As Global Talent Shortages Double, New Ways Emerge to Attract and Keep Talent

Companies around the world say it is growing more difficult to find skilled workers, says a new report by ManpowerGroup. The U.S., Mexico, Italy and Spain are among the nations hardest hit. What do employees want? For starters: autonomy over their work, work-life balance, and career mobility to build skills.

February 26, 2020 – Global talent shortages have almost doubled in the last decade according to new research from ManpowerGroup. Fifty-four percent of companies report skills shortages with businesses in 36 of 44 countries finding it more difficult to attract skilled talent last year compared to 2018. Employers in the U.S. (69 percent), Mexico (52 percent) Italy (47 percent) and Spain (41 percent) report the most acute shortages.

The report, “Closing the Skills Gap: What Workers Want,” reveals what attracts people to an organization and what makes them stay so that businesses can find, build and keep the best talent. What workers want varies by geography, gender and stage of career cycle. However, the study found that autonomy over when and where work gets done, well-being to balance work and life, and career mobility to build skills are top priorities for workers. Strong leadership and a commitment to purpose are also important, ManpowerGroup said.

“In an increasingly tech-enabled world, people with skills are in demand,” said Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup. “We know from conversations with candidates, clients and from our data that workers want flexibility and the opportunity to learn new skills. We are calling for leaders to shift their workforce demands closer to the needs of in-demand talent.”

“Creating shareholder value can only be done in conjunction with taking care of employees, customers and communities, so listening to the voice of the consumer is key,” he said. “As the pace of disruption accelerates, helping people adapt for future jobs and companies become creators of talent has never been more important.”

Top 10 Most In-Demand Roles

The top 10 most in-demand roles in 2019 were trending year over year with 80 percent of them in short supply in 2018. Healthcare professionals entered the top 10, reflecting an aging population. Meanwhile, office administrators, contact center staff, project managers, lawyers and researchers fell out of the top 10, reflecting the rise in automation of routine tasks. And as technology disrupts work, the most in-demand roles may look similar yet the skills required continue to evolve rapidly.

The most in-demand roles were:

  1. Skilled trade workers
  2. Sales and marketing executives
  3. Technicians
  4. Engineering executives
  5. Driving and logistics professionals
  6. Information technology executives
  7. Accounting and finance professionals
  8. Manufacturing executives
  9. Construction laborers
  10. Healthcare executives

What Workers Want

The ManpowerGroup report found that what workers want varies by age, gender and geography, and where they are in their career lifecycle. More pay, flexibility and challenging work are non-negotiables to all. But there are additional levers employers pull to attract and retain in-demand and diverse talent.

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Millennials largely want the same things out of work, but in some ways they differ. Both women and men, for example, want flexibility and challenging work, said the study. They understand they have a career ultramarathon ahead of them and want to achieve a One Life balance for the long run. For women though, to pursue challenging work, it must come with flexibility. They continue to do most of the emotional labor and unpaid work at home, balancing work around commitments. Flexibility is critical for her and still a “nice to have” for him.

Gen Zs are ambitious, hungry for cash and career development, yet women and men have differing desires. Women ranked pay twice as much as their next priority — developing skills — while men said skills and career matter almost as much as pay. As more college-educated women than men enter the workforce for the first time after decades of unequal pay, women know their rights and money matters.

With Generation X, men prioritize flexibility as much as women. They said they want a flexible start and finish to their day, the ability to work remotely at least some of the time and they want their share of parental leave. With 52 million U.S. working parents, 65.4 million E.U. households with children and with elder care on the rise, flexibility is important for both genders.

Related: The State of Executive Recruiting in 2020

ManpowerGroup also found that Baby Boomers are also driven by pay, challenging work and flexibility though they place highest priority on leadership and teams. The boss they work for and the people they work with matter a great deal, said the study. Older workers want to pay it forward: Those over 65 are most motivated by purpose. What matters less, they say, is learning new skills; Baby Boomers want to grow as individuals, not just employees. Employers cannot rely on promotion or remuneration as workers age; they need to diversify and segment their learning strategies to engage boomers intent on working longer and later.

Attracting Workers

What attracts workers to an organization can also be what engages and makes them stay. When competition for talent and skills is so acute, getting it right up front brings return on investment for the long term. ManpowerGroup offered three key suggestions to help organization give their employee want they want from their jobs.

1. Pay Always Matter. Pay is the top attraction and retention factor for all workers under 65-years-old, regardless of gender, said the report. Yet wages are growing half as quickly as they were 10 years ago especially for lower earners. But averages can be deceiving. Skills matter: Workers with in-demand skills – cybersecurity, cloud computing, front end developers, solutions architects, healthcare and more – have seen salary increases of over 10 percent in the same time period. Companies have to get creative to enhance compensation beyond cash to differentiate and attract talent.

