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COVID has left its mark in many ways over the last many months, disrupting norms and creating new trends. This is particularly true when it comes to employment labor markets, which continue to evolve as a result. Certainly, changes in consumer behaviors have driven some of these shifts. But more importantly, employee preferences and changing work environments have been equally as powerful. As a result, many companies are being impacted by a U.S. talent shortage and having to reevaluate their approach. And based on employment trends in 2021, it’s clear that the same strategies will be needed for 2022.

The employment and talent acquisition outlook for 2022 will build upon employment trends in 2021. Without question, a U.S. talent shortage will persist, which means companies will need to become more creative. Different strategies will be needed to attract talented workers. Likewise, businesses will need to invest in talent development in an effort to stay competitive. And, perhaps most importantly, companies will need to develop stronger employee relationships in an effort to better meet their needs. Despite a concerning employment and talent acquisition outlook for 2022, these strategies offer employers significant hope for the coming year.

“There has been a decisive shift towards a ‘we’ economy which demands organizations to inculcate the value of transparency, culture building and trust while at the same time creating a global, borderless talent hunt.” – Aditya Pal Singh, Director Head Talent Acquisition, Informatica

Overview of Today’s Talent Market

Based on global surveys, the most notable employment trends in 2021 relate to talent shortages. Many countries and economies, including the U.S., have been affected by limited talent supplies as the pandemic’s intensity decreases. This has occurred as a result of two competing phenomena. On the one hand, many workers are concerned about their safety and health in returning to in-person work. In fact, roughly 90% prefer to continue with remote work and flexible work arrangements. At the same time, hiring intentions among employers have increased. U.S. companies specifically report a 25% increase in hiring intentions this year. Both of these factors have resulted in the current U.S. talent shortage that exists.

Overall, seven out of 10 businesses worldwide state they are experiencing difficulties filling labor positions. This has affected some areas more than others. The employment trends in 2021 have shown particularly growth in technology-related job demand. Likewise, positions in sales, marketing, operations, logistics, and manufacturing have also increased. While many factors account for these trends, consumer preferences for online retail and other activities is a major one. And many local companies have struggled to keep pace with this demand as U.S. talent shortages persist. Heading into 2022, it is likely these same struggles will continue to be a problem for many businesses.

“…[I]t’s the soft skills that matter [such as] complex problem solving, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence, communication and learnability…candidates who are self-motivated learners on the lookout towards upskilling themselves are what organizations ultimately want to recruit.” – Vishwas Deep, Vice President – Global Talent Acquisition Head, Wipro Limited

A Shift in Talent and Skills Needed

For businesses, consumer preferences routinely determine which labor talent and skills are needed. This has certainly been the case recently as the recent employment trends in 2021 have shown. On the one hand, companies need individuals with expertise and talents in various technologies. The shift to remote work with online collaboration and videoconferencing account for some of this. (Read more on the pandemic-driven innovations in online collaboration and videoconferencing in this Bold story.) But the boom in online shopping and commerce has also driven these needs. Unfortunately, there remains a notable U.S. talent shortage in these areas when it comes to workers.

A person using an unusually large magnifying glass
U.S. talent acquisition was a tough nut to crack in 2021, but 2022 should be better.

Technology skills, however, are not the only ones needed. As employment trends in 2021 have also shown, soft social skills are also in high demand. Companies are seeking individuals who take initiative, embrace accountability, and demonstrate reliability and adaptability. They also want employees adept at problem-solving and leadership while exerting positive social influence. Of course, not everyone has these skills, and a U.S. talent shortage exists in this area as well. As a result, a mismatch between the talent available and the talent needed will likely persist into 2022.

“Organizations must not simply offer a job but a long-term career which offers opportunities for strong-work collaboration; there has to be greater focus on health and wellness with a family centric approach along with building engagement with your employees and offering opportunities for continuous learning.” – Geeta Gwalani, Global Head of HR – BFSI Platforms, Tata Consultancy Services

Strategies to Offset the U.S. Talent Shortages

Employment trends in 2021 have forced many companies to invest in new approaches when it comes to talent acquisition. One of the most important involves enhanced flexibility for workers. Now accustomed to remote work and a healthier work-life balance, highly-talented workers are prioritizing this in their job searches. Unfortunately, only 27% of employers are offering this despite 93% of workers wanting increased flexibility. (Dive deeper into the exclusive Bold Business study that provided these numbers–check out this story!) Thus, companies can address the U.S. talent shortages more effectively if they simply adopt a different mindset in this area.

These are not the only strategies needed, however, in an effort to deal with U.S. talent shortages. Companies should also encourage and support continuous learning and skill development among existing employees. Similarly, businesses should attempt to build employee resilience and trust through transparency and effective communications. And they must also begin to meet employee wellness needs to ensure better long-term performance and productivity. This not only includes attending to physical wellness but to mental health needs as well. Recent employment trends in 2021 show that the more highly-performing companies are those that focus on these areas as well.

Adapting to a Highly Dynamic World

The pandemic has introduced a significant degree of volatility when it comes to employment and talent acquisition. The employment trends in 2021 demonstrate that not every company will be able to acquire all the talent they need. Given that employees now prefer greater work flexibility and autonomy, businesses will need to adapt. Also, changes in consumer behaviors will continue to drive different hiring choices. The bottom line is that companies must embrace change in an effort to best deal with the ongoing U.S. talent shortage. Not only is resistance to change futile, but it’s likely to have lasting negative impacts for years to come.

 

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