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Overcoming the skilled workers shortage

How companies can attract and retain staff

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The shortage of skilled workers is a challenge faced by many companies today, because it’s increasingly difficult for them to find and retain qualified personnel. Anyone who wants to be successful in the competition for exceptional talent has to present themselves as an attractive employer and consciously implement employer-branding measures that will attract skilled staff in the long term. But which strategies are most likely to succeed?

 A happy professional walks through her office

Happy employees increase a company’s attractiveness. (Photo: Daria Pimkina, unsplash)

Skilled workers shortage: the facts

Skilled labour has never been in such high demand. In the fourth quarter of 2022, Germany’s Institute for Employment Research recorded 1.98 million unfilled positions in its job vacancy survey – more than ever before. HR managers are also increasingly aware of changes in the labour market. Whereas in the past they were spoilt for choice and could take their pick from a large pool of applicants, what they’re experiencing today is quite the opposite. A study undertaken by forsa on behalf of onlyfy confirms this impression by revealing just how high the rejection rate is among applicants at the moment.

90 per cent of the HR managers surveyed said that candidates had dropped out from the application process in the last year, with 24 per cent even saying this happened frequently to very frequently. Compared with previous years, this is a sobering finding. In addition, according to another long-term study, the willingness of skilled workers in Germany to change jobs is increasing and currently sits at 37 per cent.

The takeaway is that companies are now faced with the dual challenge of attracting new employees and retaining their staff in the long term. But why is this so much more difficult now than it was a few years ago?

An empty office with many identical-looking workstations in a small space.

Lots of workstations, few staff: the shortage of skilled workers is clearly apparent at many companies. (Photo: kate.sade, Unsplash)

The reasons for the shortage of skilled workers

Why is there actually a shortage of qualified skilled workers? Are companies simply too fussy, or are fewer and fewer school leavers training in the professions that are needed? Let’s look at the three most influential factors.

Demographic change

The population of Germany is steadily declining. The baby boomer generation will retire in the next few years, leaving around 7 million vacancies behind them. Since the younger generation won’t be able to fill this large gap, the shortage of skilled workers will continue to worsen. It’s one of the reasons why companies are increasingly turning to skilled workers from abroad.

New generation, new priorities

Generation Z is motivated and likes to work – but their free time is equally important to them. In the case of companies whose values they share and with which they can identify, the younger generation is happy to work to its full potential – as long as they get enough time off. This requirement has already given rise to a number of new working models. And with good reason, because many studies have already shown that shorter working hours don’t have a negative impact on productivity. On the contrary! From four-day weeks or a greater focus on part-time jobs, younger skilled workers in particular are keen to set aside more time for themselves. If companies cannot or do not want to offer appropriate solutions, they quickly lose their appeal in the eyes of this target group.

The competition is intensifying

The steady advance of digitalisation means it’s now possible for some companies to offer their skilled staff jobs where they can work exclusively from home. What that means is that applicants are no longer limited to searching for positions in nearby cities and can look further afield – even internationally. This is leading to significantly higher competitive pressure and the loss of valuable skilled workers.

Empty, soulless office with many identical workstations in a small space.

Employer-branding measures that can help

Modern employer branding takes both new and existing staff into account, which means attention should be given to both groups when looking for specific solutions.

Employer branding for new skilled workers:

To be perceived as an attractive employer, it’s increasingly important for recruiters to understand the point of view of skilled personnel. What exactly do they want, and what criteria do they use to decide whether or not to apply for a job? The results of the forsa study reveal the three most frequent reasons why candidates turn down opportunities. To appear particularly attractive when competing against other employers, it’s worth paying attention to the following points:

  1. A transparent (and, ideally, attractive) remuneration package. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that pay plays a key role. If other companies are offering considerably more, it’s usually more difficult to make the shortlist. It’s advisable to make a competitive offer right at the start, including any benefits such as discounts on public transport and meal vouchers.
  2. A good work-life balance. Skilled workers are increasingly taking into account employee benefits that contribute towards a good balance between working life and personal life. The pandemic has caused an enormous leap forward in the digital transformation of companies. In 2021, a quarter of the labour force worked from home – and they liked it. As a result, qualified staff now take a good look in advance at what opportunities are available to them, from WFH to workations.
  3. Streamlined application process. Some skilled workers will decide in favour of the competition if your application process itself is complicated and lengthy. As attractive as a job may seem, if applicants have to wait weeks for a response, they will lose patience and interest. One solution would be to invest more available resources in your HR department. Companies can also save a lot of time and effort by using digital application tools. Top priority should be given to staff development and recruitment. If administrative tasks take up all your HR department’s time, it would be worth hiring more skilled staff. This would make the application process much faster and more efficient, so that as many applicants as possible remain interested and form a good first impression.

Employer branding for the existing workforce:

Existing staff can also decide to leave a company at any time. At the moment, this is happening more frequently than ever. The main reasons for people’s high level of willingness to change jobs are pay, feeling overstressed and the employer’s existing corporate strategy. It’s important to recognise dissatisfaction before it’s too late. A well-structured HR department should allocate enough time for regular feedback, training and onboarding activities. Opportunities for advancement offer employees a long-term outlook and encourage them to stay with the company. In short, managing teams and projects well prevents dissatisfaction and stress.

A man working in a spacious van with a view of a lush green valley.

Flexible working models, such as working from home and workations, are becoming increasingly important to the younger generation. (Photo: Standsome Worklifestyle, Unsplash)

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