Insight Blog

Creating Opportunity in the Talent Shortage

Hiring managers tend to look at the current talent shortage as a challenge to overcome, but the reality is it’s not much different than anything else in our lives: it often comes down to our perspective. Is it really a challenge, or is it an opportunity? If it’s an opportunity, who stands to benefit from it? Because therein lies the solution, especially when it comes to talent. Is it possible that opportunities exist to address it while providing someone with an opportunity to change, evolve, and grow in their career? If so, we just need to search for who that someone is. The result – a win-win situation for the organization and the individual.

When we talk with our clients about redefining position descriptions and creating new roles, we think about talent from their point of view – what makes sense in terms of their organizational chart, what skills are transferrable to bring more diversity to the table, what is the cost-benefit of additional team-members, and how can they improve areas that are lacking in their department with these changes. A majority of our work is consulting; talking these things out with our partners and devising a strategic, comprehensive plan for what the ideal talent might look like and how they’ll fit into the organizational culture. All of this requires our clients, and us, to be proactive and creative in our talent management and recruitment. 

Recently, Helbling’s Northeast Executive Director, Jim Lord, attended the 2019 SCUP North Atlantic Regional Conference in Rochester, NY and learned of a creative solution being used to address the talent and labor shortage within higher education facilities teams. I sat down with him to discuss what they’re doing, and how this idea might inspire other solutions that organizations may not be considering.

To start, I asked Jim, “Can you give me an overview of the talent and labor shortage solution that so clearly caught your attention?

“In higher education institutions, attracting talent from the housekeeping staff is a possible way to address the shortage of skilled trades-people within the facilities department. In this scenario, the solution was derived from two key questions: 1.) Where do job tasks and skillsets overlap? 2.) Does this create an opportunity for individual growth? I overheard that at one university, a team of 700 facilities professionals is expected to dwindle by 50% come 2021 – a mere two years from now. To counter that, a training and development program for interested individuals in housekeeping is underway so that in 2021, that percentage can be cut in half. Talk about being proactive!”

This got me thinking, what makes sense for our other industry clients? 

So, I asked Jim, “What made housekeepers transferrable? Where is healthcare’s transferrable person?”

He explained, “You have to look at who is closest and most aware of facilities issues and determine their growth potential. Housekeepers are usually on the frontline of facilities issues. Housekeepers cover the whole campus on a daily basis in many instances. So, when it comes to other institutions such as healthcare, in addition to housekeeping, similar positions on the frontlines would be, say, people in the transport division. Transportation is an entry-level position (for the most part), meaning there would also be growth opportunity for those professionals should they transfer into facilities.”
 
“To find those professionals interested in growing their career requires the same techniques organizations already use to manage and develop their top performers. Look at things like people’s decision-making process; their desire for help, guidance, and advice; and those who tend to simply take on more responsibility. Developing talent is as much a skill as finding it, and your next wave of facilities professionals could very well already be at your organization,” Jim stated.

I asked Jim, “What about cultural institutions that have smaller facilities teams? Where do they find opportunity in the talent shortage?” 

Jim said, “Many cultural facilities are a bit more complex in their maintenance standards. To develop the necessary skillsets early on, we see some of our institutional clients partnering with trade schools or having their facilities professionals work the local talent pool by teaching at these schools or community colleges to identify top traits. My advice would be to encourage your staff to participate in the community because it not only benefits your organization through the ability to attract talent, but it educates the future of the facilities industry and keeps them up-to-speed on changes and advancements.” 

I had to ask, “What are other possible options organizations can consider to tackle the talent and labor shortage if they don’t have a large department staff size or are small- to mid-size companies?”

Jim stated, “Automation is a good answer, and is often what people are employing today. If you can’t find opportunities within the organization, and don’t have the manpower to look outside the company for talent, you can always enhance efficiencies to grapple with the talent and labor shortage. Building control systems and automation systems that take some of the burden off people when it comes to building maintenance and operations – although a potentially pricey endeavor in the beginning – can pay great dividends in the future. But, as stated previously, this must be a proactive approach. If you are aware that your team will diminish (say by half the size) a couple years from now, you need to begin to have these conversations today.” 

Tackling workforce development in response to the talent and labor shortage sometimes seems like one of the biggest challenges we face today; but it needn’t be. For your organization, part of the solution may be as simple as taking a closer look at the company as a whole to identify areas of opportunity and evaluating your team to look for people with long-lasting career goals. At the end of the day, many people can be cross-trained; most people have a willingness to learn and grow – and if you can support students at schools that are already involved in the training process, that’s even better. Proactively think outside the box, and talk to us if you aren’t sure where to start – our lines are always open.