Conquering Labor Shortages in the Workforce

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How to address the shortage of available employees in the workforce now

The United States economy continues to thrive in a period of unsurpassed expansion and job growth; however, employers are contending with the tightest labor market in recent history with expectations for it to worsen. In the next several years, it’s predicted that the number of open jobs exceed the number of people looking for and/or available to work. With this challenge on the horizon, organizations need to prepare to act against talent shortages.

Employee Shortage and the Skills Gap

Filling open jobs in the workforce has been an ongoing struggle in recent years, but current conditions are reaching serious levels. Beyond this deficiency of individuals, employers must also consider problems brought on by the skill gap: there is a widening gap between jobs that need to be filled and the qualifying talent pool capable of filling them. Jobs are evolving due to the impact of technology and automation, and companies need to address this while simultaneously solving today’s current employee shortage. Some companies have begun to tackle the skills gap by making training opportunities available to assist workers in advancing their skills and developing their knowledge.

At the end of 2018, 223,000 jobs were created every month with the continual growth in the U.S. That is 179,000 more jobs than in 2017 and 193,000 more jobs than in 2016. While growing job opportunities are a positive indication that the economy is healthy and continuing to recover from the recession, it also demonstrates that finding the right talent with the right skill set to fill open positions is nearly impossible. Companies are now having to compete for top talent in more unique ways. Appealing benefits packages and flexible paid time off for immediate hires help to attract and retain employees who might otherwise show little interest in applying for a job.

Automation and the Adoption of Technology

While some organizations have been early adopters of technology such as cobots, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation software, companies are still finding it increasingly challenging for the workforce to keep pace. The type of skills employees need to co-exist with automation is quickly changing, and oftentimes, people can’t keep pace with machines. Conducting regular training on new technology can help all generations in the workplace to become more familiar and up-to-date with current processes. In-house training and learning courses, along with on-the-job training that leverages digital technology, have proven to be beneficial for employers.

Addressing the Labor Shortage

As the economic situation and skills gap continue to unfold, there must be a deliberate effort to address the need for finding qualified talent to ensure a sustained workforce. Following a path of industry-wide approaches to narrow the skills gap is a key initiative to offset the expected shortfalls of skilled workers the upcoming decade will present. Industry leaders should explore and embrace ways to provide early exposure to robotics, automation, and computer programming to not only their current workforce, but to younger generations, to build a foundation of skills and abilities needed to succeed in the future. Apprenticeships are one proven way for both students and working professionals to build new skills – not just in technology, but across industries. 

Right now, there are 7.6 million job openings in the U.S and only 6.5 million people who are looking for work. Another method to address the labor shortage is to automate the unfavorable, dangerous, and tactical jobs to focus on the more strategic aspects of the business.

Take Action

Currently, unemployment across all industries has sunk to nearly three percent, which is the lowest level in almost 50 years. Avoid the labor crisis by implementing talent acquisition and retention best practices. Contact a Human Resources expert today for more information.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Job Openings Levels and Rates by Industry and Region, Seasonally Adjusted”
  2. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Census Bureau
  3. Leopold, Ratcheva, and Zahidi, “The Future of Jobs Report 2018”
  4. AMH Equipment Market 2018
  5. Brookings, “Automation and AI will disrupt the American labor force. Here’s how we can protect workers”
  6. IndustryWeek
This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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