Staffing Crisis: It’s Time to Get Back to the Basics

Published by Kathleen Houlihan on

Is your inability to find employees causing a crisis? Hiring managers, don’t panic, take a deep breath, and get back to the basics.  Here are 4 tips to get your staffing levels back to normal; simplify the application process, hire local, collaborate in the community, and retain employees through quality-of-life benefits.

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Tip #1 Simplify Don’t make the process any more difficult than it needs to be for the prospective employee. Jobseekers who are inquiring about a position, should not need all their transcripts, clearances, and background checks right out of the gate, specifically when you need entry-level workers. The process for onramp positions should be designed to be simpler and utilizing temp-to-hire positions is a great way to manage expectations. Another option is to start an internship program working with your local colleges.

Designing a communication plan that is focused will yield better results. Most companies have positions for several industry sectors at the same time.  Prospects don’t understand your workforce jargon so keep it simple in the job description and stay away from posting on job boards. There are too many jobs listed on job boards and your best candidates are not going to be found there.

My first job, as a newspaper carrier, came from a referral from my sister; she asked me to come along with her and she showed me the route. It wasn’t until after I completed the work with her that I actually applied for the job. You may not want to encourage something this extreme, but it proves a point. Doing a job is about learning what is involved and seeing if it works for you. More companies could utilize job shadowing days so that prospective employees could see the job for themselves. BONUS: the current employees in the division will feel empowered to have input into the hiring process.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a government entity that is in dire straits, having almost 500 positions open and they were explaining the application process so we could help our clients to complete the application. The process was daunting and not user-friendly. Nothing turns candidates away, especially when there are jobs everywhere, than a long, complicated application process for a minimum wage entry-level position.

Tip #2 Check your surroundings I’ve said this before, your best workers are in your neighborhood. We’ve become so focused on the internet, job boards, and the pandemic that we forgot that we work in HUMAN resources. It is so easy to stay hidden away, especially if we have a cushy job that now allows work from home. Psychologically, the home is safe but it also limiting and not all positions can be completed from there. It is important that you set self-imposed rules to engage, in person, with other people at work. If you don’t force yourself to change, you will stop growing and then depression and loneliness will follow. If you don’t start today, tomorrow you might not be able to leave. The pandemic has created a nation of agoraphobics and we must fight this disease in ourselves if we want to get things back to normal. You will be happier in everything you do if you find reasons to connect face-to-face with the world around you.

In addition, not every position can be performed remotely which means looking in the neighborhood is advisable. Offering referral bonuses to current employees is smart, but also using local media to offer reasons for people to come to your business, not just to complete the application, will work too.

Tip #3 Find Allies

There are lots of ways to interest prospects. Leverage your marketing team and brainstorm ways to recruit prospective employees or develop a local communication strategy with other local businesses to create community-focused messaging like Operation Dream Landing. Don’t perceive other businesses as competition with regards to hiring, see them as collaborators. Activities like an industry scavenger hunt at several local businesses could be fun. Another idea is to have local awards programs for specific industries, make it open to the public, hire a local band, and really celebrate your employees. This will improve company morale and change the entire mindset around the worker experience. In Colorado, they have Server Appreciation Day, and all the local businesses participate together to celebrate those who work in the hospitality industry. These kinds of initiatives are underutilized, and we are working with the Champaign, IL community to improve collaboration and accelerate site-based hiring initiatives.

Tip # 4 Keep Employees Motivated

Do you have employees that show up late and when they get there, they offer nothing but bad karma–complaining and checking out mentally? One approach is to fire them, but you know that right now it’s difficult to replace them.  A preferred option is to inspire them, there is no question that there are bad people in the world, but most people are naturally positive, but lack motivation because of all of the sadness in the news and, today, they have no hope for the future. Instead of using discipline, offer quality-of-life benefits and rewards programs that will help employees navigate their options more effectively in life. Celebrate those who are outperforming in the workplace, provide promotions, and other pathways to success including educational reimbursement programs. There are countless options that will cost less to implement than onboarding new people. Bottom-Line: Motivated workers consistently exceed production goals and improve the working conditions for everyone. Try these steps and you’ll see that you have the workforce you always wanted.

If you would like to discuss community-focused recruitment strategies that inspire and retain quality workers, contact Dream2Career.

About the Author:

Kathleen Houlihan, CEO of Dream2Career, is on a mission to help students and displaced workers find onramps to their dream careers. Kathy taught full-time at the university level for over 6 years and continues to teach as an adjunct while consulting for businesses and educational providers. She’s serves on several workforce development groups including the T3 Innovation Network and Midwest Credential Transparency Alliance and has a Ph.D. in Organizational Management, an MBA, and B.A. in Psychology.

Dream2Career (D2C) is a women-owned agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. D2C provides human-centric solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.


Kathleen Houlihan

Kathleen Houlihan is a leader in workforce innovation and she is the Founder of an agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. Her company, Dream2Career, provides human-centric ROI solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.

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