Organizations Struggle To Hire as Job Openings Soar: Quarterly Recruitment Outlook Survey


While people quitting their jobs reduced a little in the U.S., hiring did not increase much.

The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly brought unexpected disruptions to organizations. Mass layoffs and the problems associated with technology adoption and remote work were the key challenges during the pandemic. Now, as the world emerges from the pandemic, companies face a new challenge — a shortage of skilled workers. To exacerbate this challenge, organizations are finding it very challenging to hire people. According to a surveyOpens a new window by The Conference Board, 80% of organizations looking to employ manual and industry workers felt it was somewhat or very difficult to find qualified workers.

The story does not end there. According to the latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook surveyOpens a new window by the British Chambers of Commerce, it was more challenging to recruit qualified staff during the second quarter of 2021. The survey showed that about 70% of the 5,700 firms surveyed are facing recruitment challenges. During the first quarter of 2021, 63% of respondents had expressed difficulty, while 53% had said it was difficult during the last quarter of 2020.

Also read: 5 Ways To Speed Hiring Without Sacrificing Quality

Attempts To Recruit People Is Rising

The survey showed that attempted recruitments are also on the rise. About 52% of respondents tried to hire people in Q2 2021, an increase from 40% in Q1. About 64% of companies in the production and manufacturing industry attempted to recruit people in Q2 compared to 50% in Q1. Similarly, about 63% of firms in construction tried to hire people during the second quarter compared to 54% in the first. About 51% of firms in the hotel and catering industry attempted recruiting people in Q2 compared to 20% in Q1.

Construction Sector Struggles the Most

The survey showed that the construction industry had the greatest difficulty, with 82% of companies finding it challenging to hire people. This was closely followed by hotels and catering (76%). About 68% of the firms in the manufacturing and production industry faced challenges in recruiting people. The consumer services industry faced the least difficulties. Yet, 61% of the companies in this industry faced difficulties.

The type of roles these firms struggle to fill depends on the industry. For example, 65% of firms in construction and 62% of firms in the manufacturing and production industry expressed challenges filling skilled technical roles. On the other hand, 42% of firms in the manufacturing industry also experienced difficulties filling unskilled roles. About 53% of firms in construction faced challenges in filling managerial positions.

From the retail industry, 43% of respondents had difficulty hiring skilled people, 35% had trouble hiring unskilled workers, and 39% faced challenges in filling managerial roles. About 69% of firms in professional services and 60% in marketing and media had an overwhelming challenge of filling managerial positions.

The Story Is Similar Back Home

The story is not much different back home. According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover SurveyOpens a new window by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings rose from 9.19 million in April to 9.21 million in May. To increase the headcount, many organizations started increasing wages and offered incentives, such as hiring bonuses. Yet, organizations are facing challenges in filling open positions. Despite a fall in employees voluntarily quitting their jobs to 3.6 million in May compared to April (2.5% decrease), hiring also saw a slight increase in the month. The overall hiring was at 5.9 million at the end of May, a 4.1% increase compared to April.

Some industries where job openings increased include retail trade, information services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, food and accommodation, and state and local government education. Hiring also decreased in construction, wholesale trade, information services, finance and insurance, professional and business services, the government sector (excluding education and federal government), and ‘other services.

Also read: Empower Your People With Work-Based Learning in the Post-Pandemic World

Why Companies Are Struggling To Hire

Looking at the increasing number of job openings and a relatively small improvement in hiring warrants the question, “why are companies struggling to hire skilled employees despite vacancies?”

According to a few small business ownersOpens a new window , a few employees are afraid of getting infected, and a few prefer to live off the unemployment benefits. Childcare is another important issue often cited by people — parents who need to tend to their children in the new normal often find it challenging to balance home and work. Another simple reason is that there is a massive difference between the skills employers want and what people have.

Besides these, employee expectations from organizations, too, are changing, primarily driven by the pandemic. For example, according to an IBM surveyOpens a new window , less than 20% rate their employers excellent when it comes to supporting employee well-being during COVID-19. Further, a significant number of people seek work-life balance (51%). About 41% sought career advancement opportunities, 41% sought compensation and benefits, and 41% sought employer ethics and values. About 36% said continuous learning opportunities were a top priority. Another EY employee surveyOpens a new window showed that 90% of employees want flexibility in where and when they work.

Further, these are also some of the reasons why about 40% of the workforce wants to change jobsOpens a new window this year.

What Companies Can Do To Improve Hiring and Retaining Talent

While employee expectations are as diverse as the employees, there are a few things organizations can do to retain and hire talent.

One way is to offer training, apprenticeships, and pathways for people to gain knowledge and skills at work.

    • Offer flexible working patterns: Given that a significant number of people want work flexibility, organizations should see how they can offer it to current and new employees. Both technology and culture play an important role in providing flexible work patterns. Further, organizations should consider redesigning some of the job roles for flexibility.
    • Create a culture of continuous learning: Adopting technology is one thing; organizations should also offer rapid and agile training and reskilling opportunities to attract new and retain existing talent.
    • Focus on employee well-being: Many people have gone through various levels of stress and pressure during the pandemic. If organizations have not invested enough in employee mental health and well-being, it is only a matter of time when employees quit.
    • Build flexibility in talent strategies: Organizations will have to let go of their traditional strategies of hiring talent. Instead, they will have to bring flexibility in their hiring strategies and process.
    • Have conversations around career progression: Given that a significant number of people cite career progression as an important factor, organizations should have these conversations with new candidates and existing employees.
    • Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I): Companies should actively promote DE&I within the workplace and as part of their hiring process. An inclusive culture is key to an organization’s success.

Also read: The Future of Hiring Is Internal Recruiting; But It Is Harder Than It Has To Be: Smartrecruiters Study

Winning the Talent War

Organizations are officially in a talent war post pandemic. These are times when people have the upper hand and have more choices in the type of organization they want to work for. Smart and forward-thinking organizations will notice this shift and take quick action. Organizations will have to change their strategies to attract and retain talent. Those who prioritize their employees and put in the effort to keep them satisfied will win in the new era.

Is your organization struggling with hiring talent? What steps have you taken in this regard? Share with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , and TwitterOpens a new window .