Help Wanted!

LCT Staff
Posted on June 1, 2007

It doesn’t matter where I go or to whom I speak, every time I pose the question of “What is your biggest challenge?” the instantaneous response is, “Finding and retaining good workers.” In researching this issue, I found this problem went well beyond the chauffeured transportation industry.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, over the next several years the U.S. workforce will undergo the most dramatic changes it has experienced in more than 50 years. The workforce of the future will be smaller, less male, more ethnically diverse, and sorely lacking in the skills needed to function in a knowledge-based economy. Its members will be more mobile, less loyal, and have higher expectations than previous generations of workers.

With the leading edge of the baby-boom generation - 76 million strong - inching closer to retirement age, the U.S. Department of Labor projects there will be 10 million more jobs than workers to fill them by the end of the current decade. By 2030, that shortfall could grow to 35 million, and if current trends continue, it will be exacerbated by a skills shortage, as well.

From 1980 to 2000, the number of people in the 25-54 age group, historically the prime source of the nation's workforce, increased by 35 million. For the period 2000 to 2020, it is projected to grow by just 3 million. The current decade alone will see an out-migration of 24 million workers, representing 18% of the experienced workforce.

Of new workers joining the workforce during that time, about 20% will be immigrants, with limited command of English and few strategic skills. Things get even worse at the start of the next decade, when the first baby boomers hit 65, the traditional retirement age, and the outflow of experienced workers picks up steam.

The Saratoga Institute, an employment trends think-tank, predicts that 75% of future jobs will be knowledge-based, but 70% of the next decade's workers will not be college graduates. More than 20% of the current adult population has only basic literacy skills, and 75% will need retraining over the next 10 years.

Particularly alarming for those charged with plotting their company's future direction is a projected 15% decline in the population of those aged 35 to 44, the traditional source of workers to populate the ranks of middle and upper management.

Finding workers who really care about what they do is another major issue. The Skills Gap, a study conducted by the N.A.M., found that the top deficiency among both current employees and job applicants for that study was a lack of basic employability skills such as attendance, punctuality, and work ethic.

The future is important, of course, but most of you are concerned with meeting the challenges you face today. Finding and hiring the best employees, keeping them motivated and productive, and making sure they stay with you are key objectives right now.

Yes, it is slim pickings out there so what you will want to do is create a company culture that ATTRACTS good people to you and MOTIVATES them to want to stay. How to do that? Create the best place in the world for people to work in! Look around and ask yourself, do I provide a clean, professional environment? Is it an inspirational place? Is the leadership kind and ethical?

If you answered YES to those questions, now you just need to get serious with recruitment! One idea is to create in internship program by tapping into local schools. Actively seeking people is a 24/7 process (in other words don’t start looking for top talent when you are desparate).

Offer your employees a referral bonus if the company successfully hires and retains a candidate they recommend. That incentive, coupled with the natural desire of people to let others know about the good thing they have found in working for you will pay off in dividends.

Know what you're looking for and be sure you're getting what you expected. I recently spoke to an operator who hired a top sales director at a staggering salary only to come up short – no sales productivity in a year.

Topping the list of what employers must do to make sure they get the right person for the job is determining that candidates have the skills and experience the position demands, says Sue Burnett, founder and president of Burnett Staffing Services. "It is very important to check the references of all candidates. Make sure they are what they say they are and have the skills they claim to have," she advises. Once you have identified a potential candidate who has the specific skills you are looking for, have several members of your company and/or management team meet with them to determine if the right chemistry is present. Money still talks louder than anything else. Mark Candela, director of business development at Enterlogix Corp., a business software consulting firm, is blunt when asked about the best way to attract desirable candidates and keep them happy - "You pay them more money." Team spirit and other soft benefits are great, but the money comes before anything else. "People are going to think about feeding their families first," Candela states. "Money talks and we all still listen.”

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