When 89 percent of those in the U.S. would consider additional benefits over more pay, perks like popcorn and Ping Pong are not the answer. Think personalization, said ManpowerGroup: autonomous working and flexibility, parental leave and unlimited time-off/unplug policies to cultivate sought after well-being and improved lifestyle. Add attractive financial incentives and goodwill gestures that reward loyalty, learning and development like tuition reimbursement and student loan repayments.

2. Workers Want Personalization. In an increasingly data driven world, employees want assignments that test their abilities, projects that demand the best from them and recommendations on the next role. They want insight and advice on fit today and potential tomorrow.

Related: 6 Competitive Strategies for a Tight Talent Market

ManpowerGroup said assessment allows employers to better match and motivate people while helping individuals get to know even more about themselves. Assessment can remove bias and over-reliance on applicant tracking systems that automatically sift out suitable candidates. And it helps employers fish from a more diverse talent pool, selecting people not on past experience but on the basis of future potential.

Like all consumers, workers also want a great user experience, said ManpowerGroup. They want personalized insight to understand their strengths and potential. For this they need assessment short, gamified and scientifically validated, and they expect something in exchange for their data. They want career conversations and coaching to set goals, manage their development and control their career.

“Science-based assessments are the most accurate and reliable tool for placing the right person in the right job,” said Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup. “Adding a well-designed interview will increase predictive accuracy by around 15 percent, but most of the qualities interviewers try to infer can be more effectively evaluated with assessments. As well as testing technical skills, assessments measure human strengths that are critical predictors of success such as how rewarding someone is to deal with, their ability to do the job and their willingness to work hard. That’s the science part.”

3. Variety is the Spice of Work Life. Challenge is a top five priority for workers of all ages, ManpowerGroup said. That means education and training, but also factors like stretch opportunities, rotational assignments, on-the-job learning and apprenticeships, stimulating projects and agile work across various teams and functions, applying fresh skills in new roles, thinking harder, feeling more tested, and being on a clear career pathway from one job to the next.

Related: The State of Executive Recruiting in 2020

ManpowerGroup said that people want portfolio work that offers variety, broadens their experience, and builds knowledge and skills. They want the opportunity to develop and to earn more. They are realizing they need a long shelf life in this fast-changing, career-marathon world of work.

Talent Shortage or Just Short-Sighted Recruiting?
Articles about today’s talent shortage seem to be popping up everywhere, which is not surprising when unemployment in the U.S. is at its lowest since 1969. And with over six million jobs remaining vacant each month, the looming retirement of Baby Boomers will undoubtedly escalate the war for talent.

“To deliver challenge and opportunities so people succeed and stick around, managers need to understand skills, potential and desires,” the ManpowerGroup report said. “With assessment, insight and a culture of learnability they can coach individuals so they thrive in a supportive environment. A sink-or-swim approach, without support, can result in procrastination paralysis or even burnout. The eager entry-level graduate seeking stretch will need different support compared to the mid-career emerging leader. Managers need coaching skills to guide people to choreograph career conversations that pace their own career mobility, embrace new experiences and welcome the exposure that drives personal and business success.”

The New Normal

“Unprecedented times are the new normal,” said Mr. Prising. “Globally, the labor market is tight. Talent shortages are at record highs, unemployment at multi-decade lows. The voice of the consumer – employee and candidate – is ever stronger and the role of organizations under increasing scrutiny. We need new solutions for the future of work and the future for workers.”

More than half of companies around the world cannot find the skills they are looking for – almost double what it was a decade ago, Mr. Prising said. As the pace of technological disruption, digitization and automation continues to accelerate, most employers globally are increasing or maintaining, not reducing their headcount. “And as skills needs and job roles are changing faster than ever, the need for a skills revolution – which we predicted four years ago – continues to be the defining challenge of our time,” he said. “In an increasingly technology-enabled world, people are in demand.”

To find, build and sustain the best talent while others are trying to do the same, companies need to know what workers want, said Mr. Prising. They need to shift their workforce demands closer to match the needs and desires of in-demand talent and expand the pool from which they source that talent.

“Organizations must act differently,” said Mr. Prising. “Creating shareholder value can only be done in conjunction with taking care of employees, customers and communities. And that includes the responsibility to help people learn new skills, adapt for future jobs and become creators of talent.”

Related: 7 Savvy Recruiting Tips for Uncertain Times

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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