How to Survive the Sansdemic

The pandemic has been top-of-mind for nearly two full years now and with good reason. It has had an impact on almost every area of our daily lives. But are you aware of the sansdemic? And most importantly, is your company prepared to weather the storm?

The sansdemic refers to the significant worker shortage we’re seeing across industries of all sorts. It’s more than a short-term blip; it’s a generational shortfall that will require strategic planning and smart preparation to manage.

In PrideStaff’s new whitepaper, Building Your Talent Pipeline to Compete in the Sansdemic, we take a look at what is driving the worker shortage and offer solutions for employers who need to compete during a time when hiring is more difficult than ever. Keep reading to learn about our key takeaways.

What is the Sansdemic?

Sansdemic is a term coined by EMSI, a leading provider of labor market data. The term means “without people” or “without enough people.” The sansdemic is a growing demographic drought, projected to continue worsening throughout this century. To put it simply, there are more open jobs than there are people to fill them—or people who are willing to fill them. And that impacts all sorts of industries, from manufacturing and finance to engineering and IT.

What’s Causing the Sansdemic?

Why exactly is this labor shortage happening? It’s easy to assume the COVID-19 pandemic is the root cause of the sansdemic, but that’s not the whole story. The pandemic may have accelerated the shortage, but it wasn’t the cause. The truth is that it’s a complex issue with various factors contributing to the problem, including Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, declining birth rates, and shrinking labor participation.

Boomers are Starting to Retire

In an average year, about 2 million Baby Boomers retire. In 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, that number jumped to more than 3 million. Many of those retiring workers cited COVID-related policies and concerns as the reason for their choice. Some were worried about their health, while others retired in order to help their children with childcare or homeschooling. Some Boomers retired because they didn’t see the value in remote work when that became the norm.

Birth Rates are Declining

Back in 1970, the total fertility rate in America dropped below 2.1 as Boomers averaged less than two children per one woman. The result? The population hasn’t grown as much as it normally would have, leaving us with fewer total workers fifty years later. According to data from Brookings, the latest census shows the second smallest decade-long population growth in the country’s history. This is certainly a factor in the labor shortage now, especially as Boomers start to retire and have fewer people in the generation below to replace them.

Labor Participation is Declining

Another reason for the sansdemic: Overall participation in the labor market is declining. Fewer people are actively looking for work. Part of this, according to Bloomberg, can be attributed to more people—particularly young men—living with their parents without a college degree, and not making employment a priority. There’s also the gig economy to consider. Many can now make a living wage by working one or multiple “gig” jobs, such as working for a delivery service or a rideshare company as an independent contractor. For some, having this alternative option means they don’t have the need to return to full-time employment.

COVID’s Impact on the Labor Shortage

While COVID itself isn’t the sole reason for the sansdemic, its impact can’t be discounted. Many people left their jobs, or were laid off, when the pandemic hit, and haven’t returned to the workforce. Between February of 2020 and February of 2021, 2.4 million women left the labor market, compared to 1.8 million men. This is because of the industries that were hurt most by the pandemic and because of inequitable family obligations such as childcare. To put it simply, more women left their jobs in order to care for children and families than men did. And that has left many companies hurting.

As of March 2021, 19 million Americans have filed for some form of unemployment benefits, even though there are millions of jobs available. There are several reasons why employees aren’t returning: they feel unsafe, or they don’t have the resources for childcare, or they’re suffering from pandemic fatigue. Regardless, there’s no question that the pandemic has played a significant role in accelerating the sansdemic.

How Can Companies Survive the Talent Shortage?

We’ve learned why the sansdemic is happening: Baby Boomers leaving the workforce, a declining birthrate, less labor market participation, and the pandemic. So, what can your company do to prepare as the labor shortage gets worse? How can you survive the sansdemic and come out successfully?

Here are four ways to weather the talent shortage:

Improve the Candidate Experience

Remember: Job seekers assume that every interaction with your company is a preview of what it’s like to be your employee. That’s why the candidate’s experience is such an important part of the process.

  • Leverage social media outlets to showcase why your company is a great place to work – highlight culture initiatives, team building, team member showcases, etc.
  • Audit your brand messaging and candidate-facing technology to make sure you’re making a great first impression – always position your company as one that values its employees.
  • Simplify your job seeker intake – make it easy to search for jobs and apply on desktop and mobile.
  • Keep up communication – communicate with candidates clearly and often to keep them engaged.
  • Offer the benefits today’s talent wants – health insurance, PTO, flexible scheduling, parental leave, professional development, retirement, student debt help, and more.

Improve the Employee Experience

Of course, keeping your employees happy is just as important to weathering the talent shortage as keeping candidates happy is. Especially in the age of COVID, it’s more important than ever that you focus on employee health and well-being, and overall employee satisfaction as well.

  • Provide flexible work options – allow employees to choose their hours or institute a hybrid or fully remote work schedule.
  • Offer family-friendly benefits – insurance plans that include domestic partners, childcare benefits, etc.
  • Volunteer time off (VTO) – offer opportunities for employees to give back to the community during their time off.
  • Offer wellness perks – quiet rooms, fitness club memberships, vaccination clinics, stress-reduction programs, etc.

Use Creative Employee Retention Tactics

Turnover is costly in more ways than one. Focusing on employee retention, all the way from initial hire through every phase of an employee’s tenure, is imperative. Getting creative with your employee retention tactics means:

  • Improve onboarding – include all in-person and virtual onboarding that’s needed to get a new employee up to speed from day one.
  • Maintain training and development – offer multiple learning platforms for employees to learn and grow at their own pace and create clear 3- to 5-year plans for career development.
  • Make sure management is engaged – managers must maintain regular communication and feedback with employees, demonstrating that your company values your employees at every stage.
  • Implement stay and exit interviews – this makes it easy for employees to share why they choose to stay with your company, or why they’ve chosen to move on, allowing you to use their feedback to make improvements.

Recruit Beyond Traditional Demographics

Does your organization have a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) program in place? One goal of such programs is to cast a wider net when it comes to recruiting.

  • Remember that diverse recruiting goes beyond race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation – it also includes the neurodivergent, those with disabilities, and people leaving rehabilitation or incarceration.
  • Look for transferable skills – people coming from other industries may have skills that you want and need.
  • Consider veterans – those who served in the military can bring leadership, loyalty, and a willingness to learn.

Surviving the Sansdemic

All things considered, surviving the sansdemic involves doing things that are considered good practices at any time: improving the experience for both candidates and employees, using creative retention strategies to keep employees happy and engaged, and recruiting in a diverse way so as to pull talent from all walks of life. But doubling down on these efforts during this particularly difficult time is the best way to navigate the talent shortage we’re currently seeing and continue to find—and retain—great people for your company.

Want to see PrideStaff’s whitepaper, Building Your Talent Pipeline to Compete in the Sansdemic, for yourself? Click here to download the report.

Find Great People with PrideStaff

Another way to beat the talent shortage? Partner with a recruitment firm with more than 40 years of experience in the staffing business. PrideStaff can help you build a comprehensive workforce plan to overcome the talent drought—we’ll help you forecast talent requirements and shortages, create an actionable staffing and recruiting strategy, improve your productivity and engagement, and much more.

Contact our team today to discover how we can help you access qualified staff, develop top talent, and build a workforce that will fit, stay, and perform.