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Is a Talent Shortage Hurting Your Customer Service?

It’s hard to believe, but despite the lingering effects of the recession and still-high unemployment rates, U.S. employers are having trouble finding qualified staff to fill the positions they need. ManpowerGroup’s eighth annual Talent Shortage Survey found that 39 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulty finding staff with the right skills. While that’s down from 49 percent who reported this problem in 2012, it’s still a significant percentage.

The hardest job to fill is skilled trades, employers report. The nine other hardest jobs to fill in the United States are:

  • Sales representatives
  • Drivers
  • IT staff
  • Accounting and finance staff
  • Engineers
  • Technicians
  • Management/executives
  • Mechanics

Why are companies having so much trouble finding candidates? Respondents say it’s because candidates lack technical competencies/hard skills (48 percent); candidates lack workplace competencies/soft skills (33 percent); and because of there are no available candidates (32 percent).

The talent shortage is hurting customer service, say nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. employers polled. If a lack of qualified staff is hurting your customer service, what can you do? Here are 4 options:

  1. Turn to new methods of finding talent. One-fifth of respondents in the survey are taking this approach, by recruiting from talent pools they haven’t previously tried. This could include tapping into your and your employees’ social networks; instituting a referral program to have your employees find qualified candidates; or even maintaining contact with former employees and approaching them for possible re-hire.
  2. Expand training and development for your existing staff. About one-fourth of respondents were using this method. Additional training can help your employees be more productive (so they can handle more work), provide better customer service, and possibly evolve into the roles you’re trying to fill—without the need to hire from outside.
  3. Modifying processes or systems. If you can’t fill open positions, try modifying current employees’ roles so they can handle some of the duties of the jobs you haven’t filled. Be sure you provide employees with the training they need, and don’t overload them to the point where your customer service suffers even more.
  4. Look for attitude and potential more than skills. Depending on the job, you may be able to hire someone who doesn’t have the exact skills you need, but has a good attitude, willingness to learn and potential to grow into the job. Bonus: These employees can often cost less to hire than more skilled and experienced workers would—and since you can train them “from the ground up,” you can instill the customer service attitude you want them to have.

Image by Flickr user Victor1558 (Creative Commons)

 


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