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Learn and Adapt: How to Adjust for Labor Shortages
November 26, 2021
labor shortages

Earlier in 2021, many workers refused to return to in-office working conditions. Even more employees in a variety of industries felt that they were being unfairly compensated and resigned. As vaccination mandates continue to cause controversy, it is likely we will see labor shortages continue. As a result, many human resources professionals are struggling to adjust for these shortages.

Many employers are now being put in the position to combat labor shortages and quickly. One of the more apparent companies suffering from this issue is the United States Postal Service, which is experiencing unprecedented shortages while receiving record-level shipping orders since the start of the pandemic. The current troubles around the supply chain sure aren’t helping.

A quick, temporary fix is to have the current workforce work longer hours to accommodate; however, as many employers are now learning, this is an effective method for losing even more employees as employee satisfaction decreases.

labor shortage

What’s causing labor shortages

Despite the fact that the U.S. economy is on the mend from the pandemic and hiring is steadily increasing, labor shortages are continuing. There are a variety of reasons for the current labor shortage, though each reason may vary by industry. For the sake of this article, we will cover the most common.

Worker needs are evolving

When the event dubbed as ‘The Great Resignation’ was in full force, many employees resigned because they found that their needs had changed during the events of the pandemic. For some, that meant they wanted to spend more time home with their families. For others, they had realized their benefits and pay were simply not enough to satisfy their needs.

Regardless of why employee needs are changing, it is important to understand that these evolving needs are not temporary. Younger employees want to work for companies whose values align with their own and they want to do so for an appropriate wage.

Additionally, employees are more comfortable with being vocal about their needs, so when those needs are not meant or if they do not feel valued by their employer, the next most obvious step is to leave for a different employee that can accommodate them.

Poor treatment, lack of benefits, and unfair compensation rates

Let’s call a spade a spade. Many of the companies suffering the most from labor shortages are food service establishments and other labor-intensive jobs. While there are always exceptions, many workers in these types of fields may not be receiving benefits and may not be entirely satisfied with their working environment.

If workers are consistently feeling unappreciated or undervalued, they’re going to leave. There’s no other way around that.

How to adjust for labor shortages

labor shortage

Hopefully, you are a company that values its employees and provides them with opportunities and fair pay. Now, it is time to consider what your team of human resources professionals can do to help your company’s employees to avoid succumbing to labor shortages or to adapt until your team is built back up again.

Prioritize recruitment efforts

While the priority is always to keep strong employees at your company, you may sometimes have to search elsewhere. There is a plethora of strong talent currently available and searching for jobs. In order to attract and retain that strong talent, your recruitment methods need to be top-notch.

Here are some easy ways to improve your recruitment process:

  • Do not have unnecessary steps in your hiring process. A common mistake made during recruitment is to have unnecessary steps during the hiring process. These steps can be making prospective hires complete tasks without explaining the purpose or it can be shuffling them around to meet more of the team than they need to before they have even been hired. If you’re in a labor shortage, you shouldn’t be asking your prospective hires to jump through hoops to work for you.
  • Attend virtual or in-person career fairs. This method, while simple, is an easy and fast way to find new talent that is eager to work. These events can be industry-specific or even be done through colleges and universities. Where to seek out career fairs is determined by what roles you need to fill.
  • Ask your current employees for recommendations. Networking is wonderful for job seekers, but it can also be great for employers as well. If you’re looking to hire (and your current employees enjoy their jobs), ask them to suggest people from their network to reach out to.

Understand why employee turnover is high

If your company has been struggling to keep retention levels high even before the pandemic, it is time to do some serious internal reflection. Again, there could be a variety of reasons why employees tend to only have short stints at your company. If you really want to understand what is causing employees to leave, you need to ask.

There’s a variety of ways to receive this information. You can conduct regular employee satisfaction surveys or even conduct exit interviews to understand exactly why employees leave. Whichever method you choose, it all starts with communication.

Look for ways to optimize processes

This step is going to be the most difficult and the most costly. However, it also has the potential for the most return on investment (ROI). As previously mentioned, you do not want to be putting more work on your already overworked employees. That is not a sustainable answer to this issue. Ideally, you want to optimize as many of your processes as possible.

Optimizing your processes can look like many different things. Perhaps it means restructuring the order of command to have faster communication amongst employees. Or maybe, it means putting in the time and money to get software that will automate some of the work. How you go about this step will depend on how many changes you are prepared to make at your company (and what you may be willing to spend to accomplish it). For many of these options, the solution will be a permanent one. You also need to consider if that is a viable option as well.

Ideally, no company wants to deal with labor shortages, but all companies should be prepared to. When it comes down to it, your team needs to learn where things are going wrong and adapt to the situation at hand. Otherwise, you’ll have more issues appearing on the horizon.

If you found this article helpful, leave us a comment and subscribe to BrandResumes’ HR Corner for more helpful information.

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By Emily Provost

Emily is BrandResumes' Content Specialist and is an Associate Resume Writer. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Publishing Studies with double minors in Marketing and Journalism from Hofstra University. She has had editorial experience working as an editor for various publications from Hofstra and worked as a writing tutor for undergraduate students.

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