According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “If every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have nearly 5.4 million open jobs.” The ongoing national labor shortage can be attributed to a variety of factors, and it’s especially exacerbated by a national immigrant shortage. Immigration hit a wall when the pandemic emerged in 2020, resulting in the lowest immigration levels in decades.
The pandemic magnified workplace issues as employees quit their jobs in droves, demanding better working conditions, and well-being replaced productivity as “the top factor driving change to workplace strategies” in 2021, according to the NTT 2021 Global Workplace Report.
As business leaders navigate the challenges that come with a strained labor market, embracing technology across the board with AI integration, automation, workflow optimization, and digital onboarding can help fill jobs, improve the quality of work and worker well-being, and maximize operational efficiency, thus helping increase both retention and productivity.
USING AI TO STREAMLINE JOB OPPORTUNITIES AND FILL JOBS EFFICIENTLY
According to the CompTIA Workforce and Learning Trends 2021 report, about 80% of HR professionals believe AI will have a moderate-to-significant impact on HR and recruiting in 2022. One in four organizations “plan to start using or increase their use of automation or AI in recruitment and hiring in the next five years,” according to SHRM research.
AI algorithms have the power to radically change the future of work by sifting through millions of data points to match the right person with the right role. In a strained labor market, matching someone according to their specific skill set, geographic location, and profile to the right job could significantly improve the recruitment process and fill jobs more efficiently, which is especially important in the skilled trades.
Companies that function as job-matching platforms for freelancers, gig economy workers, and skilled trade professionals seeking work can increase customer satisfaction by filling jobs faster and providing complementary services they may not have been able to provide without using the power of AI.
LEVERAGING PLATFORMS TO MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCY OF DAY-TO-DAY WORKFLOWS
People in leadership roles aren’t the only ones feeling the ramifications of the labor shortage—workers and skilled trade professionals are feeling the strain, too. They’re taking on more work and trying to balance a myriad of responsibilities as they manage administrative and day-to-day tasks.
Embracing platforms that optimize daily operations can help ease worker strain while simultaneously boosting employee engagement—a win/win situation. Delegating routine tasks to automated systems can help people to save time and focus on the core functions of their jobs, which in turn can increase worker satisfaction and retention. I believe this should be a priority for employers, as research shows that employee experience benefits both revenue and customer experience.
According to Deloitte Insights, there’s a growing interest in digitizing employee workflow, yet deployment rates are low. That means there’s an untapped opportunity for businesses to embrace technology and train workers with the skills required to excel in the digital transition. According to NTT’s 2021 Global Workplace Report, “Leading organizations are much further ahead in their uptake of workplace analytics, workflow management software, and artificial intelligence and machine learning support.”
For the skilled trades, that might mean providing apprentices with ways to teach themselves the required skills they need to start working as quickly as possible. AI-based platforms can use data from previous workers to understand what each apprentice needs and provide the right knowledge at the right time.
EMBRACING DIGITAL ONBOARDING TO SET WORKERS UP FOR SUCCESS
In today’s digital world, workers expect a seamless onboarding experience to integrate them into their role and equip them with the tools they need to succeed. This is especially true when it comes to Gen Z, a generation that looks for a warm remote welcome from their employer, according to Great Place to Work.
According to a recent Gallup survey, only 12% of employees think their organization “does a great job onboarding new employees,” which can be a significant barrier to employee retention. Digital onboarding can allow for a consistent process for all workers, while also helping employers collect data on how new workers are adjusting so they can better support them, potentially increasing overall retention. The beginnings of a new job are crucial to creating a sense of belonging and connection, and can result in turnover if the job doesn’t fulfill expectations set during the recruitment process.
This rings even truer for freelance marketplaces where workers have the freedom to work with several platforms at once. Platforms offering the most seamless onboarding experiences can attract the most users.
CAPITALIZING ON AI TO IMPROVE TALENT MANAGEMENT
According to the CompTIA Workforce and Learning Trends 2021 report, over 75% of HR leaders “expect to increase the tools they use to personalize talent development activities.” AI can bring more personalization to talent management when it comes to career development, skill evaluations, activities, and training, which can increase talent satisfaction and retention. Personalization also allows HR professionals to improve the development of a talent pipeline over time, making it a long-term solution to the ongoing labor shortage rather than a quick fix.
For the gig economy, AI can assist with providing workers with a growth path that matches their current skill level and offering ways for them to connect as a community. Although freelancing means more flexibility, it also means less daily interaction with colleagues and peers. AI-based marketplaces can leverage technology to ensure freelance workers can grow and network through community-building, events, and apprenticeships.
THE FUTURE OF WORK DEPENDS ON EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY
I believe mitigating the labor shortage with AI-based technology and automation is crucial to the future of work, as it can assist in training workers, up-skilling workers, improving efficiency across the board, and ensuring that people remain the priority. Companies that embrace workflow optimization and digital tools with open arms may be the most likely to overcome the challenges that a nationwide labor shortage brings forth, allowing for longstanding success.
Shay Bloch is the co-founder and CEO of Jobox.ai