Change is hard. 2020 forced a lot of change on all of us. And though the economy is heating back up, the 2021 worker shortage is entering uncharted territory. It is almost unheard of to see a wealth of job openings going unfilled while the country is also coming out of a recession.

That’s normally when people are desperate for jobs. And yet, here we are, with millions of open positions going unfilled, even though many people are still out of work.

Two industries particularly hard hit with this are veterinarian offices and mental health practitioners. An investigation revealed that there were 16,000 fewer people working in veterinarian offices in April 2021 compared to February of 2020. This is true even though more people own pets than before, and the average weekly pay has gone up $180. Having trouble hiring for your professional office setting? Get a free hiring quote.

The demand is there. Well-paying positions are open. Pay is higher. Yet the applicants are scarce. 

Similar trends were found in mental health offices. More people are seeking mental health care, pay has gone up $170 per week, but burnout and turnover are high, and practitioners are struggling to fill their open positions.

What Is Causing the 2021 Worker Shortage?

The causes of the worker shortage in 2021 are unique too. Many blame the long-running enhanced unemployment benefits for disincentivizing work. If a person can stay home from work, stress free, and make the same or even a little less money, why not? That is certainly one of the primary reasons for the worker shortage.

But it’s not the only one.

Other major factors include continuing concerns about health and safety, and child care problems. With schools remaining closed for most of the past year, and day care centers closed or accepting fewer kids, many parents had to stay home. This too is a major cause of the 2021 worker shortage.

Other causes include retirement. Some people just decided to hang it up, even if a bit early. Others were forced to do so. Other people changed careers, which is why some industries aren’t having much trouble hiring, while others are. However, for a person changing careers, location might matter more than it did before.

Another cause of the worker shortage is harder to detect. Industries themselves are changing. Workplaces look different than before. For people looking to switch careers or enter new industries, sometimes their job skills don’t seem to match up with the job descriptions for the open positions.

All of this is making hiring top talent exceptionally more difficult for many companies.

Let’s look at seven ways your company can successfully navigate the worker shortage and hire top talent, even while others struggle to attract any applicants at all.


1. Blow Up Your Company Culture

Now is the time to take a hard look at the culture that existed in your company before covid arrived. Using outdated management styles and allowing toxic workplace cultural habits to remain will make it that much harder to attract and retain new workers, managers, and leaders.

We have heard stories of workers at high level positions getting hired and then never even showing up, or quitting within a week of starting their new jobs. As workers’ expectations about jobs are changing, so company cultures need to change too.

What can you do to revolutionize the way your company operates?


2. Write Better Job Descriptions

You may need to rethink what a job description really is. It is an attempt to attract ideal candidates for your open positions. In this way, a job description is really like an advertisement.

You would do better to have your job descriptions enhanced by a marketer than by a lawyer.

Yes, a job description needs to weed out the wrong people as much as attract the right ones, but that too is marketing. Get specific. Don’t focus just on tasks, duties, and degrees. Focus on character and personality traits that thrive in this position.

What kind of person will love this job? Put that in your job description – especially in the headline.

5 secrets to writing a killer job description. (Includes a real job description that shows what NOT to do)


3. Flexibility Is the New Benefit Perk 

Studies and surveys vary on the specifics, but very large percentages of workers do not want to give up their newfound freedom to work from home.

Do whatever you can to increase job and schedule flexibility. This could be things like hybrid schedules with part of the week at home and part at the office. Or, if home work simply isn’t possible, it could mean four-day weeks with ten-hour shifts, or staggered schedules for different people on the team that expand your company operating hours to include weekends or evenings.

You could also add in a benefit that reimburses people for longer commutes, or pay for ride-sharing.


4. Alter Your Pay, Benefits, and Incentives

This is the most obvious one, but may also be the least effective if not done creatively. As you saw at the outset, veterinarian offices and mental health practitioners are raising their workers’ pay, but they’re still suffering the biggest hiring crunch in history.

So money is important, but in this new world, it might not be enough.

Get creative. It may not be the money, but how the money is used. For example, offer child care benefits instead of just higher pay. Child care is one of the leading reasons many women especially have not yet returned to the workforce. Offering a benefit here will meet them at their point of greatest need.

Here’s a restaurant owner who offered college tuition reimbursement to attract younger workers back to work. He went from getting zero applicants to getting 20 per week.

What can you do to get creative with your salary and benefits packages?


5. Enlarge Your Applicant Pool

Remember in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones realizes his enemies aren’t going to find the ark because “they’re digging in the wrong place”?

Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place for top talent. Maybe your old hiring and recruiting habits simply don’t work anymore, and you need to try a different approach. For example, are you:

  • Requiring college degrees that really aren’t necessary?
  • Relying on generic jobs sites like Indeed and Monster?
  • Relying too much on referrals, which have dried up because hardly anyone networks anymore?
  • Excluding older candidates?

Remember – retirement is one cause of the worker shortage. But not all retirements were chosen freely. Many were forced into earlier retirement than they wanted. There are many 60+ workers who still want to work, and who can still give you several good years of experienced, professional, reliable productivity.

And, many college degrees are simply unnecessary for the job position. Sometimes, what matters most are soft skills such as customer service, ability to work with a team, ability to learn and gain new skills, and personal motivation.

We have seen jobs that pay less than $20 an hour requiring 4-year degrees. Is there perhaps another way?


6. Be Bold and Make Big Changes

All the changes above, and others still yet on the table, require big changes and a willingness to do things differently.

For instance, if you’ve always handled all your hiring in-house and are having trouble finding good job candidates, maybe it’s time to work with a hiring consultancy service like PainLess Hire.

If you’ve always done job descriptions with a lawyer’s eye or an HR supervisor’s pen, shifting your approach to a marketer’s eye is a huge change. Some people may object. But if it works…

As the Harvard Business Review  put it, “Convincing your organization to make significant changes to their recruiting strategy might be the hardest part of improving your hiring results.”


7. Get Help from a Recruiting and Hiring Professional

PainLess Hire uses a hiring approach very different from traditional recruiters. The old ways rely mostly on resumes, keywords, and formulas. And they often miss the best candidates because they cannot see outside their self-imposed boxes.

Our methods attract a very different set of candidates. The ones who have both soft skills and hard skills – the candidates you really want to interview – are the ones who rise to the top in our hiring process

With our help, you will:

  • Attract more and better job candidates
  • Identify and qualify the best ones, not just the ones with sparkling resumes
  • Use scientific pre-testing assessments tailored to your specific positions
  • Greatly reduce the amount of time you spend on the hiring process – it is painless hiring

Learn more about our hiring process. 

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