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The Skilled Labor Shortage-And What To Do About It.

The Problem

One of the sole competitive advantages your business has is the people you hire to carry out your mission. Running a company effectively now and in the future is directly related to your ability to choose the right people for the right roles and retain them for the right period of time. Your ability to stay in the marketplace and stay on top hinges on how well you maximize the returns on your people investments, leverage the strengths of your mission-critical players, key contributors and next-level leaders, and have them stay actively engaged and effective.

Media from the Wall Street Journal to CNN, and several hundred CEOs with whom I’ve spoken, agree that one of the top strategic initiatives of many companies is hiring not only new talent, but also the right talent. It is forecast that by 2015, we will be fully engaged in a massive shortage of hi tech and leadership talent.

After spending the week rubbing elbows with some of Silicon Valleys best and brightest it seems to be that this skilled labor shortage is in full gear right now. A compelling example of this is yesterday Microsoft reported having 10,000 current job openings in the US and 50% of those happen to be for technology roles. They have hundreds of recruiters, contractors and staffing firms trying to help them find people and the well is coming up dry.

The impetus for this talent “shortage” is that there will be fewer highly skilled workers available and fewer people interested in full-time gigs. It is a simple supply-and-demand problem.

The difference between this talent shortage and the shortage of the late 90’s talent is we had more qualified people in the workforce, technology was certainly not as advanced, manufacturing was still hiring and we were not yet dealing with the global competition for these highly qualified people.

Today we are facing an extremely savvy global talent marketplace, the results of years of a deficient STEM education system, and technology innovation progressing at unprecedented rates.

In reality, every company I talked to is hiring technology people right now and everyone is hurting for candidates. Some companies feel immigration reform could help solve the problem, other companies are giving up their “stand” for US jobs and hiring overseas and the impetus is not because it is cheaper, it is because they cannot afford to have these long term vacancies in key contributor tech roles and continue to flourish.

Of course, the larger organizations can begin to cut through the problem by deploying talent across the globe where high tech talent is more readily available yet the SMB simply lacks the infrastructure to pull that off as a strategy. Many start-ups I spoke with said they are utilizing companies such as Elance, or Odesk to find contractor talent while they hunt for full timers.

Almost every company I interviewed talked about a possible solution to this shortage being a tech job re-training or apprentice program within their companies.

There is one more significant issue facing US companies in regards to talent and that is the shifting demographics facing us. We are facing a 50,000,000 deficit of US workers between the ages of 26-46, therefore we need to rely on the newest workforce demographic to fill these gaps.

Given the shifting demographics facing us, companies committed to winning the war for talent have to get in to the hearts and minds of the “new age” employee.

They are tech savvy, they are hard workers, they are smart and can handle multiple roles at once; however they are not committed to staying where they are not valued, compensated, rewarded and recognized.

These millennials want to be in charge of their own careers, they want to know that what ever they are doing today will lead them somewhere tomorrow, they want to make a difference and they want to matter.

Whether or not you are hiring high tech employees, no one can deny that the pipelines of highly qualified people with specialized skills offer slim pickings.

Here Are Some Quick Fixes:

  1. Create Your Employment Brand. Every company serious about hiring high quality people needs to create an employment brand that has substance behind it.

  2. Adopt a Talent Mindset. Leadership must adopt and train management to adopt a Talent Mindset, which is in essence that people are the most important asset in the company. This shift in mindset empowers business leaders of progressive organizations to maximize the talent of their people. When they leverage their people’s strengths and fully engage their work-teams, they capitalize on the brainpower of their workforce while innovating faster, competing harder and achieving their corporate objectives sooner.

  3. Allow Job Sharing

  4. Deploy a System to foster a Productive Remote Workforce

  5. Establish Career Pathing for all key roles

  6. Pay for Performance / Establish a meritocracy culture

  7. Customize Management, Rewards and Work Life to fit the employees’ unique needs.


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