According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of November 2017, there were 5.9 million job openings in the United States. And, according to Recruiting.com, “ManpowerGroup, a worldwide workforce agency, recently reported that 36 percent of global employers reported difficulty filling their jobs — the highest percentage in seven years.”
Many economists think the problem is that there are not enough workers who have the proper training or educational backgrounds to competently fill these openings. The solution, say many authorities, is simply to train or re-train workers so that they can apply new skills in demand today.
It seems to us that this is one of those things that is easy to say, but not so easy to do. Frankly, we do not believe that the skills gap is the problem. Rather, we believe that employers are not trying hard enough to find great workers. We have some ideas that companies should be considering that may be far easier to accomplish than re-training:
- In their 2010 book titled “Rework,” Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37signals (now Basecamp), suggest that just because your company is based in Des Moines, Dubrovnik, or Dusseldorf, it doesn’t mean that all of your employees must be from there or must work there. Basecamp and thousands of other companies around the globe have proven that remote workers can be just as effective as on-site staff. You don’t need local workers, you need great workers. Their argument is that it doesn’t matter where you are. What matters is how good a worker you are. So, if you are based in Chicago, like Basecamp, it is ok and sometimes even better to have workers in Canada, Ireland, India, or elsewhere, just as long as they are great workers doing a great job.
- Many countries have special work-related visas for foreign workers to temporarily immigrate from their home country for work purposes. In the U.S., we have H-1B visas that allow U.S. companies to employ workers in specialty occupations that require certain types of technical expertise. Note that in the U.S., these visas have become a politically sensitive issue and that the number of H-1B visas is shrinking. However, other countries have similar types of programs. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and many other nations welcome qualified foreign workers.
- In the U.S., we have an intracompany transferee program that allows a U.S. company to move an employee from an overseas office or operation to the U.S., and for a foreign company that does not have an affiliated office to send an executive or manager to the U.S. to establish a U.S. office or operation. It is called the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager Visa. For U.S. companies, this is an excellent way to move great overseas talent to the U.S. to staff difficult to fill jobs.
Other solutions to be considered include:
- Do not post job requirements that are not essential to do the job, as doing so eliminates many potentially great hires.
- Do not focus on skills, focus on attitude. Skills can be taught; attitude cannot.
- Do not worry about how much past experience an employee has; focus on the future.
- Increase cash and non-cash compensation.
- Provide new training to the great workers you already have on the team.
A Note to Great Workers
We receive inquiries almost every week from great workers who would like to spend a few years working in the U.S. This enables them to build their resumes while having a challenging work and cultural experience. We are not recruiters or human resources consultants. Rather, we are business plan consultants with experience in preparing business plans that may be required by the immigration authorities throughout the world. Let us know if you think we can help.