We have a human capital crisis in the U.S. and it’s not going away soon. For many organizations, survival means figuring out how to fill an abundance of open positions, thinking of work differently, and rethinking their applicant pool. Also, interventions and actions that are essential to survive in today’s labor market include expanded job orientation, on-the-job training, and continued emphasis on training programs.

Why are we here? Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) have been the engine that ran America over the last 50+ years. The total number of births during this period was larger than had ever been seen in the United States, and today we are witness to an all-time high rate of the retirement of those baby boomers. As of the 3rd quarter of 2021, 50.3% of adults ages 55 and above are now retired. The next generation (often referred to as “Generation X”, born between 1965 and 1980) shrank significantly in size. Their parents, (my generation) waited longer to get married, spaced out the time to have children, and had fewer of them. This, in tandem with job vacancies created by the “Great Resignation” during the height of the Covid pandemic, has placed unprecedented pressure on organizations to address their human capital needs.

An area of our labor market that has taken the biggest hit is skilled jobs. I’m a baby boomer. Our parents wanted better for us and encouraged college over skilled jobs, and many of us followed that path. As a result, we have fallen far behind in our need for electricians, plumbers, carpenters, machinists, retail employees, restaurant employees, etc.

In a recent article by Chris Brennan of Human Resources Today, he emphasizes the need to avoid losing people to post-pandemic turnover (see the “Great Resignation”). Companies must understand what attracts employees, and what keeps them happy, engaged, and motivated. Brennan’s advice is essential for attracting and keeping all workers at all levels. Equally important is placing major focus on recruiting, assessing, and hiring employees. Brennan says companies need to adopt the right mindset in doing so. In his own words, “A pro-employee job market is an opportunity for employers to engage in reinvention and renewal.”

I agree. This is a time when companies must be learning agile. E.A.S.I-Consult® has noted with consistency through the years, and David Hoff and Warner Burke have repeated this in their books, Learning Agility: The Key to Leader Potential (2017) and Developing Learning Agility: Using the Burke Assessments (2022), developing learning agility requires increasing the ability to deal with new experiences flexibly and rapidly by trying new behavior, getting feedback, and making quick adjustments so new learning will be realized when you do not know exactly what to do. This isn’t just something important for today’s challenges but applies to all leaders in everyday approaches. As you will see, being learning agile in your approach to recruitment, assessment, and retention can be the edge your organization needs to survive in today’s world of work.

Brennan points to an essential step in dealing with today’s labor market. That is, understanding your business at its core. Focusing on culture proactively is critical. This is woven into the ever-increasing importance of hiring people based on their “work attitude” and how it pairs up with company values and culture. This is not a new visualization of hiring, but the value of its substance has become more important than ever. Southwest Airlines has been widely successful with their “hire for attitude, train for skills” approach to hiring over many decades. Brennan says that leaders of organizations must know “who” their company is and what the company stands for. It boils down to continuously revisiting your mission, vision, and values.  This allows you to focus on your culture, making recruiting and retaining talented people much easier.

Today’s employees want to feel as though they make a difference. They want perceived fairness in the workplace, and to maintain a balance between work and life. Finding and retaining great employees requires a clear understanding and communication of your organization’s vision, mission, and values. Next, you need to find employees with the work attitude that matches the culture created by these.

E.A.S.I-Consult has focused on this approach over the last 15 years. Doing so we’ve been able to help organizations expand their applicant pool. We’ve done this by focusing on the work attitude of applicants, allowing companies to avoid limiting themselves to simply skills and experience. Skills and experience are important, but they tell you little about your ability to retain employees for any length of time. With our pre-employment assessment approach [the Work Styles Predictor® (WSP®)] we have successfully helped companies to set their work attitude/culture-match bar higher and skills assessment at a practicable level. The results we’ve seen across companies and industries are significant reductions in turnover and increases in productivity, customer service, patient care, work quality, and overall performance.

Certainly, challenging times mandate flexibility and learning agile approaches. To this end, survival for many companies means rethinking their applicant pool through reinvented recruitment, assessment, and retention approaches. This begins by taking a proactive look at your organization’s vision, mission, and values, and linking this to the work attitude of your applicant pool.

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.