The ongoing danger of skills shortages

Interest in events on retention and recruitment are up as studies show a need to think creatively and engage with workers more amid skills shortages.

There’s been a lot of focus of late on skills shortages in various sectors. Rarely a day passes without a new report. While we have escaped steep increases in unemployment – although many of the older workers we have spoken to recently have spent months looking for a job and the situation is clearly patchy – the problem of skills shortages is not necessarily any better. Because skills shortages mean an extra burden for staff already in the business with the risk of an escalating crisis being created if people burn out and there is no replacement.

A lack of staff can also cause safety issues and tip over into business/organisation closures. And not every business can afford to pay lucrative bonuses, particularly after the last 18 months. My daughter reported only the other day that the restaurant she works at may be forced to close due to a lack of staff – and this as the busiest of periods approaching Christmas.

So it is no surprise that Eventbrite reported this week that attendance at online and in-person events around attracting, retaining and motivating talent have grown by 44% over the last year. We’ve certainly seen a growing interest too in businesses targeting women generally, but also working mums.

Interestingly, a report out yesterday suggests the number of working mums of young children employed during the pandemic has increased. In part that is to make up for partners who have been furloughed or who have lost work due to Covid. Women have picked up the slack to keep their families going at the same time as they have also carried much of the load of childcare and homeschooling during the various lockdowns.

The increase, however, does not balance out the number of people – mainly young men and older workers, especially older women – who have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic. Many of the latter will be due to health or caring reasons. More flexible working – despite all the, often ridiculous, posturing in some newspapers – is one solution. The report found remote working had increased the number of mothers who are part of a couple who could enter the workplace or increased their hours by 10 per cent. The same could also be true for older workers as our National Older Workers Week events are showing.

Of course, flexible working is not a cure-all and should be accompanied by so much more in terms of a work culture that is enabling for as many workers as possible, that offers genuine choice, that values all workers equally and that engages with and understands workers’ different needs.

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