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Talent Shortage: Will the Recovery Go Bust Before the Boom?

Woman working on her computer

While the last year and a half has altered the way employers and employees alike view their work and the way they get it done, several core tenants of the recruiting and hiring dynamic remain, including the demand for skilled workers in their respective fields. And as vaccines become more widely available and travel restrictions are lifted, nearly half of employers (49%) expect to return to pre-pandemic hiring levels by the end of 2022 according to the Q3 2021 ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey.

But that optimism, which is at pre-pandemic levels (with employers in 42 countries saying their hiring intentions in the coming months have increased), is being tempered by a hiring dilemma that has created the highest levels of global talent shortages in past 15 years--nearly 7 in 10 employers (69%) globally are reporting difficulty with hiring despite a post-pandemic hiring boom on the horizon. So, what's driving this talent shortage and how can employers close the gap by better addressing the needs of today's workforce?

Competition for talent, namely--in areas where companies across all sectors are looking for the same in-demand talent. According to the research, the top 5 most difficult roles to fill globally are: 

1. Operations/Logistics
2. Manufacturing/Production
3. IT/Data
4. Sales/Marketing
5. Administration/Office Support

Given that employees can afford to be picky in today's economy, this situation is also contributing to talent shortages. Individuals are looking for organizations that can provide more than just a steady paycheck and job security. The future workforce wants flexibility that became the norm throughout the pandemic to become part of the permanent work dynamic.

Fortunately, most employers are building in new kinds of flexibility into roles that were previously seen as inflexible. For example, 36% of employers said they plan to incorporate flexible start and finish times, and 31% plan on offering a mix of remote working and workplace-based working.

That shift is a necessary component of the current working environment. Employees are taking this opportunity to draw a line in the proverbial sand.

Workers are united in what they want for the future – to keep their job, stay healthy, learn and keep developing skills, and to not go back to the old way of working. Yet look closer and an even greater bifurcation within the workforce looks likely. Those with in-demand skills can call the salary shots, work remotely, avoid the commute, and stay safe at home. Those with declining skills are required to commute to work onsite, and subject to even greater exposure.

After health concerns, the top worry for workers is going back to the way things were – losing their newfound flexibility and being required to be back in the workplace daily (Future for Workers By Workers). Additionally:

  • 9 in 10 workers say simply keeping their job is most important
  • Keeping their job is a top priority for workers in all countries and sectors (91%) with the exception of IT workers who value flexibility most
  • 8 in 10 want to better work-life balance in the future
  • 43% believe this marks the end of full time 9-5

Given the concerns of employees, how do you balance the needs of your organization with what your people want?

Communication, Communication, Communication

Your workforce are your partners, always, and what was true a year ago remains true now; people will not return to productive employment if it’s perceived as a risk to their health and to the health of their loved ones. Don’t just say you’re open and transparent. Actually be open and transparent and your people will return that honesty fully. Clear communication focused on data and insight has undoubtedly saved lives and will continue to allow people to work safely and confidently.

Avoid the temptation to flip the switch

We cannot go from ‘off’ to ‘on’ with the current situation. As much as we want to get back to normal, there remains no universal return date for all. Globally, different countries are at different points on the timeline and choosing what’s best for your situation is still the best course of action. As we previously mentioned, communication is paramount to the process and employers must continue to provide clear guidance so their people understand the rationale around returning. Vigilance will continue to be important and taking a “slow and steady wins the race approach” could serve you best in the long run.

Collaboration counts

And speaking about collaboration, reopening your business will need buy in and support from all corners of your organization. Listening to your employees and gathering their feedback will prove essential in the reopening process. What does their workday look like? What will safe collaboration entail? Being guided by what employees want, whatever form that takes that’s most appropriate for your organization, will give everyone on your team a place at the table. the future

If you haven’t yet, now is the time to embrace a shared vision of tomorrow. The sudden transformation of how we do business is going to have a lasting effect. As we’ve learned, some of these changes are closer to what workers wanted all along; flexibility, work-life balance and more. The trends we’ve known were coming are here and their adoption is accelerating as a result of the pandemic. The Technological Revolution has gathered at an incredible pace – we know from our own research that 38% of organizations have accelerated their digitization as a result of the pandemic, and 86% of those plan to increase or maintain their workforce hiring levels as a result. New trends are continuing to emerge, and those trends are reshaping the future of work and the future for workers. Take advantage of this opportunity. Companies are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, forced to adapt and ready to reset with enhanced supply chain resilience, greater agility, increased focus on workforce planning and the consolidation of vendors that can help them manage uncertainty and risk. This is your chance to reshape your culture and identity, while driving innovation that will sustain your operations for years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us all for a loop. But the biggest mistake that could be made is thinking your return to normal will be a return to the way things were. Those ways are over. Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we're curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting.” Curiosity can be a powerful tool that drives you forward. And now is the time to take a chance.

Learn more about the Talent Shortage and download the Talent Shortage-Employment Outlook infographic