Blog: Find the Talent You Need by Considering Underserved Workers


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Jack Van Tiem

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The framework for a successful business still has, at its core, the principles outlined by Adam Smith in his groundbreaking business book, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. With today’s historically low unemployment rate, however, his law of supply and demand is being put to the test.

In fact, there seems to be a shortage of supply and an abundance of demand when it comes to available workers — unless employers are willing to look in unexpected places to find potential employees. So where are employers finding the talent they need? The answer to that question may be a bit surprising.

There are many potential workers who have traditionally found it difficult to land a new job. Individuals with physical or cognitive limitations, survivors of abuse, and armed-service veterans are just a few of the many groups of candidates who often struggle to overcome barriers to employment. As companies continue to encounter a shortage of qualified workers, they are beginning to consider these candidates, and others, for open positions, realizing there is much to gain by integrating them into their workforce.    

Finding the Right People Means Changing Recruitment Strategies and Tactics

Most companies fall back on recruitment practices that have worked in the past when trying to identify, recruit, and hire employees. Today’s hyper-competitive labor market requires employers to get creative. Savvy employers are moving beyond traditional recruitment practices, and shifting their focus from workers already in the labor force to those who want to enter or re-enter the workforce.  According to the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, in 2016 approximately 343,000 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce — four times the rate of the previous year. Clearly, this demonstrates employers find value in hiring workers who previously may not have been candidates for consideration.

Employers May Be Pleasantly Surprised by these Candidates

By hiring underserved candidates, companies can access a much more diverse talent pool with a variety of educational backgrounds and skillsets. In addition, employers will find these potential workers are dedicated and hard-working, and bring with them the added benefit of complementing their existing workforce. They offer diversity of thought, ideas, and perspective. These individuals can be extremely loyal to employers who are willing to give them the opportunity to work for their organization, resulting in more people contributing to the success of the local economy.

Resources for Employers

So how do employers find these individuals? Current employees are a great referral source. Some organizations even sweeten the deal by rewarding candidate referrals. According to SocialTalent, friends and relatives have the benefit of knowing a company’s culture and business practices. Chances are, current employees are aware of someone who is struggling to find employment, for one reason or another, who would be a great fit for an open position. There are also numerous public and private agencies that exist whose mission is to help employers understand laws and policies and navigate processes for employing these candidates.

Finding good employees is an ongoing process that can be made easier for employers willing to move out of their comfort zones and consider underserved candidates. However, companies that have been successful have done their homework. They leverage available resources, assess their organization’s needs, define the job function, qualifications, and attributes the candidate should possess, and evaluate if the role can be filled by an underserved candidate. More and more employers are finding that by investing a little time, the result can be a win-win for everyone involved.

Jack Van Tiem is the Detroit territory vice president for Troy-based Kelly Services, a global leader in providing workforce solutions. He oversees the staffing and business solutions operations throughout metro Detroit, with a focus on staffing for automotive, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and technology. 

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