If 2020 didn’t cause employers in the Northwest (and across the U.S.) to rethink their staffing strategies, 2021 likely will. Whether a company’s focus is on building back or positioning for growth, many employers are busy re-aligning staffing and business goals. As a local staffing company, PACE interacts with a diverse set of business owners, hiring managers and HR professionals across many industries. We keep a close eye on how the employment market impacts our clients’ businesses and make sure their evolving staffing strategies, i.e. Job Listings, Temporary Job Staffing Service, etc., are based on a realistic assessment of the current market.
The Availability Of Talent
There has been a lot of positive news about the economic rebuild, but we’ve also had some disappointing news about talent availability. What does all this mean for employers with open jobs?
Our area in particular experienced high levels of unemployment in the sharp economic downturn of early 2020. While the large corporations making up our knowledge and technology-based sectors typically transitioned their employees to working from home and often continued to hire, many small- to medium-sized companies I work with chose to remove themselves from the employment market until early 2021.
The 2021 employment market revealed a surprise — there have not been as many candidates for some businesses as they would have hoped.
Some people likely made important personal choices to stay home with school-aged children. The difficulty of filling positions and finding jobs (paywall) could have an impact on businesses’ attempts to rebuild.
I frequently hear our small- and medium-sized employer clients lament the competitive challenges of our local marketplace — like more turnover than expected, losing many candidates to higher-paying opportunities, and the recruiting challenges of attracting high-quality talent in a marketplace filled with big brands looking for the same talent. Many small- to medium-sized companies could one day become big ones, and they’re going to need exceptional talent every step of the way. I believe they need to work on telling their stories about the unique career opportunities they can offer to candidates who want to make a difference.
The Challenge Of Retaining Employees
In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median tenure of employees aged 25 to 34 was just 2.8 years, although the median tenure overall was 4.1 years. In early 2021, LinkedIn research showed that many employees were “sheltering in job.” Others may have felt stuck or just grateful to have an income. I also heard employees express that they were nervous to step out into an uncertain economic climate even if they were dissatisfied with their job. In February 2021, though, research from the Achievers Workforce Institute (via SHRM) found that 52% of employed adults were looking for a new job.
On a daily basis, my company and I have clients calling us to help them with unexpected turnover prompted by an employee finding “something better.” No longer can employers expect employees to comfortably stay in their current jobs as they might have previously. Employee retention should be a focus right now for employers so they can avoid losing their best and brightest employees.
A more mobile work environment can be both a blessing and a curse for employers. It’s an opportunity to pick up a passive job seeker, but it’s also an opportunity for a competitive employer to pick up an employee you didn’t know would ever leave. I encourage clients to always be prepared — both to proactively protect the employees they need to retain and to hire a special talent that might not be available for long.
Finding The Right Fit
I believe the world events that shaped our lives in 2020 caused both employees and employers to take a closer look at their lives, values and goals and reprioritize what’s important. Employers should be looking for employees who will make a difference. Because many employees are no longer physically present in the workspace, employers should look for new ways to build culture. The work should be more intrinsically interesting and challenging to employees, or they may drift.
Employers should provide employees with an environment where they can enjoy supportive and positive relationships — and where good work is accomplished and recognized in individuals and the teams they belong to. I’ve found that interesting job content, as well as having allies in their corner and positive interpersonal interactions throughout the workday, can make a crucial difference to an employee’s sense of “fit.”
How can “fit” become part of your recruiting strategy? Highlight your employee community and make an introduction to the community part of your recruiting process. Create work environments in which employee boundaries and preferred working arrangements are acknowledged and accommodated. Most importantly, look at the key requirements for every job you are trying to fill and make sure the candidates you consider have those key requirements.
At PACE, I’ve found that job seekers are back in the driver’s seat and are demanding options. As a 2020 CareerBuilder survey (via PR Newswire) showed, flexibility in working hours and where employees work is now a major factor in the “fit-finding” process for many. While the move to virtual environments happened suddenly for many companies and caused varying levels of disruption, the shift back to more flexible work options could be driven by collaborations between employees and employers. Finding the right fit when it comes to working from home or in the office could become a significant part of the job-to-employee matching process.
Recruiting has always been about fit-finding, including getting clear about what type of work environment is the right fit for a candidate while making sure they have the right skills and mindset to deliver on the employer’s expectations.