Five Tips for Beating the Labor Shortage “Carol A. Hacker”

Employee Selection

Labor shortages have driven up wages and increased training and benefit costs. In addition, low unemployment nationwide and the declining population among the young has employers concerned about finding enough qualified people. Government agencies are no different.

In addition to a labor shortage, employers face a skills shortage—a mismatch between available employees and the skills needed to be employees and managers.

In an effort to head-off skills deficiencies, many business communities have formed partnerships with educational systems with the goal of helping students become more responsive to real world demands. Are these efforts enough? Evidently not, according to a 1998 survey I conducted among 100 businesses and state and federal agencies in the Southeast. However, the people I spoke with offered some practical and innovative solutions for beating the labor shortage.

TIP #1-Take a marketing approach to recruiting. Every employee needs to take responsibility for identifying and selling what makes working for your organization special. Don’t rely exclusively on traditional methods of finding people such as classified advertising or walk-ins. Be aggressive and creative. Promotions, ads and happy employees should be telling prospective employees what you have to offer.

TIP #2-Hire layoffs. When other business enterprises downsize, good people are available for hire. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be aware of laid-off talent in the community in which you live and work. Sometimes they don’t know about you and why you offer a great place to work. Contact laid-off employees through their employers who are usually eager to help their employees find job opportunities.

TIP #3-Distribute business cards. Some businesses have found success with business cards that their employees carry and give to customer-oriented employees of businesses they patronize. For example, the card of a government employer might say: “We’re interested in administrative assistants, computer programmers and software engineers. For more information call. . .” The card includes a contact name and telephone number. A regular business card can serve the purpose just as well.

TIP #4-Get referrals from others. Your internal and external customers and vendors are a good source of referrals, but you may have to ask. They know you and your organization. If they like what they see, they may be personally interested in working for you or know someone who would be a good fit. Many businesses have found this method for beating the labor shortage beneficial. Referrals from others may even help build better customer relations.

SOLUTION #5-Offer a work-study program. High school and college students often participate in a work-study program. Some receive pay while others work for the experience alone. If the students have a good work ethic and are willing to learn, they’re often a good choice. The downside is that they will usually be with you for a only a short time—several months, a semester, or maybe a school year at most.

In summary, finding good people will continue to be one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century. In addition to candidates that the Human Resources Department identifies, it’s the responsibility of every employee to find and recruit people for the department.

Carol Hacker is a human resource consultant, speaker, and trainer who ranks among the experts in the field of recruiting and retention issues. For more than two decades, she’s been a significant voice in front-line and corporate human resource management to small businesses as well as Fortune500 companies. She’s the author of the highly acclaimed books, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People, The Costs of Bad Hiring Decisions & How to Avoid Them, The High Cost of Low Morale …and what to do about it, and 450 Low-Cost/No-Cost Strategies for recognizing, rewarding & retaining good people, Job Hunting in the 21st Century-Exploding the Myths, Exploring the Realities and 366 Surefire Ways to Let Your Employees Know They Count. Carol can be reached at 770-410-0517 or

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