Companies Struggle Finding Workers in Five Fields

While many college grads lament the difficulties of finding meaningful work with good wages, there’s another side to the employment story. Companies lament the difficulties of finding workers – especially skilled ones – and keeping them. According to Randstad’s 2016 Workplace Trends Report, 79% of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find applicants who meet the job description […]

BY Terri Williams

Companies Struggle Finding Workers in Five Fields

While many college grads lament the difficulties of finding meaningful work with good wages, there’s another side to the employment story. Companies lament the difficulties of finding workers – especially skilled ones – and keeping them. According to Randstad’s 2016 Workplace Trends Report, 79% of hiring managers say it’s difficult to find applicants who meet the job description for open positions.

Also, 41% of hiring managers say their turnover rate has increased in the past year, as employees are being lured away by competitors offering more money. However, an increase in wages is just one of the reasons some employees weigh the pros and cons of job-hopping.

But many organizations report their struggles finding workers in key areas negatively affects the bottom line. Hiring managers in the Randstad survey cite an inadequate supply of talented workers as “the second biggest threat to meeting revenue or business performance goals.”

According to the survey, these are 5 hardest positions to fill when it comes to finding workers:

  • Information technology workers
  • Executive talent and leadership
  • Sales and marketing professionals
  • Engineering workers
  • Manufacturing and logistics staff

GoodCall took a closer look at these five categories and asked experts to weigh in on difficulties involved in finding workers and keeping them.

Finding workers: Information technology

It’s no secret that IT workers are in high demand. In a previous GoodCall article, Dino Grigorakakis, vice president of recruiting at Randstad, recommends job-hopping for IT workers, revealing that those who change jobs every four years could earn over 40% more during the course of 20 years.

Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America, agrees the need for quality IT talent remains high around the globe and says companies need to compete aggressively for the best workers. “Skill gaps in areas like big data, analytics, security and software development are widening; at the same time, the process of recruiting and hiring tech talent is lengthening, due in part to struggles to find right-fit talent,” Link says.

So how difficult is it to fill IT positions? John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology, says his company’s research shows that 61% of chief information officers report challenges finding skilled IT workers. “Part of the struggle is simply the gap between the number of skilled technology professionals and the number of roles available; additionally, employers are seeking tech savvy people who also possess great soft skills, which also adds to the complexity,” Reed says.

Those with experience in highly sought skills may receive multiple job offers, says Reed, concluding, “This makes sound recruitment strategies and quick decisions from employers even more important.”

Executive talent and leadership

Across all industries, Link says there’s a challenge to find executive and leadership talent. “Survey respondents indicated that the average time spent to hire a non-executive candidate is 2.5 months but it takes twice as long to find key leadership or executive talent,” says Link.

But companies may be reaping what they have sown, according to leadership consultant Mark C. Crowley, author of Lead from the Heart: Transformational Leadership for the 21st Century. Crowley explains that after the recession, the job market was flooded with good workers and companies used this surplus to avoid raising salaries and investing in their workers. “Now that unemployment has fallen below 5 percent, two-thirds of U.S. companies still have yet to pivot by increasing compensation, so it’s not surprising that 4 in 10 companies have experienced a spike in turnover this year.”

However, Crowley thinks pay is just one part of the solution. “We’ve reached a point where the best leaders now get to choose where they go, and while a rich pay package will surely be enticing, it will no longer be fully persuasive.” Crowley tells GoodCall,   “What the best leaders want above pay today is a compelling mission, a team of workers who can execute their initiatives, and a sense that the leadership team to which they’ll soon belong has built a robust organizational culture.” Because many organizations have failed to create this type of environment, Crowley says they will struggle to attract top talent.

Sales and marketing

Many might be surprised to see sales and marketing professionals on a list of the top five hardest positions to fill. However, this isn’t your grandfather’s sales environment. According to Link, “Sales strategies must evolve alongside technological advancements and the need for customer centricity, and sales professionals must bring a new set of skills to the table in order to thrive.”

Among perceived gaps, Link says work ethic is the most common complaint. Employers also say job applicants don’t have relevant experience or industry experience, and they lack soft skills, all of which makes finding workers more difficult.

However, demand for sales and marketing professionals may vary, depending on the position. Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group, tells GoodCall that 41% of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by her company lament the difficulty of finding creative professionals. “Many companies are looking for sales and marketing professionals with specific, high-demand skill sets, and these individuals may be reluctant to leave stable positions,” explains Domeyer.  And to successfully recruit these individuals, she says that companies need not only competitive compensation packages, but they also have to highlight parts of their corporate culture that would appeal to potential applicants.


Engineering firms are feeling the pressure from a variety of sources. “America’s engineering leaders feel increasing competitive pressure from globalization, digital innovation, and the recent slowdown in growth,” Link says. This industry is facing other obstacles as well. Link explains: “Due to an aging engineering workforce, and a smaller pipeline of engineering students in some sectors, the need for talent will only rise as the sector continues to rebound.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Juli Smith, president of the Jackson, MI-based Smith Consulting Group – especially in civil engineering. Smith tells GoodCall, “If you were going into your freshman or sophomore year of college during the recession or graduating during the 2007-2011 years, there were very few civil engineering firms hiring interns.” As a result, she says many engineers went back to school and earned a degree in another field. “So now, there is a large vacuum for talent in the market for civil engineers with 5-10 years of experience.”

Manufacturing and logistics

Manufacturing is another industry facing a void as a result of retiring workers, and Link says there are close to 600,000 unfilled U.S. manufacturing jobs. “Backfilling existing positions vacant due to turnover, in addition to selecting candidates for new positions to support growth objectives, are proving to be difficult endeavors for most manufacturing and logistics employers,” Link says.

The situation has become so dire that Don Hicks tells GoodCall that there is a supply-chain talent emergency. Hicks is the CEO of LLamasoft, a supply chain design, analytics and modeling consultancy, and he says there are shortages across the board: executives, managers, analysts and truck drivers.  “Because supply chains are more global, mistakes people make are felt around the world, and ultimately, those roles just aren’t easily outsourced.”

Hicks believes that the nature of supply chain work also contributes to the shortage of these workers. “It stretches from technically savvy to highly articulate in business and communications skills – the cross-function of skills is highly unique,” he says.

The millennial factor

While there are various factors contributing to the difficulty of finding workers and retaining them in these five areas, Ryan Naylor, founder of, believes there’s another issue that must be addressed. “Most companies are missing the deep understanding of the largest labor demographic: millennials.” Naylor tells GoodCall, “No longer is a simple job description with roles and responsibilities working to attract A-players to your organization.”

Naylor warns that companies that don’t think like millennials will be left behind. He says it’s important for companies to understand their demographic – what they value and how they’re motivated. “Many positions are hard to fill, but not impossible if you understand your demographic and leverage the ‘purpose’ of your business to attract your next difficult hire,” Naylor says.