By Edward Segal
Saying that, “The worker shortage is real—and it’s getting worse by the day,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their Chamber of Commerce Foundation today announced the launch of America Works, a nationwide initiative designed to mobilize industry and government to immediately address the deepening worker shortage crisis in the U.S.
A shortage of workers is the latest crisis to hit business leaders, who are also grappling with whether or how much to pay workers to get vaccinated against Covid, the EEOC’s pandemic-related guidelines, a shortage of new leaders in the pipeline, and burnout in the workforce.
“American businesses of every size, across every industry, in every state are reporting unprecedented challenges filling open jobs. The worker shortage is a national economic emergency, and it poses an imminent threat to our fragile recovery and America’s great resurgence,” according to Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark.
The Chamber said new surveys and federal data analysis show that:
- There are now half as many available workers for every open job across the country as there have been on average over the past 20 years.
- Ninety-one percent of state and local chambers of commerce say worker shortages are holding back their economies. Eighty-three percent of industry association economists say employers in their sectors are finding it more difficult to fill jobs than they were five years ago.
To help address the worsening crisis, the Chamber is calling for:
- A suite of legislative and regulatory solutions at the federal and state level that would eliminate barriers to work for Americans, invest in skills and job training, and reform America’s broken, outdated immigration system.
- Doubling the cap on employment-based visas, doubling the quota on H-1B and H-2B visas and implementing other reforms to the legal immigration system to help employers meet the need for high-demand jobs in labor-strapped sectors.
- Growing federal investments in employer-led job education and training programs.
- Expanding access to childcare for working parents.
Advice For Business Leaders
In addition to the efforts of the U.S. Chamber, corporate executives offered other ways to help address the growing shortage of workers.
David Smith is a labor economist and professor of economics at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. He said, “Businesses and organizations will have to get creative to find ways to fill their open positions. Find ways to make your openings more attractive: compensation matters, of course, and even small increases in pay could be a way to attract more interest in an open vacancy.
“Some employers have found signing bonuses, or referral bonuses to be effective. Other attributes that make a position more attractive are flexible scheduling and hours, and even job location, as we move into a post-pandemic world where structured job attributes are much less common in many places of employment. Relying more on on-the-job training, and less on incoming qualifications could broaden the applicant pool for a position,” he advised.
Offer Better Benefits
Kim Buckey is vice president of client services for DirectPath, which counsels employees about their benefits.”As organizations continue to search for new talent and retain their current employees, a critical component of doing so will be offering quality benefits packages. Today’s employees view things like a 401(k) and health plan as table stakes.
“As such, companies must go further than they have in the past and offer more comprehensive packages that speak to the specific needs of their employees… One key way many companies have done this is by offering voluntary benefits, which often come at no cost to them but allow employees to opt into more niche benefits — like pet insurance, for instance. A win/win for both the company and the employee,” she concluded.
Jeremy Robbins is the executive director New American Economy, a bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization. He said,”Because they are overrepresented at both the high-skilled and labor-intensive ends of the skills spectrum, immigrants are largely complementary to U.S.-born workers and should be seen as a key source of talent, especially in high-demand fields like education, healthcare, and STEM that are facing some of the most acute worker shortages.
“States and cities should work together with employers and chambers of commerce to implement strategies for attracting immigrant talent, even as they invest in education and workforce development for long-time residents,” Robbins recommended.
James Zahora, CEO of The Abilities Connection, a nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities, said, “As companies are getting creative about how they address hiring gaps during the current shortage, they should think about hiring those with disabilities. It both provides dedicated employees to their business as well as provides meaningful employment for individuals in the community with a disability.
“Since the start of COVID-19, 1 in 5 people with disabilities have lost their jobs. Even before the spreading coronavirus forced businesses to close their doors, 85% of Americans with disabilities did not work, often because they struggled to find proper training programs or navigate the job search stigmas around their on-the-job capabilities,” he said.
“With the worker shortage in the U.S., it’s more important than ever that companies rethink their approach to employee retention,” observed Nazim Ahmed, the founder of of Build With Purpose – a global community of startups, scale-ups and small and medium-sized businesses.
He said, “Companies should be searching for meaningful ways to restore a shared sense of purpose and belonging between employees and their workplaces at a time when beer on tap and ping pong tables are no longer cutting it, nor applicable.”