The populations of the New England states are among the oldest in the nation, with baby boomers dominating the labor force. There are fewer babies born each year in New England, and the majority of the labor force is age 55 and over. This all points to a labor pool that is older than most.
So how can area employers ensure that they have an effective and productive workforce?
Untapped Labor Pools
The first thing to consider is giving attention to job seekers that might not come from your typical applicant pool.
Here are a few untapped groups to consider:
- Veterans, people with disabilities, refugees, and immigrants – These groups face a much higher than average unemployment rate, at times higher than 50 percent.
- Non-traditionally-aged college students – This group went to school during the recession and is graduating in high numbers. While they may lack direct work experience, they have great transferable skills, knowledge and current industry training.
- Semi-retired workers aged 60+ – This group is likely be interested in part-time positions or job sharing opportunities.
- People with criminal histories – Assuming their criminal records are not related to your line of business, these candidates can be a good option. Applicants in this group may also be eligible for bonding which will protect you against liabilities.
Too Many Unnecessary Requirements
Here are some questions to consider about the job qualifications.
- Could great skills replace direct work experience? Recent graduates, veterans, and others with plenty of work experience, but no “direct” experience, are often turned down for jobs. Workers in this group have strong work-readiness skills, along with the desirable soft-skills often found in mature workers. They know the importance of showing up on time and are ready to work and willing to learn. Job specific skills can be easily taught, but it’s much harder to teach the important soft skills.
- Does an applicant really need a post-secondary degree? This is a screening tool that may keep otherwise qualified candidates from applying. You’re likely to find a veteran or other highly-skilled candidate from another industry who possesses the skills to perform the job. With or without a degree, these applicants they have proven in their previous jobs that they can learn and be trained to succeed.
- Is it essential for applicants to be able to lift a certain amount to fulfill the job requirements? By having these often irrelevant requirements, you could be screening out women or older workers who are otherwise qualified for the job.
- Is it necessary to have one person work 40 hours, or could two people split the hours? Sharing hours could work out for both you and your employees. It’s a creative option for those hard to fill open positions and can help increase your applicant pool.
- Is a certain level of English, reading, or math skills truly required to perform the job duties? This might be another way in which you are unnecessarily screening out applicants.
- Should you make changes to pre-employment assessments? Are otherwise qualified applicants being kept from making it to the interview process because of your screening measures? For a person whose first language is not English, most pre-employment assessments are likely to screen out people whose first language is not English even if they are able to perform the necessary job tasks.
Responsive Local Companies
Several creative New England companies, including Proctor and Gamble, UNUM, and L.L.Bean, have taken a proactive approach to the changing workforce. These companies practice recruiting from the population pools that, on the surface, may appear to have more risk than benefit. You would be wise to study and learn from them.
Companies that have been implementing creative strategies to hire more diverse applicant groups agree that such recruiting brings a workforce that is reliable, loyal and diverse. In addition, they’ve found that their employment practices improves the reputation of both the company and the community. They’ve also discovered that there is often an increase in productivity when hiring people from these targeted groups.
These changes can seem like a big risk, but the option of doing nothing to address the changing labor force can be even riskier.