The Global Staffing Shortage – The Incredible Shrinking Workforce

A recent study of nearly 40,000 companies in 41 countries in Q1-2012 shows 34 percent of employers reporting challenges in locating skilled workers to fill current open positions. Looking to the future, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Forecasters here in Canada expect the pool of available workers will continue to shrink for the next 15 years. The recession had lead many businesses into thinking a supply of good people was abundant. Mass lay-offs did occur in some industries, but most companies did not reduce headcount at all. Unemployment peaked at a rate well below the levels reached in past downturns (just 8.7% in August 2009). And since then, Conference Board of Canada Forecast Director Pedro Antunes says, “Fundamentally, nothing has changed since the recession,” and that we are on track for a return to “rock-bottom unemployment of 6% by 2013-2014.

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

The main source of lost workers is the huge bulge of Boomer generation employees leaving the workforce – and too few young people and immigrants entering the labour force to replace them. Statistics Canada says the number of people aged 55-plus in the workforce from 2005 to 2010 grew at an annual average rate of 6%, accounting for two-thirds of Canadian labour market growth. While the 15-25 age bracket grew at just 0.3%.

Staffing Shortages Mean Constricted Growth

Some firms are already finding they are having to turn down new business because they cannot find adequate staff to support it. And others are having to deal with the frustration of discovering their ideal candidates have already been hired by competing companies. And HRDC data shows it’s not just skilled trades that are in short supply. Among the hardest-to-fill job categories is auditors, accountants and investment professionals.

The Conference Board concludes “Failure to adequately plan for the forthcoming deceleration in labour-supply growth will leave organizations facing shortages of the skilled employees they need.”

What’s Your Talent Strategy?

The great Boomer retirement wave has been talked about for at least a decade. It is no longer a someday problem. It’s a reality here and now. It’s time to craft strategies to attract and retain the employees you are going to need, if not now, in the future. Most businesses have a sales and marketing plan, but many do not have any sort of talent strategy. Businesses without a talent strategy risk being overtaken by competing firms that are responding to this very real threat to business longevity and growth.

Dig the Well Before You Are Thirsty

An essential staff-building tactic to start now is building a talent pool. Even if the job description has not yet been officially formalized or if there is not yet a current staffing requirement, it can be very well worthwhile to begin identifying candidates now and begin developing long-term relationships with them. They, or the network of people they know, could become your perfect new-hires needed down the road. Let them get to know your firm, its people and its culture so they can assess for themselves the attractiveness of potentially working for you. Think about possible short-term projects they might be able and delighted to work on right now that would give you both the opportunity to begin a longer term work relationship.

Staffing agencies are a tremendous resource to assist with this kind of talent roster development. Pivotal Staffing, for instance, offers complimentary assessments identifying the true costs of unfilled positions.

*More information on the main study referenced can be found here: Survey: Global, U.S. Talent Shortage Increases

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