This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

August 3, 2005

Signs of a Tight Labor Market

While corporate leaders and human resource professionals continue denial that the labor market is tightening, numbers and reality tell a different story. People who insist that there is no shortage will soon find themselves in a very difficult reactive posture. Finding and holding good employees will become so challenging that a number of employers will be forced out of business. Those closures will have far-reaching implications. This problem is an international issue, not at all limited to a few communities, a region, one country, or just some industries.

Our correspondents report that employers are having trouble attracting applicants who have the capability to do the jobs available. There are too many job-seekers who lack literacy, experience, education, training, career focus, or ambition; many who do not even meet minimum qualifications. Employers are assigning more employees to recruiting functions in attempts to find, attract, and sell their employment opportunities to the few people who are qualified.

On a recent trip through Ohio, we were astonished to see the creative help-wanted signs we saw in the late 1990s. Ohio is one of the states, statistically, that has very high unemployment. According to the numbers, thousands and thousands of people are out of work. Apparently, they’re all waiting for the high-level, high-paying jobs. A sign on a restaurant read “Shift Managers Wanted. Name Your Price.” The owner was frustrated. He knows that people need work, but the applicants he gets are not qualified to assume the responsibilities of management. “Where are all these hot-shot managers who complain they can’t find a job,” he asked.

Another sign, in front of a national chain restaurant, proclaimed “Join Our Team! Benefits from Day One.” The valuable enticements have begun. The manager of this business is not looking for highly educated people, but does want employees who will work hard as part of a serious customer-oriented team. She looks for what she describes as a “spark”—a level of dedication and enthusiasm for the work. “The energy just isn’t there. I won’t hire warm bodies that have no spirit.”

Many other managers face the same challenges.

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