The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 10, 2019 1:00 am

Employers dealing with labor shortfall

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Indiana employers, faced with a lean talent pool, are learning to make do.

Although nearly half of employers are still leaving jobs unfilled, dramatically fewer are listing workforce/talent needs as among their biggest challenges, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says. Instead, they are adapting to the ongoing shortage of qualified applicants in various ways.

Those findings are part of the 12th annual employer workforce survey from the state chamber and its Institute for Workforce Excellence.

There were 1,005 responses from 89 of Indiana's 92 counties during the Aug. 5-27 survey period. Skillful Indiana was the lead partner. Results were released in late October.

One distinct trend of the last five years remained largely intact, the Chamber said in its news release. Forty-nine percent of respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to underqualified applicants; that compared to 51% a year ago and 47% in 2017.

Those citing filling workforce/talent needs as their biggest challenge, however, decreased dramatically – from 33% a year ago to 12% in 2019. 

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said the survey responses suggest employers “accepting that the talent shortage is not going to change anytime soon and simply finding alternative methods for dealing with it.”

Employers are assigning more responsibilities internally (25% in 2019; 18% in 2017) and hiring under-qualified applicants (23% in 2019 compared to 11% two years earlier). In addition, 71% confirm they are willing to hire an individual with less education/skills than desired and allow them to work while completing on-the-job training.

There is less optimism among employers in the growth of their own organization, with 45% expecting to increase the size of the workforce in the next one to two years. That is a significant decline from the 56% who anticipated growth in 2018 and the 53% of a year earlier.

The number of employers using internal staff as the largest trainer of current workers decreased from 67% in 2018 to 55% this time.

But there remain many additional opportunities not being taken advantage of to team with K-12 schools, colleges, workforce training programs and other partners.

For example, 58% do not work with others to develop work-based learning programs, 50% do not team with K-12 schools for career awareness/exploration activities and 40% use none of the following talent development strategies – student site visits, job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships.

About a week before the chamber released its report, results from an Indiana Manufacturing Survey showed that industry sector also trying to cope with a serious shortage of skilled and unskilled workers. Part of the concern is the wave of retiring baby boomers.

Responses from about 160 companies suggested many substituting capital investments in technology for labor to partially satisfy the demand for skilled workers and to remain competitive.

The “Labor Shortages Hit Home” report was commissioned by Katz, Sapper & Miller and authored by faculty from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. 

Somebody lead

Recent book releases include one from best-selling author John C. Maxwell, “How to Lead When Your Boss Can't (or Won't).”

An October news release from the Maxwell team said that every day, “millions of people with high potential are frustrated and held back by incompetent leaders.” Maxwell says the No. 1 question he gets asked is about how to lead when the boss isn't a good leader.

This latest book is adapted from the “The 360-Degree Leader,” and Maxwell provides tips on how to navigate the challenges of working for a bad boss.

The book should help readers position themselves for success, “take the high road with a poor leader, avoid common pitfalls, work well with teammates, and develop influence” wherever they are, the news release said.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at

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