In the U.S., 46 percent of employers have difficulty filling jobs, and nearly a quarter of the companies say they cannot fill jobs due to a lack of available applicants, according to a new survey.


ManpowerGroup surveyed more than 2,200 hiring managers in the U.S. for its 11th Annual Talent Shortage Survey. The results are tallied up in the firm’s “2016/2017 U.S. Talent Shortage Survey” report. Laborers, engineers and technicians are all cited as difficult jobs to fill. Interestingly, engineers have consistently been reported as one of the most difficult jobs to fill in the U.S., appearing on the list for 10 of the past 11 years. Technicians, according to survey respondents, were slightly easier to find last year but were still listed in the 10 most difficult to fill jobs.


I was more interested, however, to learn how companies are addressing the skilled talent shortage. As the shortage escalates and demand for talent intensifies, many employers are looking inside their own organizations for solutions, with nearly half (48 percent) of the survey respondents indicating their company chooses to upskill employees by offering training and development. As the report notes, training and development programs are often an integral part of an employer’s retention strategy. The right development programs can improve employee engagement and, in return, reduce turnover. What’s more, these programs also offer opportunities to up-skill existing employees into new roles, helping companies mitigate talent shortages and provide employees with career advancement opportunities, the report continues.


“Low unemployment paired with shorter skills cycles due to the speed of technological change means U.S. employers struggle to fill positions,” says Kip Wright, Senior Vice President of Manpower North America. “We see this particularly in manufacturing, construction, transportation and education. When the talent isn’t available, organizations need to turn to training and develop their own employees—and, in many cases, this means first identifying the skills that will be required in increasingly digital industries, like manufacturing. That’s why we’re working with organizations like the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute [DMDII] to map future skills needs and develop tomorrow’s talent.”


Some companies have additional strategies as well. For instance, 44 percent of the respondents said their organizations are exploring new talent sources by recruiting outside the talent pool, and 27 percent of the respondents said the company is exploring alternative sourcing strategies as a means to tackle the difficulties they face filling jobs. Other strategies include offering higher salary packages to recruits (cited by 22 percent of the respondents, up from five percent in 2015), and 19 percent of the respondents said their organization offers additional perks and benefits to attract new employees.


In another recent survey, more than 80 percent of the respondents said they believe their company will be affected by talent scarcity in 2017. This concern may be driving the increased use of automation and contingent workers, as businesses strive to become more agile and flexible in the changing economy, according to the “2017 Talent Trends Report” from Randstad Sourceright. Based on a survey of 376 HR leaders at companies in 62 countries, the report explains that one-quarter of surveyed businesses have increased the use of automation and robotics in the past 12 months, while one-third are preparing to increase the use of temporary, contract, consultant or freelance workers to account for as much as 30 percent of their workforce.


“Global shifts toward automation and a gig economy have caused businesses to change their talent management strategies to maintain a highly agile workforce,” says Rebecca Henderson, CEO, Randstad Sourceright. “This has resulted in an increased use of contingent talent, which not only has improved the agility of companies but also created a number of new opportunities for workers around the world.”


What are your thoughts on the skilled talent shortage? Does your company offer training and development to upskill employees?