Skilled Labor Shortages Threaten Growth: How to Gain the Upper Hand with Employee Engagement

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It’s midway through 2018.

The economy continues to expand.

The talent pool continues to contract.

Skilled labor shortages are prolific.

No sector is immune.

Employers predict wage increases.

They say this elevated demand for labor is constraining growth.

They report losing out on business.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, as an example:

  • A local retailer forecast 2018 merit raises would be on the order of 2.5 to 3.0 percent
  • A restaurateur reported cook and wait staff labor shortages were hindering business
  • One manufacturer was three months behind schedule in trying to hire workers for a new plant
  • Another firm had 20 unfilled openings in a plant with 100 employees and said they were making up for it with significant overtime
  • A different industrial firm stated when a worker leaves, they typically end up paying the replacement 10 percent more than the departing worker
  • Software and IT services have kept headcounts close to flat in recent months, though they plan to increase staff by up to 10 percent during 2018; sector contacts, however, noted that shortages for technical roles such as engineers were getting worse.

In March 2018, U.S. news outlets were atwitter about healthcare labor shortages.  America is undergoing a massive nursing shortage, warned Seun Ross, director of nursing practice and work environment at the American Nurses Association. Not only are experienced nurses retiring at a rapid clip, but there aren’t enough new nursing graduates to replenish the workforce. And an ageing population is exacerbating the problem.

A CNN investigation found hospitals and other medical facilities are getting so desperate to recruit and retain nurses they’re offering all sorts of pricey perks, citing five-figure signing bonuses, college tuition for employees and their children, and housing, among other incentives.

Employee Engagement to the Rescue

But will rich enticements retain employees in the long run?

What’s to stop a nurse from accepting a job because of the perks and then hop to another hospital after two years because of their perks, Ross wonders. “A better approach would be to invest in improving the work environment for nurses and offer better pay, career development and hours to help make sure they don’t burn out. All it takes is for one nurse to tell her friend that where she works is a great place for these reasons and applications will come in.”

When workers feel their employers care about them, they care back. They become emotionally invested. Pride in workplace and encouraging others to join the team is a telltale sign that an organization is engaging and that its employees are engaged.

Engaged employees don’t leave a work environment that supports them personally and professionally. Prospective employees find organizations attractive for the exact same reasons.

The restaurant business is getting creative addressing labor shortages by repaying culinary-school tuition for their chefs (professional development and growth is one of the top drivers of employee engagement). Some are hiring former prisoners and recovering addicts as kitchen assistants, others are scooping up employees fired by competitors (diversity and inclusion – another key driver). They’re using employee engagement methods to attract and retain employees with flexible schedules, a faster pipeline up the ranks, safer anti-bullying work environments, and camaraderie-building events like tequila-tasting seminars.

While reasons for a tightening talent market are plentiful, employers can help mitigate labor shortage problems by making employee engagement the foundation upon which their corporate culture is built.

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