Good news emerged on the U.S. jobs front in July with a reported 5.8 million job openings - more than any time since the peak year of 2000. That means the economy is growing. But, the corresponding number of hires in that month was just 5 million-;a difference of 800,000 unfilled jobs. Couple those unfilled jobs with the 2.7 million workers who left their jobs voluntarily, and it’s easy to understand that companies of all sizes are experiencing volatile hiring situations. 

To make matters more complex, the labor participation rate - the percentage of workers actually working or looking for work - is shrinking as a percentage of the total available workforce. Baby Boomers are now really starting to retire, and there is growing concern about the skill sets becoming available as the tail end of the Gen Y and early members of Gen Z try to enter the labor pool. The bottom line is that it is getting harder and harder to find the talent we need where and when we need it.

Talent acquisition and staffing leaders, therefore, are becoming hyper-creative, using innovative approaches to find potential employees, create relationships with them, and entice them to join their organizations.

Some employers are hosting “LinkedIn Parties” for their employees in the hope that current employees will share their LinkedIn contacts for their employer’s use in outreach activities. (Whether this approach is legal is an issue currently being debated as the courts begin to wrestle with the ownership of personal social media information.) Legality aside, such sharing makes sense from the employer’s perspective: if we like the employees who currently work for us, the odds are good that we’ll like their friends, too.

One staffing leader in the healthcare industry hosts two internet radio shows each week emphasizing the work done in specific hospital departments where staff are in short supply, as well as highlighting individual leaders and the organization’s mission. This is driving higher job application rates.

A Midwestern manufacturer, needing a constant pipeline of specific technical skills, has created a relationship with a local high school and courts both parents and students to consider manufacturing careers. The employer’s pitch includes the following: full tuition and books for completion of a two-year associate degree at a local community college, work during school vacations/breaks, paid internships after completion followed by an apprenticeship, and then full-time employment. After nearly 10 years, this approach has provided more than 100 proficient and loyal employees as this organization grows its business. Partnerships between schools at all levels (supply) and employers (demand) are proliferating at a rapid pace. Why not go right to the source?

And, of course, various social media platforms are being used more and more to connect with talent and create relationships. One employer in the publishing industry needed four entry-level marketing professionals for a one-year project with the prospect of full-time employment following the project’s completion, so they created a recruiting festival built entirely on social media. The application site was on Tumblr; Twitter and Facebook were the marketing platforms; and a Q&A session with the recruiters was captured on Storify. The entire candidate experience happened via social media. Their goal was to find four unexpected and talented people to join their organization and they did: a cake business owner, a current college student, a former software sales executive, and a recent college grad with a history major.

While the challenge to find talent is real for every business leader today - in businesses of all sizes, in all industries and in every geography - the war for talent is being won through creativity, a willingness to rethink “the way we’ve always done things,” and a more human approach-;one that recognizes employees (and potential employees) as fully dimensional people, not just 9-to-5 sets of skills, who may have previously overlooked skills that are not immediately visible.

The demographic data say it isn’t going to get easier to find, hire, and deploy our next generation of workers. If our growth plans are to be achieved, we’ll have to think and execute creatively in order to find good people.