon help stretch available human labor further, when they aren’t already. Technology can and always has improved labor efficiency, taking some human jobs and turning them over to machines. This trend will continue. 

Despite decades of worry that we’d all soon be out of work, however, the reality has always proven more complex. Technology transforms some jobs and creates others. Historically, employment has continued to rise, even as technology marches on.  

In fact, turning to technology itself is a challenge because there aren’t enough STEM-skilled workers to meet current, let alone future, demand.  

In a very real sense, every industry is now a tech industry. Manufacturing is a perfect example. To implement remote monitoring capabilities for production facilities and allow some employees to work from home (as we mentioned above), companies need software engineers and programmers, robotics experts and AI whizzes. Those people are in short supply. 

A nonprofit that teaches financial management to underprivileged parents may want to create a custom learning management platform. The application could help instructors reach more clients, but the salaries required to attract a top-notch development team are usually hard to scrape up from grants and donors.  

Bottom line, employers outside the traditional tech sector often struggle to attract, vet, hire, compensate, and motivate workers with tech talents. After all, when video game companies are battling recruitment shortages, how can any business compete?  

Conclusion 

What’s the takeaway here? The hiring problem isn’t going away. The many factors driving talent shortages are making them as intransigent as they are complicated. There are no easy answers—but that doesn’t mean there are no answers at all!  

From building a strong employer brand to automating candidate communications to implementing comprehensive yet quick-turnaround background checks, solutions are available. The challenge is stacking enough of them to make a breakout difference with your targeted audiences.  

When competition runs this hot, any oversight can cost you desirable and much-needed new hires. Investment in a quick, easy, mobile-friendly application process can be undone by too many tedious interviews or an offer that comes in a moment too late.  

In today’s market, it’s time to cross your t’s (details matter) and then get creative (differentiation matters, too) to shape the hiring experience your prospective new hires are looking for. Asurint will continue to offer up research and ideas to help you along the way. 

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