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ATD Blog

Hiring L&D Talent During a Labor Shortage

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Hi Tim,

I currently work as the vice president of learning for a global clothing company in the New York City area. Over the last few months, we’ve had a hard time filling several positions within our learning and development department. Many of the applicants we’ve interviewed are either underqualified or find themselves with stronger offers from other companies. I believe that this has to do with the greater labor shortage many organizations are facing.

So, here’s my question: How can we increase our chances of finding and hiring L&D talent during a labor shortage?

Fantastic question and one that I’m sure many different industries are facing in one way or another. Since the start of the pandemic, many learning and development departments have been forced to change the way they were once delivering their learning content. This has resulted in a greater demand for qualified talent to assist with this change.

However, while we (and many other industries) are experiencing a labor shortage, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do things to hire the best talent. Here are six tips I suggest you think about.

Tip #1: Consider Remote Talent

My first suggestion, if you’re not already doing this, is to open yourself up to remote talent. Although you didn’t mention this in your submission, I’m assuming that many of your L&D employees spent (and are currently spending) much of the last year working remotely. And while I’ve seen a lot of organizations talk about “getting back into the office,” the truth is that I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

We’ve learned during the last year that employees can be just as productive and collaborate when working from home as they are when working in the office. Additionally, many folks have discovered a newfound love for remote work—no more commutes, better work-life balance, and so on. As a result, given where you’re located (very expensive NYC) you have an opportunity to dramatically expand your talent pool by considering candidates outside of where your organization is located. Don’t be afraid to hire remote talent!

Tip #2: Hire Freelancers

My next suggestion is to hire freelancers. If you’re trying to get past this labor shortage, which will be temporary, a great option is to hire temporary help. There are tons of quality freelancers out there who can immediately help you with any capacity or capability issues on your team.

My biggest tip when hiring a freelancer is to make sure you know why you’re hiring them and what you need them to do. Most freelancers work on a project-by-project basis, so make it worth their time by having several projects ready to go.


Tip #3: Review Your Job Descriptions

My third tip is to review and optimize your job descriptions. Many job descriptions are poorly written and don’t always reflect the reality of the position you’re hiring for. Because we’re in a labor shortage, your job descriptions need to sell candidates on why they’d want to work for you, your team, and your company.

Also, ensure your job descriptions aren’t listing unrealistic expectations. For example, I see job descriptions all the time that state they want “five to seven years of experience” but claim it’s an entry-level position. That’s insulting. Don’t do that!

Tip #4: Review Your Salary Budgets

My next suggestion is to make sure your salary budget is aligned with current salary expectations. You mentioned that many of your top candidates are receiving and accepting better offers from other companies. Find out why and adjust accordingly.

The truth is, it’s Economics 101: Supply and Demand. If you want to hire top talent while we’re in a labor shortage, then you need to be prepared to pay more for that top talent. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to re-evaluate the salaries of your current employees. They aren’t immune from being lured by a competitor offering better pay and benefits.

Tip #5: Start Active Recruiting

Next, you should spend some time actively recruiting and scouting for the talent you’re seeking. Too many hiring managers and recruiters wait passively for their dream candidate to submit their application. However, your dream candidate may be out there waiting for you to find them.

Instead of only looking at the candidates who applied for the job, start looking and actively recruiting the people you want. Trust me, if you’re not doing it, someone else is! But remember, if you do this, then you need to take my previous tip seriously and be prepared to be competitive.

Tip #6: Act Faster

My final tip stands true, even if we weren’t experiencing a labor shortage. One of the most frustrating aspects of the hiring process is how slowly it moves. If you find an ideal candidate, don’t waste time thinking about it—make that person an offer and get it done. Again, because we’re in a labor shortage, you will lose the best talent by dragging your feet during the hiring process.


To do this, I suggest simplifying the interview and approval process. Know what you can offer a potential candidate and be ready to make an offer the second you find the person you want to hire.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the onus is on you to make the necessary changes to be a competitive employer while we experience this labor shortage. I know it’s unrealistic for you to make all of the changes I’ve suggested; however, they will go a long way in helping you source the talent you need.

Best of luck!


What other tips do you have for hiring L&D talent during a labor shortage? Share them by commenting below!

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected]. Also, make sure to visit the Ask a Trainer Hub to check out all your questions and my answers.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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