Why Some Industries Are Hit Harder by Labor Shortages than Others and What They Can Do About It

Many readers may have heard about the Great Resignation without actually noticing its impacts in their own work lives. While it may take a bit longer to hire that new accountant or project manager, most major corporations are not being forced to close up shop due to a shortage of workers.

But for those working in some industries, things can be much worse. “The dearth of workers is most evident in hospitality and service-work industries, where positions for dishwashers, truck drivers, retail workers, food servers, airport agents, home health aides and similar roles have been open for literal years,” writes Kate Morgan in an article for BBC Worklife. And it’s not just because people don’t want to work, she says. What they do want is better jobs with more pay and better working conditions.

“The job market upheaval caused by the pandemic has enabled some workers to switch into better employment—and if hard-hit sectors want their workers back, they need to find ways of making their jobs more attractive,” Morgan writes.  

Increasing Compensation

Employers’ finding ways to make their jobs more attractive is one of the potential strategies employers can use to alleviate staffing shortages, and the most obvious way to make a job more attractive is by increasing compensation, whether that’s wages, bonuses, or benefits.

Unfortunately, not all businesses can afford to simply throw money at their staffing problems. Many would gladly pay workers more money if they could afford it. After all, savvy business owners realize how costly employee turnover can be and how much it can hurt to lose a standout employee.

Improving Working Conditions

Another way to make a job more attractive is by improving working conditions. Maybe that means fewer night shifts or shorter days, more paid time off, or the ability to work remotely if possible. It could also mean taking a tougher stance on customer behavior in the service industry.


Another option employees have often embraced in the face of labor shortages is automation. Most readers have probably used self-scanners at the checkout at the grocery store just before they bag their own groceries. Readers are also likely painfully familiar with the automated phone systems that triage their calls to large organizations.

These are just a couple of examples of how service jobs are already being automated.

The service industry has been reeling amid a tight labor market that has seen service workers leave in search of better pay and working conditions. In the face of this widespread exodus, employers have limited options.

In the long run, many service jobs are likely to be automated as a long-term solution to a cyclical problem.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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