Help still wanted, global talent crunch persists

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global employers still have trouble finding the right people for open positions, even as candidate resumes pile up amid recession.

A man reads job offers posted at a job fair in Moscow May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

A global talent crunch has eased slightly, but is set to worsen in coming years because of demographic trends, according to an annual survey by global employment services company Manpower Inc.

Worldwide, 30 percent of employers reported trouble filling positions because of the lack of suitable talent, down slightly from 31 percent who said so a year ago, according to Manpower, which polled 39,000 employers in 33 countries.

While many more people are looking for work, they often lack the skills, or experience, that employers need.

“Work is getting more complex, employers are looking for more specific skills, so there is more of a mismatch between supply and demand,” said Mara Swan, Manpower’s executive vice president for global strategy and talent.

The trend points to a looming shortage of skilled workers -- or “talent shortage” -- that will emerge once economies recover, according to Manpower. The working population is aging in both developed and emerging economies, while lower birth rates point to a dwindling supply of workers in coming decades.

Employers need to be ready.

“(The recession) gives a false feeling that this is not something we need to spend time on,” Swan said. “As employers, it may be making us a little lazy, because it makes us think it’s not going to happen.”

For the second year in a row, vacancies were hardest to fill in skilled trades, which include electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Sales representatives ranked second on the global list, followed by technicians, engineers and managers.

Manpower found stark regional differences.

Majorities of those surveyed in Romania, Taiwan, Peru and Japan reported feeling the talent shortage, and employers in Australia, Costa Rica and Poland also had problems matching people with jobs.

By contrast, their counterparts in Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom had far less trouble filling positions. In India, 80 percent of employers have no difficulty matching candidates and jobs; 85 percent said so in China.

In the United States, where engineers and nurses are most in demand, the talent crunch has eased amid recession. Nineteen percent of those surveyed said they faced a crunch, down from 22 percent a year earlier, and less than half the figure in 2006.


When there is excess supply of workers, like now, companies can be picky about whom they hire, but once the talent shortage deepens, it becomes more important for companies to manage their image, or “employer brand,” Swan said.

Some companies do a good job of managing their brand, such as Finland’s Nokia, which asks potential employees if they want to work at the heart of the mobile Internet revolution, or Apple Inc, which trumpets its design capabilities. In such places, new hires know what they are getting into.

Key for employers is keeping their message consistent with what new hires actually experience. If it is not consistent, worker morale suffers, and so can the brand, especially given the proliferation of social networking sites and anonymous company reviews on sites like

“If you’re not actively managing your brand, someone else is going to,” Manpower’s Swan said.

Editing by Matthew Lewis