ONE PERSPECTIVE ON THE WORKER SHORTAGEMuch has been said about employers having a difficult time finding qualified workers, read what Cathy Frost of Bennett Frost Personnel Services has to say about this topic:
It Should Be Easy
Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal there was an article about “why companies aren’t getting the employees they need” written by Peter Cappelli. It summarized for me the reason we struggle with many of our job placements. Even with unemployment so high, companies are grousing that they can’t find skilled workers, and that filling a job can take months of hunting.
There are a variety of reasons why this phenomenon is occurring, but this article added a new reason to the list…..the employers themselves!
“With an abundance of workers to choose from, employers are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.”
As the article stated, companies need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice. It was suggested that one of the ways to get workers up to speed without investing a lot in training is to extend the probationary periods, elevate internal hires and replace them with more entry level candidates. “It’s a fundamental change from business as usual. But the way we’re going now just isn’t working.”
“Some of the complaints about skill shortages boil down to the fact that employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at wages offered. That’s an affordability problem, not a skill shortage.” This rings pretty true for many of the orders we are trying to fill. Employers believe that because there are numerous choices, they can lower the wage for the position. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ can be very true. We have employers taking 2-4 months to make a hiring decision because they are trying to find the perfect candidate at a below-market salary. It would be a different story if they were willing to take a candidate who matched 80% of the job description and they were willing to invest 20% in time and training to develop them. Employers that invest in growing their employees typically have higher employee retention rates.
In European countries, training is often required and apprenticeships and other programs that provide training are part of the infrastructure. The result is they are not experiencing a skill shortage. When I graduated from college (many years ago!), I was hired by a large retail establishment as a management trainee. I was part of the yearly “class” they started each fall. We worked hard, learned all aspects of the retail industry and our wages were low, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned many things, I lost weight because I was working so hard, and it created wonderful competition among the classmates. If you excelled you got the good assignments. It was excellent for the company to observe work ethics and skills and decide which one of us was going to get a permanent assignment.
In the United States we are going through a challenging economic time, but we need to continue to invest in our work force for the future of our businesses. Today I had the pleasure of talking with a recent college graduate who was having difficulty finding a job because she had no true job experience. In reviewing her resume I learned that she had completed three internships with high-level companies. We decided she needed to market those experiences toward increasing her interview rate. This is sort of the apprenticeship program in reverse.
I am not suggesting employers need to start creating apprenticeship or management training groups, but we do need to start being a bit more imaginative about our hiring and the future of our companies. It is time to take the blinders off and be more creative in our hiring processes. We need to get this economy moving forward.