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State of the Industry 2021

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Industry 2021 Highlights

As we start 2022, we’re reflecting on the Copier Channel’s successes and setbacks with our 2021 Year-End Update. In our earlier 2021 Mid-Year Update, we highlighted the whiplash employers were experiencing as they transitioned from shutdowns to resurging markets. These challenges have only intensified in the past six months!

Employers’ Overdue Reality Check

As we’ve been saying for years, the business solutions industry was essentially at zero unemployment well before COVID. Now the effects of the pandemic have only served to exacerbate this candidate shortage. Not only are there far more open jobs than available candidates but other industries are actively poaching our more experienced professionals. If industry leaders don’t execute plans to bring in and train new talent today, there won’t be anyone to fill empty roles tomorrow.

“Experienced people are leaving the industry,” says Copier Careers senior vice president, Jessica Crowley. “They’re tired. The industry is going through a brain drain at the same time dealers say hiring is their number one priority.”

“We’re seeing it now more than ever,” Crowley continues. “It’s not only sales skills that are transferable. Pharma, telecom, IT and software services will come in and go after candidates. It’s all industries, all positions. We’re not siloed anymore.”

“I think the industry kicked the can down the road for bringing people into the channel,” Copier Careers president, Paul Schwartz, muses. “Now it’s time for a reality check. It’s just like any city or town, you have to invest in your infrastructure — in this case, we’re talking about human infrastructure.”

What Can Industry Leaders Do?

Once employers recognize the problem, how can they overcome it? Industry leaders need to make some short and long-term changes:

  • Reassess their employee salaries, benefits and other perks. Independent dealers are now directly competing with dedicated IT service providers along with other industries and need to adjust their compensation to match. “The amount of opportunity that candidates have right now is truly unbelievable,” Crowley says. “Everyone is looking to make a change for the better, they won’t continue to tolerate stagnant wages.”
  • Be proactive about their hiring/growth needs. Because there may not be a good candidate available when they really need one. While the industry is known for doing more with less, you simply can’t do more with nothing.
  • Speed up their hiring process. If you snooze, you lose. “I talked to a sales rep last week and submitted her as a candidate to six companies,” Crowley recalls. “I literally had a response from a client in less than a minute.”
  • Hire practical over perfect. If a candidate has most of the experience you need and shows a willingness to learn, take them! You can bring them up to speed on the rest. “You have to reimagine positions and seize opportunities,” Schwartz exhorts. Doing so not only fills a gap but tells your new employee that they can learn and grow with your company.
  • Invest in new, trainable employees. The pipeline of trainees and qualified candidates to the business solutions industry 2021 is nearly dry. “Do the math. You have to find a way to bring new people into the industry,” Schwartz says. “This is the next great thing that has to change in the channel.”

Bottom line: Now is the time to make your own opportunities. We’ve seen the employers who’ve sped up their hiring start to snap up candidates. Companies who invest in their employees not only avoid losing invaluable staff, they also attract the industry’s best and brightest. For those few positioned to face these challenges, another company’s pain is their gain!