The problem isn’t a labor shortage…


Karen Warnemuende

Global Vice President

Finding talent to fill roles right now is tough and labor shortages are being discussed endlessly both inside and outside our industry. Even the most innovative and forward-looking organizations can’t achieve their goals without the right people in the right places, and it’s unproductive to be constantly unable to find the skills you need.

But is it really a labor shortage you’re facing?

I believe that a lot of noise around the struggle to find candidates is masking the real challenges (and opportunities) that organizations face. Worker needs have evolved post-pandemic, and technology, accessibility, flexibility, and wages all play a vital part in talent attraction. For organizations to overcome talent shortages they must review and rethink how they approach each of these crucial areas. If business leaders succeed in breaking down barriers, they can compete more effectively for sought-after candidates – even in a talent-short market.

In this blog, I take a closer look at the shortages that could be impacting your talent search.

It’s a tech shortage…

Technology has been a key factor in rising productivity levels, with increased visibility and automation powering greater output. However, many small and mid-sized enterprises are unable or reluctant to increase investments in automating or digitalizing supply chains, operations, and delivery models. The KellyOCG Global Workforce Agility Report found that a minority of organizations use leading-edge technologies to respond to critical issues around workforce planning and management, including monitoring productivity and efficiency (44%), managing remote workforces (38%), and predicting skills requirements (32%). By investing in forward-looking technology, organizations can better support their workers and reduce the amount of mindless and repetitive work they face, creating better and more purpose-driven workplaces. Technology can also help leaders accurately understand and plan for future talent needs, helping them deal with talent pinch points effectively and early.

It’s an accessible work shortage…

Many people face barriers to work – those with minor criminal offenses, those without traditional qualifications, those inside the neurodiverse community, and many more. In a complex labor market, with talent attraction challenges and high turnover rates, knocking down these barriers is not just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business decision. From removing restrictive degree requirements where a higher education qualification isn’t fundamental to the job role to proactively engaging untapped talent communities, organizations have the opportunity not only to reach more talent but to increase the diversity of thought and experience inside their businesses. I’m incredibly proud of the work we do at Kelly to promote underserved talent, and I’d encourage you to check out Kelly 33 (a program that connects talented job seekers with non-violent, non-relevant criminal convictions with employers) and Kelly Discover (an initiative that places neurodiverse and opportunity talent) to find out how we’re increasing access to work.

It’s a flexible work shortage…

Goldman Sachs estimates that remote working enhances productivity by 3 to 8% on average. Tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are helping workers connect at home, while time saved on travel and commuting is fueling cost savings and efficiency gains. However, not all organizations are embracing these gains. There is a clear divide between the companies that are leaning into this new flexibility and those that are trying to go back to a pre-COVID-19 world. Ultimately, when potential candidates have the choice, most are choosing flexibility. Meaningful, long-term investment in remote and flexible work across all types of roles can help organizations to become more attractive to workers.

It’s a wage shortage…

In a competitive labor market, you cannot afford to pay uncompetitive wages. When candidates are in demand, organizations have to provide fair and appropriate compensation. The cost of basic needs is rising – including groceries and housing ¬– so it’s unsurprising that wage is a key driver for some candidates. This can be a complex decision for organizations, many of which recognize the need to increase wages but are concerned about wage parity between existing and new workers as well as full-time and temporary talent. A market assessment can be a useful tool in understanding wage inflation and where and if an organization is underpaying.

We are in the midst of one of the toughest talent markets that we’ve seen in many years, and you shouldn’t stand still. Tackle shortages and barriers inside your business to attract and retain more talent, more effectively. This is an opportunity to really understand how your organization is engaging with talent communities and take proactive steps to become a most-wanted employer.


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