Having trouble finding qualified workers? That's understandable, given microscopic unemployment rates in many areas.
In October the U.S. jobless rate stood at 4.6 percent. Twelve states reported rates below 3.5 percent — Minnesota had the lowest seasonally adjusted rate, 2.2 percent.
Canada's unemployment rate is down, too — 8.1 percent in October, the lowest level since July 1990.
It's all great news, of course. But if this trend of low unemployment persists, it threatens to be the No. 1 challenge facing North American businesses. Lack of adequate staffing hampers a company's ability to grow — not the mention the headaches and hard work associated with constantly searching for new workers.
The secrets to attracting and retaining good workers aren't really secrets. We see examples every day of companies that have been unusually successful using these proven formulas:
Give workers a stake in the company. Profit sharing, employee stock plans and similar gadgets provide workers with a psychological feeling of ownership and an incentive to stay and watch that stake grow.
Invest in training. Don't make ambitious workers look elsewhere for opportunities to learn new skills and advance.
Offer flexible scheduling. This is one strategy that most companies think they follow, but in reality they fail miserably. Many companies advertise that they offer flexible hours, but what they mean is new hires must work nights or weekends. Being truly flexible means making a concerted effort to work around employees' school and child-care schedules.
Add equipment that improves productivity. Automate tasks when possible — let humans do the work that robots can't.
Broaden your hiring horizon. Take part in job fairs and college recruiting trips. Make an effort to reach workers in pockets of higher unemployment, like urban areas.
If the economy stays healthy, the hiring picture won't get any easier. The long-term outlook is for more of the same, thanks to the demographics of the aging population. Companies will need to be proactive to find and keep the best workers — but it will be worth the effort.