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On one side of the American economy, tech companies almost daily announce new layoffs, while in other sectors, such as shipbuilding, companies cannot hire workers fast enough.

“The U.S. Navy is beginning to build 12 top-of-the-line nuclear submarines, with the first one scheduled for deployment by 2027. But it is missing a critical ingredient: many of an estimated 50,000 skilled workers to get the job done,” writes Tony Schmitz, University of Tennessee professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering.

Forget the Headlines, Skilled Labor Still Hard to Find

And it’s not just in the building of $15.2 billion submarines where skilled labor is wanting, as industries from commercial trucking to long-term care facilities to hospitality are still in the vice grips of a tight labor market.

“Ever since April of last year, I’ve seen an explosion in headlines about layoffs and warnings about the labor market being weaker than it appears. One recent headline asked “Are we on the verge of a tsunami of layoffs?” But these headlines don’t align with what I, as a recruiter, am experiencing on-the-ground or even official labor market statistics,” writes Atta Tarki in Harvard Business Review on Jan. 30, 2023. “In fact, the economy in early 2023 is not being roiled by layoffs — which are currently abnormally low compared to historical standards. This means the labor market remains really tight, despite arguments to the contrary.”

Hireology agrees, having surveyed nearly 1,000 recruiters, hiring managers, and HR leaders who hire skilled labor and finding that “low talent supply” is their No. 1 hiring and HR challenge.

“As technology companies struggle with layoff­s, skilled labor businesses face a much different outlook. While overall employment levels have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, most employers in the sectors we surveyed still haven’t recovered the jobs you eliminated at the onset of the pandemic,” said the Hireology white paper.

Achieve Hiring Goals with These 6 People-Focused Ideas

Employers who utilize skilled labor may find the prospects of an impending recession less daunting than the tech industry.

“This tells us that the recession proves to be less of a threat for skilled labor businesses than the pandemic was and that there is an opportunity for you to gain a competitive edge by recruiting and hiring the right people,” said the Hireology white paper.

Hireology’s research focuses on six people-focused opportunities for companies to recruit and retain skilled employees:

  1. Break the Mold: Rethink the Jobs You are Marketing

The white paper makes a point that the pandemic has changed job seekers and their expectations of work. Workers surveyed, for example, said they would stay with their current employer, instead of taking a higher-paying job elsewhere, if they are offered the following benefits or conditions:

      • Flexibility (44 percent)
      • Career growth (39 percent)
      • Fulfilling work (32 percent)
      • Less stressful work (26 percent)
      • Better culture (26 percent)
      • Better insurance (23 percent)
      • Better manager (21 percent)
      • Mental health support (15 percent)

“Yet in our survey of employers we found that the vast majority are not offering any of these types of benefits,” said Hireology.

Companies that can tailor job offerings to meet benefits that skilled workers value, can gain a competitive advantage.

  1. Build and Nurture Relationships with Talent

Murphy’s Law for hiring is that when talent is needed, the application pool is shallow, but top talent may come knocking when there are no relevant job openings. Finding and connecting with talent is key to making sure the employment pipeline never dries up.

Employers surveyed used the following channels to connect with applicants:

      • Employee referral programs (44 percent)
      • Job fairs (40 percent)
      • Partnerships with local colleges or high schools (38 percent)
      • Niche or industry-specific job boards (36 percent)
      • Career site (33 percent)
      • General job boards (29 percent)
      • Google search optimization (27 percent)
      • Organic social media (21 percent)

Companies will want to maintain a database of talent they have met and keep in touch with that talent.

  1. DEI Can Make a Difference

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are not going away, especially as Gen Z – which values diversity — takes its place in the labor force. Hireology found that companies are trying in this area by doing the following:

      • Advertising open roles on more diverse channels and networking groups (46 percent)
      • Redefining interview procedures (45 percent)
      • Rewriting job descriptions to include more inclusive language (39 percent)
      • Encouraging referrals from underrepresented groups (31 percent)
      • Defining and promoting a DEI policy (18 percent)

Hireology says that defining and promoting a clear DEI strategy is one element of a good program which should also include:

      • DEI governance board to guide key initiatives and track milestones
      • Training and educating managers and employees
      • Adding more channels to your sourcing strategy
  1. Keep Candidates Engaged by Tinkering with Your Hiring Process

Hireology wants HR managers to put themselves in their candidates’ shoes and think about their needs when it comes to the hiring process.

“Most employers we surveyed are not implementing the right techniques to keep candidates engaged and moving seamlessly through your hiring process — leading them to get frustrated with long response times and disorganized processes,” said the white paper.

Just 1 in 4 employers offer virtual interviews and less than that text candidates during the hiring process. The result can be the “ghosting” of interviews and even job offers with 91 percent surveyed having a candidate ghost an interview in the past year and a surprising 82 percent having a candidate ghost a job offer in the past year.

Companies that are quick to respond to new applicants (36 percent have an initial response of 48 hours or less) have a better chance of attracting top talent.

  1. Focus on Hiring Quality Talent vs. Quantity of Applicants

Companies should focus on making quality hires and retention instead of seeking a high quantity of applicants.

“A high volume of applicants might solve immediate needs for talent, but volume does not address long-term retention challenges,” said Hireology.

Referral programs can be crucial to finding quality hires, but more than half of the companies surveyed either did not have an employee referral program or had a program that was not advertised internally.

Hireology said that ROI on referral programs can be maximized if bonus payouts are in line with the difficulty of the job with payouts ranging from $50 to $150 for seasonal sales associates to $2,000+ for engineers, general managers, and other coveted hires.

  1. Invest in Tools to Automate Hiring and HR Tasks

Hireology found that only 8 percent of those surveyed planned on making investments in technology to speed up recruiting and hiring processes a priority in 2023.

“As we know from our data, most organizations in the sectors we studied spend too much time in the hiring process and often experience ghosting,” said Hireology. “So if you want to compete on speed, there is an opportunity to win by adopting the right tools.”

Some options for companies include:

      • Automated applicant screening
      • Automated interview scheduling
      • Digital offer letters

Contact Employer Flexible today for a partner that can help small businesses leverage HR to find solutions for issues such as recruiting and retaining skilled workers.


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