Is There REALLY a Talent Shortage?

Talent Shortage


According to ManpowerGroup's 2016 talent shortage survey, 46% of US employers reported difficulties filling jobs due to "lack of available talent." In this same survey, one in four employers reported a lack of applicants to their vacancies, and one in five employers said applicants do not have the relevant experience/technical skills needed to fill the role. So what’s going on? Is there a real talent shortage… or are there other forces at play here?


Talent Shortage Cause #1 - Credential Creep


Now, entry-level roles require multiple years of experience in a highly-specific subject area, and soft skills are largely ignored. But it’s not just entry-level roles that have seen an increase in expectations. Employers seeking applicants for senior-level roles often set a high bar for experience, without a high salary to match. And implicit bias plays an undeniable role… because older individuals that actually HAVE these desired credentials will often get brushed aside due to their age. This narrows the candidate pool considerably. 

In their pursuit of finding “the purple squirrel”/perfect candidate, employers will write job descriptions with endless line-items of educational and experiential requirements. As most recruiters know all too well, these descriptions are pretty elastic… and job descriptions that overreach lead to employers missing out on quality candidates.


Talent Shortage Cause #2 - Supply and Demand in ALL the Wrong Places

If companies feel that there is a talent shortage, the natural market force would be to raise the salary to attract the right candidate. With a higher salary incentive, candidates will strive to obtain the skill set that is required to get the higher paying job. The problem is, especially after a recession, companies are looking to save – not spend. 

Meanwhile, candidates (especially those with an IT background) are racing against the pace of technology, fighting the possibility that one day, their specialized skill set will become obsolete. Rising educational costs coupled with stagnant salary offerings and limited on-the-job training does not add up to a happy ending for employers or candidates.

Talent Shortage Cause #3 - Changing Technology

Kip Wright, SVP of Manpower North America describes the issue of shifting technology by stating, "Low unemployment paired with shorter skills cycles due to the speed of technological change means employers across the United States are struggling to fill positions." 


Talent Shortage Cause #4 - Lack of Investment in Employee Development

In 1996, 20% of workers received employer-paid training. In 2008, that number dropped to 11% (Source: US Census Bureau). When a recession occurs, companies look to cut costs wherever possible… and employee development programs can be easily eliminated by simply hiring those who already know how to do the job. 

Over time, this practice puts a choke-hold on the incoming pipeline of skilled employees, while forcing those who would have ordinarily received on-the-job training into lower-level roles. As a result, we see people with bachelor’s degrees perform job functions that used to only require an associate’s degree, which inevitably restarts the cycle of credential creep.

Related: Onboarding Millennials - the RIGHT Way

While there are plenty of people out there looking for jobs, it’s undeniable that a disconnection exists between employer expectations and the realities of the talent market. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these challenges.

How to Combat the Talent Shortage:

  • Employers should invest in employee development initiatives.
  • Staffing companies should create employee referral programs to tie a monetary incentive to candidates who make quality referrals.
  • Recruiters should focus on developing stronger, more genuine candidate relationships. They can do this by becoming subject matter experts on the roles for which they recruit for.
  • Candidates should never stop investing in their own personal and professional growth.

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Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States