By MAureen Werther
Human resource professionals say finding and retaining good employees has been a challenge as the unemployment rate drops and the demand for qualified workers continues to grow.
Michael Cruz, owner and principal of Lighthouse Advisors LLC in Queensbury, works with CEOs to help build their teams and figure out if they’ve got the right people. He helps clients identify issues and examine the root causes of problems in the workplace.
A key role of Lighthouse Advisors, he said, is to help CEOs “build a framework” for evaluating the people on a client’s team and the roles for which they will be best suited to achieve the company’s mission and objectives.
It’s not just upper management that is Cruz’s focus. He noted an example of a company that was experiencing ongoing problems in its shipping department. The wrong items were being sent to customers and cross-shipping was occurring. The answer was not that the company had the wrong people in the shipping department, he said. They had the wrong process. The people in the shipping department were crucial in both identifying where the process was going wrong and helping find a solution.
“When you have the right people working for you, they will help you solve the problem,” said Cruz. “I encourage my clients to really think through what they are looking for in a new hire. Do they need a critical thinker? Or someone with great technical skills?” he said.
Regarding the issue of hiring across generations, Cruz said he encourages clients to focus on the right skill sets and not on the age of a candidate.
He also said many companies may have people already in their organizations who they simply haven’t developed. Perhaps rather than looking externally, it might be better to mentor and move existing employees along. Cruz noted that companies are often looking for a “fast fix” and the latter option is a “longer term fix.”
He cautioned that when companies are too hasty in their hiring, they often end up bringing on the wrong person.
Rose Miller, SPHR and president of Pinnacle Human Resources LLC, said there is a need for more training of the current and future workforce.
Miller sits on the board of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, which recently conducted a survey of its membership to assess the number of job opportunities available in the Capital Region.
Of the 2,500 members surveyed, 185 companies responded. Those 185 companies had 2,622 job opportunities listed on Indeed, with nearly 13,000 additional jobs that were not being advertised on a job search site and that are still unfilled.
According to Miller, 40 percent of those jobs were classified as requiring “soft skills,” such as reliability, ability to work as part of a team, strong written and verbal skills and other desirable traits.
The other 60 percent of those jobs required “technical” skills. Miller was careful to note that the term refers in this context to having the necessary skills required to do the job, whether it is an administration position where proficiency in multiple computer programs is required, or if the position requires an engineer, scientist, programmer, and other professions.
She said there are indicators of a labor shortage and more comprehensive training will be necessary to fill jobs with qualified candidates.
She said while many people point to a shortage of skilled workers in digital and technology jobs, the healthcare industry has surpassed technology in having difficulty finding enough people to fill all the positions that are open.
She said such shortages will continue to be an issue, and both institutions of higher learning and employers will have to re-think how to prepare people for workplace.