First published on LinkedIn.
In today's tight job market, it is no secret employers are struggling to attract the right talent to remain competitive in their industry. Yet, in the midst of this shortage many populations remain largely marginalized from fully participating in the labor force, including aging seniors, people with disabilities, youth, and formerly incarcerated adults. From a purely economic perspective, this means employers need to consider applicants they may have skimmed over in the past in favor of more ideal candidates. In practicality, employers need to get creative in how they locate talent to fill their workforce shortages.
Here are three ways employers can begin to solve their workforce challenges:
First, recognize as an employer that your responsibility to the talent you hire goes far above just consuming their skills, time, and knowledge. There exists a nearly universal human desire to progress by continually learning and challenging ourselves, hence the pursuit of life-long learning. Millennials, in particular, are actively seeking out employers who exhibit a more progressive environment that challenges them intellectually. And, yes, this is a good trend to see that benefits society as a whole and keeps us moving forward. Going from being a consumer of talent to a producer of talent is a cultural shift for any employer. As culture shifts go, they start at the top and ripple down through management to front-line employees. Culture doesn't flow upward, it flows downward beginning with real practical values that aren't kitschy platitudes on a wall.
When leadership commits to the idea of becoming a partner in their employees’ growth and future, the effect is felt widely and shows in the talent they attract and retain.
Second, learn about local employer resources available to you that could help cover some of your training and on-boarding costs, such as On-the-Job Training (OJT) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Visit your local Workforce Center and meet with a representative who can tell you more about these programs. When I worked at a local Workforce & Business Center as a Business Development Representative, I was amazed at how challenging it was to get the attention of employer’s for what was essentially free federal funding with few strings attached. But the reality is, employers are busy running their businesses. They need people yesterday.
Nevertheless, taking advantage of these funding opportunities helps employers become producers of talent while supporting their local economy and workforce.
Third, get to know your local community nonprofit organizations as an extension of your talent pool. When most employers are seeking new talent, they post a job description on Indeed or LinkedIn, and wait for the applications to roll in. While this approach used to work quite well in tough economic times, during a tight job market employers need to step up their game in finding the right talent. In nearly every community there exists nonprofit organizations working day and night to get people employed who are traditionally marginalized by society for one reason or another. Assign a member of your staff to serve as a community liaison who will engage organizations specifically providing employment services for these populations.
Your efforts in doing so will not only show your commitment as a producer of talent and economic opportunity, it will also show your commitment to diversifying your workforce.
In conclusion, the challenges of our current workforce shortage will only be solved when we become active participants in the promotion and development of talent. For starters, we need to begin seeking out talent in places we might have passed over in stronger economic times. But we also need to begin upskilling our workforces and investing in their future by committing to continual learning and talent development. The job of upskilling, educating, and investing in our talent is no longer just the role of our educational institutions. We all have a responsibility. Let’s take the first step in moving from being consumers of talent to producers of talent. The workforce of the future depends on us.