Meeting the challenges of a worker shortage in a tough market

With a current shortage of available workers in the marketplace, employers need to be doing everything they can to attract new talent — and keep the people they have from going elsewhere.
“Employers are trying to fill positions, but there are not people available for those roles,” says Renee West, SHRM-SCP, PHR, senior manager – lead HR consultant, Rea & Associates. “On the flip side, because of the available opportunities, employers need to look at how to retain their existing workforce, because if people aren’t happy, they will make a change.”
Smart Business spoke with West about best practices and resources for employers to attract and retain key talent in a difficult market.
How can employers begin to assess how employees perceive their workplace?
Look at what you have in place. Is your pay structure competitive? What benefits do you offer? What sets you apart as an employer of choice when someone is looking at thousands of available jobs? Many employers are offering discounts, remote work, a shorter work week or job sharing. Think outside the box as it relates to hiring and retention.
Talk with your workforce to understand what they are thinking and gauge the pulse of the workplace. Survey employees about what they enjoy, what they wish was different, what benefits they like and don’t like, and what keeps them there. They are staying for a reason, and surveys can help capture what is positive, allowing you to recruit from that perspective.
How can employers stand out from the crowd?
Consider training people and providing opportunities for growth to make people want to stay. Start an internship program to attract new talent. Implement a referral bonus. And if you already have one, enhance it, offering rewards both at the time of hire and after six months. If you can’t afford monetary rewards, get creative about what an employee might want instead.
Employers that don’t care about their employees become a revolving door. You really need to focus on your employees as people and understand their needs.
What other steps can employers take to attract workers?
There is assistance at the state level for training workers. The Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation offers programs that provide financial assistance for training, such as the High School Tech Internship Pilot Program, the Industry Sector Partnership Grant and TechCred.
Also revisit your job descriptions. Do you really know what you’re hiring for and what the position entails? Just saying you need five more people doesn’t work anymore and finding the right fit is essential. Candidates want to know what type of organization you have, how you treat people, what schedule they will have, and whether remote, hybrid job-sharing are options. Pay and benefits are no longer the top reason for people leaving a job for a new one. If you aren’t able to say, ‘Here’s our culture, here’s your specific role,’ you’re setting yourself up to fall below what other companies are doing.
Also, don’t stop pre-employment drug screenings to attract additional candidates. If you’re not doing it pre-employment, you’ll be doing it post-accident.
How can an outside adviser help identify ways to attract and retain workers?
An adviser can help you talk through what you need to do as an organization. Companies are struggling and don’t know what do. A third party can help you look at job descriptions and postings, and what you can be doing differently. Organizations that don’t have internal resources have a lot of questions and just need some help.

It’s a job-seeker’s market, and over the next several months, there is going to be a great increase in the number of people leaving their current jobs. During the pandemic, priorities have evolved. People are looking for a different environment. If someone is unhappy, there are plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere. It takes time and effort, but you have to look at what you need to change vs. what you’ve traditionally done to meet the challenge of attracting and retaining the top talent in your marketplace.

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