How to Help Understaffed Member Companies Become More Competitive in the Talent Marketplace

Spend any time on LinkedIn and you’ll see a slew of “we’re hiring” posts from association colleagues. It seems like everyone is looking for staff these days. What’s the situation in your association’s industry?

When member companies are short-staffed, they’re less likely to let employees attend your events or programs on the company’s time and dime. This reluctance is also why it’s harder to recruit volunteer leaders.

So how can your association help understaffed member companies resolve their hiring challenges? First, understand the real problem. Is this crisis endemic to the entire industry or is it isolated to certain companies?

If workers aren’t entering or staying in your industry, is it because of early retirement, concerns about safety, the desire for a better work-life balance, burnout, or better money or working conditions elsewhere? Your association’s mission compels you to find out why.

If the problem only affects some companies, is it because they don’t offer competitive compensation packages? Do they have a laborious hiring process or a reputation for a poor workplace culture? You have an opportunity to provide resources that can help these companies improve their hiring prospects while bringing you non-dues revenue.

understaffed member companies

Industry solutions for understaffed member companies

Although some tactics can deliver quick results, long-term solutions will position your industry for the future by helping employers attract and keep the best talent.

Establish an industry think tank

Follow the lead of the Nurse Staffing Task Force, a collaboration between the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, American Nurses Association, American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Healthcare Financial Management Association, and Institute for Healthcare Improvement. They established this think tank to “understand and analyze root causes of the nursing shortage” and “build the nursing workforce through long-term sustainable recruitment and retention solutions.”

Raise awareness with education

An association task force can take the lead on understanding and addressing underlying causes for staffing shortages and developing short- and long-term solutions. Start by educating industry executives and HR professionals about existing barriers to employee recruitment and retention. These virtual town halls, newsletter articles, webinars, and conference sessions should share in-house and third-party research specific to your industry. If you wish to invest in programs to help alleviate staffing shortages, you will need the attention and financial support of member companies and industry partners.

If workforce development is a concern, recruit a team of staff and volunteer leaders to work on this issue. Bring in experts to guide your strategy and educate members on how they can be part of the solution.

Launch PR and marketing campaigns

Don’t assume people outside your industry know what it’s like to work in it. Perhaps they never even thought about your industry or were aware of it. If you want to attract people to your industry or profession, you need to run regular PR, advertising, and marketing campaigns.

Market outside your usual channels and audiences. Use retargeting, social media ads, and search engine ads for audiences—students, recent graduates, and career changers—who are likely prospects for jobs in your industry.

Encourage non-competing employers to follow the franchise model of cooperative advertising: they pitch in money to run TV and/or radio ads on station syndicates across the country.

Besides promoting your profession or industry, you could also promote entry level or introductory credentials that help people get up to speed with industry knowledge and skills and become more attractive candidates for companies seeking talent.

The Women in Trucking Association launched a Driver Ambassador program to “promote the career opportunities women have in trucking, celebrate their accomplishments, remove obstacles female truck drivers face, and increase membership for the organization.” Ambassadors attend and speak at non-industry trade shows, provide media interviews, and give rides to legislators, regulators, and the media. The association shares videos promoting trucking as a viable career option for women and showcases success stories of women in the industry.

Provide media training to members who wish to volunteer as subject-matter experts for media requests. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out and other interview requests websites.

If you have student chapters or if members have relationships with fraternities and sororities, arrange visits so they can speak to students about their work and pathways to success.

Beef up your career center

Make sure your career center is offering answers to the questions of young adults and career changers. Schedule focus groups to find out what they need.

Identify industry employers with foundation arms. Perhaps they could provide a grant to help launch new career or educational services.

License corporate training modules

Employees of all generations are looking for employers who will support their professional development. Make it easy and enticing for employers to provide this benefit to staff. Offer introductory industry education and entry-level credentials. Employers might also appreciate frontline training—industry orientation and skills training—for customer-facing positions.

understaffed member companies

Help member companies compete in the talent marketplace

Give the association advantage to member companies by helping them position themselves against non-member competitors. Conduct and share research on what people value in employers and jobs in post-pandemic times.

Bring in industry recruiters (a lead generation opportunity for them) to review job postings and provide advice on making them more competitive. Educate member companies about typical shortcomings, such as:

•    Lack of salary information: many jobseekers ignore postings that don’t give a helpful salary range.

•    Vague language about “robust” benefits without sufficient details.

•    Too little vacation time: two weeks isn’t enough for many.

•    A list of responsibilities, but no sense of what the employee actually does.

•    Unclear language about remote or hybrid work. How many days are they expected in the office and are those days selected arbitrarily or purposefully?

•    A college degree requirement for work that doesn’t need it. The cost of college eliminates many talented candidates.

•    The salary doesn’t match the work. Some association postings look like the work of two people without the salary to match.

Jobseekers also avoid companies that draw out the hiring process over months and ask candidates to keep coming back for hours of interviews. It makes you wonder if the employer really knows what they’re looking for.

Employers usually don’t know when they’re a terrible place to work. However, word gets around the industry about management style, workload, and lack of respect for work/life boundaries.

Workforce management and compensation surveys reveal the industry norm to employers and help them understand whether they’re competitive, not only with salaries but benefit packages too, including support for professional development, association involvement, and remote work.

Your association can highlight successful in-person, remote, and hybrid workplace cultures with case study sessions, Ask-Me-Anything meetups, and newsletter articles. Invite industry recruiters to present webinars and sessions about competing in the talent marketplace.

As the industry convener and educator, your association can help attract, keep, and train talented professionals in your industry and show member companies how to be more competitive during the Great Resignation and beyond.

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