Headache“First off, it’s a great time to be a recruiter,” Jobscience CEO Ted Elliott says of the year 2015. “The bad news is that the reason it’s a great time to be a recruiter is because everyone is going to need you.”

Elliott means that a confluence of economic and demographic factors will create a situation in which demand for employees increases as the supply decreases. Couple these factors with increased volatility in the workforce, and a lot of people will need recruiters in 2015.

That being said, recruiters can help, but they can’t magically cure the ills of employers next year. To succeed in 2015, recruiters and employers alike will need creativity, flexibility, and a lot of good, old-fashioned hard work.

“It’s going to be a lot of headaches and work for recruiters,” Elliott says in summation.

Boomers, Turnover, and a Widening Skills Gap: the Challenges of 2015

According to Elliott, three major workforce trends will be responsible for making the coming year a particularly trying time: aging baby boomers, a growing skills gap, and increasing turnover rates.

The Boomer Problem

Baby boomers are aging out of the workforce in droves: 10,000 of them retire every day in America. Elliott says we can expect the boomers to retire at this rate for at least the next 10 years, though some estimate the pace could keep up for the next 20 years.

Whatever the case may be, the rapid loss of boomers also means a rapid loss of valuable knowledge and skills: “People who have any type of skills that are learned on the job — or perhaps a four-year education for high-skill labor — they’re leaving,” Elliot says. “You’ll see this in large professions like health care, education, construction, oil and gas – anywhere where you have lots of people working who have technical positions that require certification or licensure.”

Elliott believes that  hospitals, energy companies, and other core infrastructures will be hardest hit by departing baby boomers who are taking their necessary skills with them.

To make matters worse, replacing all of these boomers is not going to be easy — or even necessarily possible.

The Widening Skills Gap

“Because we’ve had a down economy for the last five years, fewer people have gone to four-year and two-year educational institutions; fewer women have engaged in the workforce than were historically [doing so],” Elliott explains. “So there are fewer people who have gotten the training. There are fewer engineers, fewer teachers, fewer new people coming to [highly skilled] professions [in general].”

As established above, this decrease in the number of qualified laborers comes at an especially bad time: just as more seats are opening, fewer people are arriving to take them.

“People didn’t get education, or [they] didn’t learn the right skills, or [they] have been unemployed and no one’s invested in them because no businesses have wanted to invest in these people,” Elliott says. “That’s where the gap becomes even more pronounced.”

Corporate recruiting has been dormant for the past few years, but now that the economy is recovering, recruiters are getting back into “active recruiting mode” — with unfortunate results.

“While they go into active recruiting mode, they’re going to find their biggest problem is finding the people,” Elliott says. “At the same time that they’re trying to find the people, they’re going to have folks leaving their workforces at an accelerating rate.”

Higher Turnover Rates

As the economy continues to improve, people will begin to feel more and more comfortable with jumping ship for new employment opportunities.

“For the last couple of years, people have been staying with a company where they felt like they could at least predict where their future was going and that they’d have a job tomorrow,” Elliott says. “Now that there’s a demand in the economy, it’s going to create more volatility among the workforce, because [people] will be more open to looking at other positions.”

Unfortunately, U.S. employers cannot simply poach talent from other countries to address the American lack or replace employees who decide to retire or leave for other companies.  “It’s a global problem this time around,” Elliott explains. “In the old days, we’d say, ‘Let’s take nurses from Canada, or let’s take nurses from the U.K., or let’s find workers from other parts of the world. But [these countries] have just as much of a pronounced baby boomer problem.”

So, What Can Employers and Recruiters Do? 

As bleak as 2015 seems, Elliott does believe that employers and recruiters can take a few steps to mitigate the effects of the crisis. The first thing they have to do is figure out how they can prolong the workforce they already have — that is, figure out how to keep 65-year-old employees working to 68 or 70, rather than retiring.

“That means you have to decrease the requirements for supply,” Elliott explains. “That means getting creative with your existing workforce.”

The goal of these maneuvers is to decrease the demand for new employees, because recruiters simply will not be able to fill every position they’re going to be hit with — at least, not at this rate.

Finding creative ways to decrease the demand for talent can take a lot of forms, depending on what works best for the company. Employers can offer flex time, reduced hours, or take more non-traditional approaches: “I’ve heard of staffing companies, for example, that literally set up shop outside of large employers, so that when someone turns 65, they recognize that they’re carrying a box out on their last day at work, and they swoop in and hire them on the spot so they can turn around and say, ‘Do you want to go back on Monday as a contractor?’” Elliot explains.

The next thing employers and recruiters — especially recruiters — will have to do is start building flexible talent pools. “[They have to] figure out how to start competing with staffing companies, because those are the players that are going to be much more aggressive about how to solve this problem,” Elliot says [see above].

A lot of people seem to think that the freelance economy will create such a flexible talent pool, but Elliott isn’t so sure: “That’s nice, and that will be like Trulia: some people might buy their houses off a website, but it’s not generally going to be practiced across the board.”

Employers and recruiters will have to put in a lot of work to make 2015 a successful year — and that includes rethinking the way they court, train, and deploy talent.

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