Conquer the labor shortage: How to find, and keep, the right people

Last updated on October 24th, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Most companies that can’t find enough top candidates for job openings fear the problem will linger.

But after 25 years as a CEO, and my experience as a strategic planning consultant and Vistage chair, I’ve concluded most companies deploy the same old tired strategies to find and keep workers. They’re missing out on innovative ways to attract the best and brightest.

That’s alarming. Consider:

  • In October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were 6.7 million jobs open in the United States and only 6.4 million available workers to fill them.
  • Many available workers don’t have the job skills required for those openings. It’s not even close.
  • Those two facts mean that the fierce competition for top talent will remain.

That’s especially troublesome for small and midsize companies that need to hire if they want to take advantage of the strong economy.

According to 1,467 CEOs that were surveyed for Vistage’s Q3 2018 CEO Confidence Index survey, 61 percent of small and midsize businesses expect to hire more people within a year.

Research from the National Center for the Middle Market shows that only 22 percent of middle-market firms have a formal process for talent acquisition and planning.

Without the right people in place, your business can get caught in the crushing vice of delayed delivery times and dissatisfied customers. Even worse, you might be forced to turn down new business.

But don’t fear. Companies willing to change can take advantage of these five strategies to find and keep the right people:

1. Change how you keep talented workers.

To hold on to your best people, add nontraditional perks to employee benefits. This could include financial counseling or a reward system that recognizes top performers. One of my clients bought a “company home” in Orlando. Employees can compete for the chance to vacation there for free.

You can also create a more flexible workplace that’s attractive to workers of all ages. For older workers, make it easier for them to approach retirement through stages of working fewer hours instead of the “hard stop” that traditional retirement brings.

2. Build a workforce within your local community.

If you can’t find people with the right skills, train people to develop those skills. Reach out to community colleges and local government to create vocational training programs and attract local talent. Be creative about building a workforce that’s local to your environment or operation.

3. Rethink how you recruit.

Traditional methods of recruiting now yield minimal results. Explore tech-powered, self-serve platforms such as LinkedIn Talent Solutions and Zoho Recruit to help you attract better candidates or make better job matches.

About one in five CEOs surveyed by Vistage says they’re now using artificial intelligence for talent management in their recruiting process. Recruiters can use special software to automate the repetitive job of reviewing resumes and screening candidates.

You can also use social media by adding new quality content weekly to your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and to your website.

4. Substitute labor with technology.

Explore whether technology can help you deal with a labor shortage by automating tasks or improving efficiencies. For example, if you own a landscaping company, you might invest in mowing equipment with a larger cutting deck to reduce mowing time from, say, three hours to 45 minutes. Even small manufacturers can save money by using robotics to perform highly repetitive tasks.

5. Develop a systematic framework for talent planning.

Data from the National Center for the Middle Market confirms that talent planning has a strong correlation with the growth and performance of a company. To that end, you should apply a talent planning framework that:

  • Aligns talent strategy with business strategy.
  • Requires systematic ongoing talent planning for its processes.
  • Requires involvement by your senior leadership team during key stages of hiring top talent.
  • Asks current employees for their best ideas.

Keep your “eye on the prize” by making sure that your business will more than satisfy customer expectations while growing and thriving. Adopt these strategies this year and see impressive results that your employees and customers will love and your competitors will envy!

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Karl Williams is a CEO coach, a strategic planning and transaction facilitator. He previously chaired two groups for TEC/Vistage. He can be reached at