How to Survive the Skilled Labor Shortage

By: on February 25, 2019

The skilled labor shortage has reached a critical point, with more job openings than there are people to fill them. According to ManPower’s 2018 Talent Shortage study, 45 percent of businesses are currently struggling to recruit the skills and talent to fill their open positions.

The skilled labor shortage has been attributed to technological advances and a shift in the generational makeup of the workforce, and these realities aren’t going away. A lack of skilled employees will hinder your profitability and suppress growth within your workforce.

But by changing the way you search and advertise for candidates, making use of alternative talent pools and adjusting your workplace flexibility, you can survive the skilled labor shortage.

1. Embrace Alternative Recruitment Approaches

Embrace Alternative Recruitment Approaches

of employers are recruiting outside their usual talent pools.

ManpowerGroup, 2018 (Source)

Even the most experienced recruiters need to work harder in a market short on talent. This doesn’t always mean extra work—what it means is that recruiters need to think about new ways of recruiting talent.

For example, 33 percent of employers are already recruiting from outside their usual talent pools. The old ‘post and pray‘ tactic isn’t working—recruiters need to get proactive about their approaches. Let’s take a look at an example of alternative recruiting approaches.

 EXAMPLE:  Reevaluate Your Job Descriptions

In a previous post, we talked about how to hire the right employees for each job you advertise for. Let’s take this one step further and talk about what you shouldn’t be including in your job advertisements.

Too often, employers focus on job requirements, such as college degrees or education, that often add no real worth to the job in question. In fact, in a Harvard Business School-backed study, “Dismissed by Degrees,” researchers stated that qualified applicants are being rejected from application processes because they don’t hold a college degree.

“Degree inflation—the rising demand for a four-year college degree for jobs that previously did not require one—is a substantive and widespread phenomenon that is making the U.S. labor market more inefficient,” states the study.

It’s become customary for businesses to include nonessential applicant criteria in job descriptions, such as college degrees and an unrealistic level of job experience.

Not only does this put you at risk of ruling out highly talented individuals, it also signals to potential applicants that there are no career prospects within your organization. In other words, applicants need to be perfect now, rather than having the opportunity to grow within your organization.

How to Adjust Your Approach to Recruitment

Being less restrictive in your approach to recruitment will expand your talent pool significantly, and will allow you to discover candidates that have true potential to grow and develop within your company.

  • Ask yourself whether the position really requires a college degree in a specific subject. Will this degree enable the candidate to perform essential job responsibilities?
  • Check that your job requirements and critical attributes align with each other. For example, if you’re asking for 10+ years of experience in a field, but offering 25 percent less salary than the industry average, potential candidates are unlikely to apply.
  • If you can offer it, make it clear in the job advertisement that you will train a successful candidate. If the near-perfect candidate can code with Java but not Python, dedicate their first few months to extra training.

2. Tap Into The Gig Economy

Embrace Alternative Recruitment Approaches

of employers are exploring alternative work models (e.g. freelance, contingent and temporary work).

ManpowerGroup, 2018 (Source)

We recently reported that almost 57 million Americans undertook some form of freelancing work in 2018. The gig economy has supported some of the world’s most well-known companies (Uber and TaskRabbit, anyone?), but it’s also shifted the way that more conventional companies invest in new employees.

The lines are being blurred between the traditional workforce and freelance, contingent and temporary workers. Increasingly, full-time employees are finding themselves working alongside temporary workers in their workplace.

The birth of ‘hybrid teams’ is rapidly becoming the new norm as companies realize that a contingent workforce can help them survive the skilled labor shortage. Far from just helping businesses survive the skilled labor shortage, hiring contingent workers can help businesses scale both upward and downward.

How to Begin Tapping Into the Gig Economy

If businesses don’t learn how to use this pool of workers to fill the talent gap, it’s likely that their business will miss out on opportunities to quickly recover time and money lost from the skilled labor shortage.

  • To remain productive, make sure you have the right tech in place from the get-go. Software such as vendor management systems (VMS) can support the management of a contingent workforce with tracking, monitoring and payment features. VMS tools can also help you track performance, deliverables and hours worked.
  • Begin identifying teams and projects where a gig worker with a specialized skill set would add value over a specified period of time. Use gig worker platforms such as UpWork where you can search for individuals, read reviews, specify requirements and receive a shortlist of viable candidates.

3. Offer More Flexible Working Conditions

Embrace Alternative Recruitment Approaches

of employers are offering additional perks and benefits.

ManpowerGroup, 2018 (Source)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you’ll know that what employees want from a workplace doesn’t match up with what many employers are offering.

Let’s talk first about employee flexibility. Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends study found that 51 percent of employees desired more flexibility with regard to their working lives. Additionally, 34 percent of people have admitted to leaving a job that doesn’t offer flexible working arrangements. Yet still, many companies are continuing to scale back their flexible working arrangements.

Although a work-from-home policy is the most common example of flexible working, there are tons of other ways that employers can offer flexibility, including:

  • Flex-time: Lets employees be flexible with what hours they work, instead of the traditional 9-5 standard, or allows employees to work a compressed working week.
  • Job-sharing: Allows two employees to share one job, with both employees working part-time in accordance with their personal circumstances.
  • Unlimited vacation: Offers employees the potential for unlimited PTO days, on the basis that they produce desired results and get the job done.
  • Day care options: Provides employees with discounted day care options.

How to Start Building Flexibility Into Your Talent Strategy

What businesses need to realize is that the perks and benefits of the past no longer attract the talent you need. Since it’s become so important, if you can’t offer the flexibility a skilled professional expects, they’ll pass you by.

Here’s how to create a more flexible workplace:

  • Ask your current employees how they feel about your existing flexible policies, what else you could do to facilitate their needs and what policies they think would attract new candidates.
  • Only consider policies that will truly work for your organization and further your business goals. If you have a distributed team across the world, allowing your employees to work compressed days may not enable these teams to meet at convenient times.
  • Start with a pilot scheme and an airtight communication plan. This will allow you to analyze what works and what doesn’t, then decide on what adjustments you can make. Schedule check-ins with managers, agree on success criteria and clearly communicate rules and expectations to your employees.


Knowing how to survive the skilled labor shortage is all about knowing what your needs are and the tactics you can use to expand your talent pool. Follow the checklist below to prepare your own skilled labor survival plan.

checklist for surviving the skilled labor shortage

Note: The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The applications selected are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

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