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Aug 25, 2017

The US labor market is tightening. Job openings are at a record high, and there is uncertainty over whether there will be enough skilled workers to fill them all.

We keep hearing about how the very nature of work is changing, and this impending talent gap may be the first sign of a major shift into the unknown. There are several factors driving this change, but here are the most urgent:

Education pay gap

According to Pew Research, college-educated workers are more likely to be employed than at any other time in history. That would normally be good news, but it belies a sinister truth — the pay gap between education levels is skyrocketing. Those lucky enough to have college or vocational training in today’s market will make, on average, $20,000 more annually than their high school-trained counterparts, the widest the gap has ever been.

However college is becoming less and less of a reality for most of the public. Preposterous rising tuition costs are outweighing the benefits for many. As financial gatekeepers squeeze more people out of higher education, companies will continue to see a steady decline in applicants with specialized skills. It’s just physics.

Rampant entrepreneurialism

More workers are self-employed or work for a start-up business than ever before (about 30% of the national workforce), and hopping jobs becomes easier every time they update their LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t take much to lose an employee anymore, as the internet has made the world much smaller.

A younger generation with a strong sense of independence has embraced the idea of defining their own careers on their own terms. The twist is, unlike previous generations, they have all the tools and technology to accomplish it. Highly skilled, industrious and innovative employees are not only in shorter supply, they are far less “sticky” than they used to be.

Socio-Political uncertainty

Maybe you’ve noticed there has been some strife in the American political arena lately? Without opening a can of worms, it’s pretty fair to say that there is uncertainty in the air over a few things. Suffice to say, that employee engagement and satisfaction suffers in times of socio-political uncertainty or upheaval.

In short, the dread of uncertainty can sometimes be worse than the reality of unemployment. Not only will organizations have to scour harder for talent, they will have to work harder to keep the talent they have until a better semblance of order is gained.

How to stand out

Here are some quick tips to make your recruiting efforts stand out amid a talent crisis:

  1. Be clear and descriptive – When employees are in a hurry to find a job they need to know three things straight away – what the job is, what skills are required, and how much it pays. If you don’t have these front and center in your job listings, you lose a lot of eyeballs right off the bat.
  2. Step up early recognition and engagement – A majority of employees decide whether they want to stay at a job within the first six months. Build yourself some extra insurance with a full-throated first year engagement and reward scheme that tracks milestones and marks progress.
  3. Rethink remote work policies – Are there critical positions in your company that need to be filled but don’t necessarily need a warm body in the office? If so, seriously consider offering remote work positions. You open yourself up to an immensely wider talent pool, and the technology to make it work is readily available.

Recruiting has always been a tough racket, and until we can get more clarity on what our new work priorities will be heading into the next few decades, it will continue to be a bit of a roller coaster. However, there are always talented workers out there, and market disruptions always work both ways – as employees further unlock their potential, their employers must be on the edge with them, always thinking of ways to work smaller, faster, and smarter.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.