Labor shortages have been leading the news ever since the pandemic hit. Some employers blame extra unemployment insurance benefits for the “Great Resignation,” but the fact is that there has been a labor shortage in many sectors of the economy since well before COVID. The pandemic, however, has highlighted workers’ concerns about workplace safety, childcare shortages, low pay and more, and many workers have changed careers, retired early or simply left the workforce. “The reasons for the labor shortage are complex,” says Allison Madison, president of Madison Approach Staﬃng in Hawthorne.
Rather than complain, “it is far more productive for employers to implement new and creative strategies to develop an ongoing talent pipeline,” she says. The first step is to consider the most common mistakes employers make that can clog that pipeline of candidates.
Smart companies maintain a constant and consistent recruitment effort, says Sherry Bruck, president of Harquin, a marketing firm that works with the county’s Workforce Development Board. That requires having a strong career page on your company website, and “branding it as seriously and with as much intent” as you promote your products and services to customers, she says. All the marketing tools — social media, videos, old-school flyers and the like — need to support that effort.
“Companies don’t take seriously the knowledge of their own employees,” Bruck says. Elmsford-based Unitex does, however. It currently has three employee referral programs running simultaneously, says Recruiting Manager Jennifer Ciardullo: one for union-to-union hires, one for drivers, and one for management. Incentives include cash bonuses, gift cards, and pizza parties. “Our programs don’t even require someone to be hired. Just for handing in a referral form, you are entered into weekly and monthly gift card drawings. We like to give everyone a chance to win something just for trying,” Ciardullo says.
Many employers “just do a knee-jerk reaction — we lost somebody so we have to hire somebody, as a head count,” says Grant Schneider, president of Performance Development Strategies in Armonk. “They go to fill a job based on what they had before without looking at how it has changed. They look at qualifications and resume, but they don’t look at core competencies, like interpersonal skills, leadership, communication skill. They just look at experience.” A job posting should be “almost like a marketing tool, casting a wide net,” Madison says. And if it has requirements that will cause candidates to self-eliminate, such as a college degree that isn’t really necessary, that net gets much smaller.
Rather than complain, “it is far more productive for employers to implement new and creative strategies to develop an ongoing talent pipeline.”
—Allison Madison, President, Madison Approach Staffing
“Wages are going bonkers,” Madison says, and employers need caution in both directions. “You don’t want below-market so they don’t even look at you, but you also must be cautious on the higher end,” she says. Small and mid-size businesses can’t always compete in wages with bigger players in the industry, so adding things like a hiring bonus can help. And being smaller also means being flexible with add-ons like paid leave, childcare help, work-from-home options, and other perks — “whatever that candidate needs,” Madison says. There are advantages to an a la carte benefit package, because a 20-something candidate is very different from someone in their 40s or 50s.
Many recruits have barriers to employment, and overlooking them is a big mistake, says Brian Amkraut, vice president and general manager for Workforce Credentialing and Community Impact at Mercy College. Hiring managers tend to put the college names they recognize — NYU, Columbia, Fordham — “at the top of the pile” while overlooking a school like Mercy. “The fact that we are the largest private minority-serving institution in New York State is not known to people doing hiring,” Amkraut says. “In this environment, we have a great, proven track record with underserved populations, which are now being targeted for recruitment.”