How to Manage a Talent Shortage

Talent shortages can pose big problems for businesses as competition increases for those top workers who are then able to shop around more for their ideal role. There’s also an increased risk that some of your own top workers might be tempted away to one of your competitors. A number of vacant positions can hinder your organisation’s ability to be productive, meet its goals and can prevent it from expanding. The recruitment process can take longer and start to get more expensive.


However, there are lots of things you can do to help your business weather the storm of a talent shortage. From making your business more attractive to potential hires to shifting your focus to transferable skills, to reviewing the benefits you offer, here are some of the top tactics for managing a talent shortage.


1. Work on your organisation’s branding

During a talent shortage, it’s more important than ever that your business is generating a positive image to potential new employees. They may have secured interviews or even offers from other businesses, so you need to give them a compelling reason to choose you over your competitors.


Think about what makes your company unique and why it’s a good place to work. Make sure job seekers will be able to discover what your company values are easily by making this clear on your website or an appropriate channel like LinkedIn. Remember, more and more candidates are looking beyond the size of the paycheck these days to find a company where they feel they can really progress or make a difference.


2. Shift your focus to transferable skills

This may require a bit of lateral thinking, however, you may find a candidate who has less experience than you’d like but has the transferable skills from a related role. These skills could more than make up for the lack of experience.


Equally, hiring for transferable skills might end up being a great help the next time a talent shortage comes around and you need skilled people already within your business with the ability to take up some slack while you fill vacancies.


3. Go back to the job description

If you’ve been used to the luxury of having plenty of candidates apply for each and every one of the roles you’ve been advertising, you may have slipped into the habit of adding a few more skills and qualifications to the ‘required’ list than strictly necessary. This might be putting off candidates who could be a really good fit for the job.


Go back to the job description with the hiring manager and perhaps someone with experience in the role and determine what is really required for the job. You might find that by making some simple tweaks to the job description, you suddenly get applications in from plenty of suitable candidates.


4. Consider adding benefits like remote working

Remote work is on the rise, now more than ever following the stay at home orders throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The last few years have shown that remote work is a viable option for many businesses. Many job seekers have now experienced the benefits of working remotely first-hand and are actively looking for roles where they can continue doing so. Many have found that this is a much better way of incorporating work into our busy modern lives and it allows them to improve their work-life balance.


There are many benefits of remote work for the employer too and one of these is that it vastly increases the talent pool from which you can hire. When you’re no longer restricted by where the candidates are based, you can genuinely consider hiring someone from the other side of the country without asking them to relocate. This could be key to making good hires during a talent shortage.


5. Review your hiring process

You want to be giving a good impression at every stage of your hiring process. Otherwise, you risk putting candidates off. A common complaint from job seekers is a lack of communication from the businesses they are applying to. Make sure you respond to all applicants, whether successful or not and keep those that you are considering in the loop. Let them know what the next steps are and give them a time frame to avoid any frustration or unnecessary anxiety.


Even if the candidate doesn’t choose to work for you or you don’t offer them a role, you don’t want to burn any bridges. The candidate might well know other people in the industry who might want to apply for the role and they could relay the information about a bad experience with your organisation.


The candidate might also be a better fit for another role that you might have coming up in the future so maintaining a positive professional relationship is key.


6. Highlight learning and progression opportunities

Make sure that the job description doesn’t focus too much on what the candidate needs to offer you and make sure that it highlights what you can offer them. The working relationship will need to go both ways if it’s going to be productive and have longevity. Make sure it’s clear where the job could take them professionally, whether it’s progression opportunities within the business or training opportunities that will help them develop their skills.


Remember, the best candidates will be those who actively try and update their skill sets and helping them do this will be a draw for these applicants.


7. Anticipate a potential need to hire

Even if you haven’t got a vacant position at the moment in your organisation, it’s more important than ever to be prepared for this eventuality during a talent shortage. It might take more time than you think to find someone else to fill the role. Ensure that your hiring channels remain open and that you’re taking speculative applications seriously.


If you are receiving CVs from speculative applications, make sure you communicate with the jobseekers. It’s important to start out a potential professional relationship on a positive note.


8. Consider looking in-house

You might be struggling to fill a more senior role, especially during a talent shortage when top candidates can afford to be picky. It might be better to invest in training and promoting existing workers and then recruiting to fill these more junior roles they have just vacated.


Those businesses that are ahead of the game will always be trying to create their own top talent and investing in developing their current staff. This will not only be of great value during a talent shortage but will make your organisation a more attractive prospect for top job seekers.


9. Look to the long term

When you’re in the midst of a talent shortage, it can be tempting to lower your standards and make hires you’re not absolutely sure about. This can plug a gap in the short term but can cause bigger problems down the road. Going for the wrong hire can be an expensive mistake to make. Remember, it can often be more important that a candidate aligns with your company’s values than if they tick all the qualifications boxes on the job description. You can always offer training to get their skills up to scratch, while it’s much more difficult to deal with a clash in values.


If you improve your employee retention rates, you will be in a much stronger position the next time a talent shortage rolls around.


10. Look after your current workers

While it’s important to have a contingency plan during a talent shortage and have recruiting options available to you, trying to retain your current workers is important too. If you work hard for your employees, creating a positive working environment with plenty of opportunities for progression, you’ll be much less likely to be caught out with lots of vacancies to fill.


This also has the added benefit that your business also becomes a more attractive company to work for as job seekers will recognise the positive steps you’re taking to look after your employees and their professional progression.


While a talent shortage can be a tough time for businesses and can stall productivity, there’s plenty you can do to keep staff numbers up during these times. The most important thing is to be proactive as you will no longer be able to rely on candidates coming to you. Even if you don’t have any vacancies at the moment, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prepare for the possibility of needing to hire and to make sure you’re looking after your current staff.