How to attract great talent during a labor shortage

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(This article was originally published on and has been edited for content and style.)

labor shortageThe pandemic has been hard on businesses in a multitude of ways: shutdowns, layoffs, supply chain disruptions, income losses, policy changes. Now employers are facing yet another big obstacle: global labor shortages.

In June 2021, there were a record 10.1 million open jobs in the U.S., and the U.K. faced the worst staff shortage since 1997. Businesses across economic sectors—including hospitality, retail, transportation, professional services and manufacturing—are already feeling the impact of the worker shortfall, and the problem is likely to get worse when government assistance comes to an end.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for major changes in the labor market, as people move outside cities, change jobs, deal with concerns like child care and health risks, and reevaluate what they want in terms of schedule, salary, benefits and working conditions.

As an employer, you can’t expect to attract talent with the same old hiring strategy that worked in the past. It’s time to shift your mindset. Here are four key ways you can rethink hiring based on what is most important to candidates now.

1. Rethink location 

If you want to attract great employees, be open-minded about where and how they work. Do you need a graphic designer, office manager or CFO sitting across from you in the same office or could these roles be filled by someone in a different city or country? What opportunities would it open up for your business if you let go of old operating practices and widened your talent pool?

The pandemic has shown that many jobs can be done remotely, and most people simply aren’t interested in going back to a fully on-site work arrangement. According to recent global research from McKinsey, more than 50% of government and corporate workers want to work remotely at least three days a week when the pandemic is over, and nearly a third of U.S. employees would like to work remotely full time. Almost 30% of those surveyed said they are likely to switch jobs if their employers returned to a full-time, in-person model.

2. Embrace flexibility 

The lines between work and personal life are much less defined now, and people crave more flexibility than a standard 9-to-5 workday provides. They may want to do a split shift to accommodate their kids’ schedules, taking off time during the day for school dropoff and pickup, family dinner and bedtime, then working a few hours later in the evening. They may like customizing their own hours to exercise, take classes, pursue hobbies or create better work-life balance.

Build trust with your employees, and be flexible about when they work—as long as the work gets done. Explore non-traditional roles, as well as hours, in your company. Which positions need to be full time and which could be filled by part-time employees or contractors?

I work with a team of specialists who prefer to do project or consulting work for different businesses instead of working full-time for one employer. It’s a win-win for everyone; they earn a higher hourly rate for specialized work and I get the benefit of their expertise without carrying the cost of a full-time staff. I also get access to a bigger pool of talent, especially mothers of young children who want flexible schedules and might be pushed out of the traditional workforce. I can count on them for results, and I don’t care what hours they work.

3. Change how you measure success 

Reevaluate job descriptions and conditions of success for your employees. How do you currently measure success? Is it by watching them work and clocking the hours they spend at their desks? If so, how can you focus on better markers of achievement? What does winning look like in each position?

Standard job descriptions tell employees how to do a job; instead, define the results you want from every role. How are they helping you achieve your business goals? How do you support and reward successful team members?

4. Stay up to speed

The way we work has permanently changed and will continue to evolve. If you don’t embrace the changes, you’ll get left behind. Invest in and learn about the new digital tools that will propel your business forward in this next phase of work. Skill up on the best remote collaboration, communication and presentation apps available now, and stay updated on new developments.

Everyone can feel apprehensive or resistant to new things at times, but be aware of legacy attitudes that are holding you back. If you find yourself saying, “That’s not going to work in my business,” or “We can’t do that,” examine those beliefs. Where are they coming from? What will it take for you to transform a “We can’t” into a “How can we?”

The pandemic has had a lasting impact on businesses, employees and the work landscape as a whole. Keep an open mind, stay flexible and be willing to adapt in order to attract and keep the best people on your team.

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