3 Creative Ways Businesses Can Address the Talent Crunch

Even as the world fitfully emerges from the worst of the pandemic, the Great Resignation marches on. Businesses are posting help wanted notices ad nauseum or taking any warm body they can find to fill a slot. The former is exhausting and the latter — just not a good strategy.

It’s a serious miscalculation to believe the world of work is ever going to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Businesses that think they can just wait it out may have signed on for an eternal vigil. Moreover, a failure to budge could lead to their demise.

Finding, recruiting, and keeping top talent working for businesses now and for the foreseeable future requires action. But not just any action is going to work. Companies will need to get resourceful. Here are three creative ways businesses can address today’s talent crunch.

1. Use Technology to Fill In the Gaps

Technology has always replaced human workers. The telegraph ushered the end of the Pony Express, and the internet largely replaced travel agents. Workers who lost these jobs retrained and found new ones.

The problem now is finding enough talent to fill positions that machines can’t, at least not completely. But in some situations, the union of tech and talent can reduce the number of humans necessary. Technology handles what it can, and people tackle the rest.

Case in point is increasingly sophisticated conversational AI. It has become less expensive and less cumbersome to use while harnessing greater amounts of data. As algorithms become more intuitive, satisfaction among businesses who use it and their customers trends upward.

Using conversational AI in a call center, for example, reduces the number of agents necessary for fielding calls. The AI responder can handle routine calls while knowing when to push more complex queries to a human for intervention. Agents are happier because they avoid the tedium of mundane and repetitive inquiries.

Restaurants and other enterprises that do business with a physical point of sale can use a variety of technology solutions. Apps, self-service kiosks, QR codes, handheld POS systems, and self-checkout scanners can fill a gap when there aren’t enough workers. 

There will be a certain amount of grumbling by technology-wary customers when greeted by a kiosk rather than a person. But like all change, technology will become the norm as its use becomes more ubiquitous. In the meantime, it will reduce the need for workers and make those that a business employs happier with their jobs.

2. Confront the Disconnect

Based on figures showing the number of job seekers and the number of openings, it seems job applicants should be abundant. Pandemic household stimulus payments and jacked-up unemployment benefits are a distant memory. So how are the unemployed supporting themselves, and why aren’t they banging down the door?

There’s a yawning disconnect between those looking for employment and potential employers. Businesses wanting to ease the talent crunch need to look for ways to confront the disparity. That calls for finding new methods to connect with eager but frustrated talent.

Businesses that rely on electronic screening services, such as Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter, should do a little more manual labor. As most people do with search engine results, hirers may ignore any applications that don’t rank at the very top. If so, they may be missing out on some great potential.

Many job seekers are applying for positions they’re overqualified for, so hirers pass on them, fearing future retention problems. Seeing the vast number of employment openings, job seekers underqualified for positions are applying anyway. Businesses are ignoring their applications and résumés as well.

Recruiters who take the time to look at every applicant and weigh experience, enthusiasm, and growth potential may strike gold. An overqualified hire can fill a higher position if it opens later, and an underqualified candidate can be trained. If they’re a good fit for the culture, a business’s investment in a not-yet-quite-the-right-person may keep a talented worker happy.

Challenging labor market conditions call for a willingness to put a few square pegs into round holes. If they’re otherwise solid, have the right mindset, and businesses invest in them, these individuals can reshape themselves in time. Looking only for perfect fits means overlooking great potential.

3. Adjust Offerings, Processes, and Plans

When business is not as usual, the usual business may require some unusual adjustments. If ever there’s been a time for companies to revisit their standard operating procedures, it’s now. And quite frankly, nothing should be off the table.

For some businesses, reducing hours of operation or delivery area may be all that’s required to solve their talent issues. For others, it may be eliminating a product or service line to focus employee efforts on more lucrative ones. Outsourcing some roles may also be a viable option.

Other companies may need to make more drastic changes to address recruitment challenges. Those could include considering major adjustments to their business models or even their corporate structure.

A business could adapt its core strategies by thinking globally. This would create a much larger pool of talent for employee recruitment — and open new markets for its products and services into the bargain.

A privately held business could move to an employee-stock ownership plan (ESOP) structure. Once fully vested, the benefits could be a magnet for employees, first attracting them, then retaining them long-term. Meanwhile, the company also garners some extremely rewarding tax benefits.

Corporate structures, business models, and strategic plans are not set in stone. The talent crunch affects operations, customer satisfaction, and a company’s bottom line. Intrepid exploration of every viable option should be SOP ASAP.

It’s Crunch Time

The talent shortage is creating a critical moment for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Those that recognize its likely permanence and take decisive action will thrive. Those that don’t will struggle to survive.

If a business has exhausted all traditional tactics to mitigate the employee shortage, it’s time to get creative. Pushing envelopes, getting out of boxes, and coloring outside the lines are the only options left. For now and the foreseeable future, it’s crunch time.

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