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Rethinking Recruitment is the Key to Finding the Best Talent

Now that the "sansdemic" is upon us, what can innovative leaders do to avoid recruitment missteps?

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In assessing the worldwide economic recovery from the pandemic, global research analyst and recruiting advisor John Bersin put it succinctly in a June 2021 article on his site. "The problem," he explained, "is not that we don't have enough jobs, it's that we don't have enough people." As a result, it's time to completely alter how we think about recruiting.

In addition to the current health crisis, we're in the midst of sansdemic — too much work and too few people to do it — a demographic drought that will impact virtually every business around the world.

No amount of remote work flexibility or increase in the application of digital tools is going to solve this problem, and the pandemic is not its cause, but rather its accelerator. There are in fact three major forces at play:

Baby boomers retiring now instead of "someday," to the tune of three million people in 2020 alone, many of them younger than 65 and with skills and wisdom that are hard to replace.

American population growth is slowing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, July-2020 to July-2021 growth was just 0.12%, a historic low that capped an already slowing 10-year trend starting in 2010.

1 in 5 Gen Z-ers are not interested in going to college. This age group would rather enter the workforce earlier than deal with $40,000-plus in student debt. Meanwhile, companies are still requiring a college education.

In that same Bersin article, he details that, "The US GDP is around $21 trillion and we have about 151 million people working. This translates to around $139,000 of economic activity per worker. If the American Jobs Act adds $3 trillion to the economy, this translates to about 21 million new jobs created."

That's a 14% increase in jobs. Where are the people going to come from to do them? Put simply, our recruitment efforts need to radically change.

Related: How (and Why) to Tap Into the Career Potential of Your Young Workers

A company that adapts to these new times is most likely to find or make the best talent. Here are three ways of doing that.

1. Create your own workforce

One example of a company that has taken this recruitment problem head on is Ashley Furniture Industries, in part by partnering with K-12 as well as post-secondary schools. It has invested in STEM-based learning, provided real and virtual tours of its manufacturing facilities, offered scholarships and otherwise facilitated exposure to technical trades and associated career opportunities.

Gen Z-ers learn differently than previous generations, so don't be surprised if they can learn in less than a month with TikTok videos the same skills you did over a four-degree college. That said, there remains a long-term stigma surrounding vocational/trade education, with two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. requiring a bachelor or associate degree, but going back to a skilled labor force may have to mean skipping or reducing a typical four-year college that people simply can't afford.

Does your job really require a traditional college degree or can you train someone in a month?

2. Shorten the work week

More and more companies are going to a four-day work week, allowing people to spend more time with their kids and otherwise in pursuit of well-being, hobbies and other experiences, including side hustles. During a conversation I had with Andrew Barnes — who founded the largest corporate trustee company in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian, and who has been leading the four-day-week movement globally — he shared that at his company, productivity increased by 20% after that work week structure was implemented, while work-life balance increased to 78% compared to the previous 54% reported during an initial trial. Entire countries like Japan, New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland are now adopting the four-day work week philosophy.

Why do we continue to work using an outdated 18th-century model? Even if you're not asking that question, your employees likely are.

Related: Is the 4-Day Work Week Better? Evidence Points to Yes.

3. Create meaningful instead of bullsh*t jobs and focus on overall employee well-being

"Only four in 10 people feel like their job is important, have a manager who cares about them, or have the opportunity to do their best each day," reads a passage from Gallup's State of the American Workplace report.

People want more meaning and fulfillment, not just money. Designing and delivering meaningful experiences means eliminating the bullsh*t work that doesn't add to that fulfillment, as well as offering clear goals, common purpose and a compelling mission.

Now that almost half (46%) of the workforce consists of millennials and Gen Z members (again, according to Gallup), leaders who adapt quickly stand a chance of recruiting for open jobs in the future. To these younger employees, the number-one priority in a job is well-being in all aspects: career, social, financial, community and physical.

Related: Hustle Culture is Killing Your Greatness.

So, those still embracing shopworn recruitment efforts take note: We have a new category of humans that requires a new kind of thinking when it comes to how, where and why work gets done.

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