America’s labor outlook is in a “perfect storm,” one that will not go away soon. As a result, when it comes to finding talented, motivated employees for our jobs, the challenges seem never-ending. In many cases, it just isn’t happening. The storm I’m referring to results from three ongoing challenges employers face: baby boomers’ retirements, COVID-19 disruptions, and millennial workers’ needs.

This storm has impacted all of us in numerous ways. On a personal note, I see the half-empty shelves in my local grocery store weekly. This reminds me of the limited selection of goods in every store I visited in Moscow in the 1980s, as well as several former Soviet Union satellite states. Currently, my relatively new car needs a repair, but it has been in the dealer shop for five months, waiting for a replacement part.  As I pass through the drive-up fast-food restaurant, my wait is longer than ever, and I only hope for a friendly greeting when I arrive. All of this I attribute to the unfortunate perfect storm we are facing.

The Baby Boomers Have Retired

Let me begin with baby boomer retirements. As an industrial-organizational psychologist of 35 years, I’ve been in the business of helping companies find suitable candidates for their jobs at all levels. As early as I can remember, I’ve heard the mantra, “The baby boomers are retiring.” The next generation was significantly smaller in number, creating a potential competitive environment for finding workers to fill vacated positions. Leading companies across the country prepared for this by investing in career development and succession planning programs to fill the high-level jobs. Still, the future need for lower-level jobs has not been addressed, especially at the entry-level. Only now are high schools embracing the idea of blessing cooperative or technical training programs in an endeavor to fill these spots.

COVID-19 Disruptions

The second part of the storm could not have been anticipated, although some epidemiologists might argue otherwise. The COVID viruses came quickly. I don’t have to describe their paths of destruction; we’re all impacted by its force. What should be noted, however, is that COVID changed the workplace landscape. Remote and hybrid work has become commonplace. But for those who could not use this approach, jobs were lost, and government and company-required vaccinations have led to stand-offs and losses of workers, contributing to the storm.

The Millennials’ Needs

The COVID disruption, along with government stimulus money, which was intended to soften the economic blow and help displaced workers, seems to have reinforced a new work philosophy often held by millennial workers. We are witnessing wage earner preferences for work-life balance and meaningful work. In a recent article, I wrote about the “Great Resignation.” America is seeing the highest number of workers  leaving the workforce since World War II. According to recent data from the United States “Job Openings and Labor Turnover” (JOLTS) report, 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September alone! In addition to these events, or because of them, the world is changing, and how work is getting done is evolving.  A shortage of available and willing labor is reinforcing a move to automation in the workplace.

This all sounds insurmountable. Should you “throw in the towel?” Of course not. Crises bring out the best in people, especially great thinkers and leaders. The automation of work and the labor market quandary solidifies the direction E.A.S.I-Consult® has taken for the last 15 years to assist companies with their hiring strategy.  We’ve apprised CEOs and HR professionals to hire for attitude, and train for skills. Our own data collection and research studies have shown this approach to significantly increase overall performance on the job, and in some cases reduce turnover by as much as 17 percent!

A recent Forbes.com article, “Soft Skills are Essential to the Future of Work,” points out that how we screen and hire employees must change.”  “As more and more job activities become automated, soft skills, which cannot yet be replicated by machines, have become more important.”  They cite a report by DeLoitte that concluded soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030.  These soft skills include, for example, empathy and emotional intelligence, integrity and ethical responsibility, adaptability and resilience, and self-motivation and self-directedness.  See Work Styles Predictor® (WSP®) Assessment Dimensions for a list of similar soft skills E.A.S.I-Consult has measured and continues to offer for pre-employment testing.

In these uncertain and challenging times, cool heads are needed.  Employers, now more than ever, must look for innovative ways to keep their businesses afloat and thriving.  Screening and hiring employees will take more of your attention than in the past.  Screening for soft skills should give you the edge that is clearly needed today.  Why?  Because, as stated, the new world of work requires them.

About the Author

David Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government   agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.