So, What Now?

By Joe Sumner, Interim Associate Vice President for Economic Development.

As the world continues to shake off the COVID slumber of the last 18 months, businesses are opening, restaurants are serving, movies are playing on the big screens, roller coasters are running, and assembly lines are cranking up. Crowds of people, eager for food, fun, goods, and services, are lining up, cash in fist, ready to feed the machine that is our local economy. The only issue? It seems that while the consumers are lining up, ready to spend, companies are having trouble stocking the shelves and staffing the lines. Why? Well, apparently, for a number of reasons that I will not make the mistake of speculating on here, there simply are not enough willing candidates to fill the number of open positions needed to make the world operate the way that we are used to.

Think about that a moment. There simply are not enough individuals who are willing to seek employment at the organizations that provide us with the quality of life that we are used to having. Whether it is restaurants, retailers, service providers, healthcare providers, technology companies, manufacturers, logistics, or educators, we as a society have our expectations and a certain level of quality of life that we have all become accustomed to. And, as we return to every day activities, we expect those same things to resume at the same levels as before, if not higher, bigger, faster, and better. And, on the other side of the discussion, while I am not a business major, it is my understanding that organizations such as manufacturing would love to make stuff for you, because at the end of the day, that is how they pay the power bill and make sure the company payroll checks do not bounce.

So how can a company counter that? Too many openings and not enough interested candidates? I wish I knew. But honestly, I am not a recruiting specialist. However, I am a training specialist. And I can say this with confidence – the quickest remedy to addressing a lack of new employees walking in the door, is to invest in the employees who are already in your building. All of a sudden, the value of your team has increased, including the value of any open positions, thus increasing the appeal to interested candidates.

Actively providing training opportunities for your organization can provide measurable, quantifiable results in things such as employee skillset and knowledge. Training can be ingrained into or encompass your organization’s culture, going beyond technical skills, and incorporating qualities such as leadership and communication. Additionally, providing support such as scholarships or tuition reimbursement for employees can further build a culture of organizational pride and belonging and an eagerness to be a part of the team.

So, to the individual, if you are willing to work and interested in some of those opportunities, the pay has never been higher, the understanding of work-life balance has never been more meaningful, and the career options to choose from have never been so plentiful. Organizations are aggressively seeking applicants and new employees. But, we warned, eventually, this too shall pass, and while many people will find that they took the initiative at the right time, and are now in a position that far exceeded their expectations, others will find their opportunities limited, and might wish that they had acted during this short window of opportunity to get on with an organization at the perfect time.

So, if this is you, as an individual, seek training. Build your resume. But, go beyond the now and the you, meaning, do more than just seek training for yourself today. When you start searching for that career opportunity, choose an organization that will provide professional development opportunities for you today, tomorrow, and years to come. Choose an organization that invests in their team members, and includes training and professional development as a part of their culture.

And again, to the organizations desperately seeking to fill the vacancies, this too shall pass. Eventually, the pool of candidates will dry up, competitors will have full workforces, and will have taken advantage of the chance to bring in new talent and increase existing talent. And when that happens, you may still find that you are struggling to build your team.

Wait, don’t panic. I have some ideas. It seems that many companies are now offering cash bonuses. Not a bad concept, but it does not seem to be effective. There are still an overwhelming number of job openings. So, while it is often true, that “money talks”, maybe it is time to consider something different.

Consider promoting and marketing the ways in which you invest in your employees for the long term. Something more than a retirement plan, something more than insurance, your investment must be in the individual, through opportunities such as training, certifications, and professional development. Build training into your company culture to make those job openings more enticing to candidates. And remember, as an organization, if you want the best possible workforce team, it may be that you already have them on your payroll. You simply need to invest in them as an individual and as a team member, and provide them with the opportunities to grow and contribute to your organization in a more meaningful way.

Oh, and one last thing…whether you are an individual interested in improving your personal skillset and adding value to your professional value, or an organization looking for ways to build and develop your workforce, whenever you are ready, give us a call. Turns out, we know a thing or two about training and professional development, and we would love to hear from you.

Now, let’s get to work.

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