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How to Win the War for Talent in a Tight Labor Market

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Written by Nick Pokoluk, Director of Service Delivery

Drive through any city or town and take a good look at the business signs as you pass by. An unusually high number of them have a “help wanted” sign prominently displayed next to their name and logo on the front door or other high-profile locations. If you ask almost any TA leader right now, they will tell you the same thing; “we are hiring,” and they will follow that up with, “and hiring is harder than ever.” Everyone knows the narrative. 

As we’ve climbed out of the pandemic, which stopped hiring altogether in some industries in 2020, hiring is roaring back at unprecedented levels. It has become more challenging than ever for a myriad of reasons. It’s gotten so difficult that some McDonalds’ restaurants are paying people $50 just to interview for a job.

Whoa! And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 9 million open jobs in the US in May—that’s an all-time record and a 31% increase over January 2020 when we were basically at full employment with unemployment hovering around 3.5%.

And it’s not just a phenomenon happening in the US. KPMG recently released a report on hiring pressure in the UK that found:

  • Robust demand for staff is driving an unprecedented increase in permanent staff appointments.
  • Availability of workers is deteriorating at a record pace.
  • Salaries are rising sharply.

So, if we acknowledge we might be in the tightest job market EVER, then your recruitment partner(s) needs to think more creatively and more strategically than ever before. Let those bullets and that statement sink in.

The question then becomes, how do you win the war for talent in a labor market that is tighter than it’s been previously? What are some areas to focus on? Let’s examine a few keys to success.

Brand. Your employment brand is more important now than ever. It’s a candidate’s market and they can be choosier than ever about their next employer, so your employer brand (what people feel and say about working for your firm) has never been more critical. A weak employer brand will deter candidates from applying in the first place, making hiring the best candidates far more difficult. What is your brand in the market compared to competitors? What do people say about working for your firm on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed? Do you have a clearly defined employer value proposition (EVP)? We regularly conduct employee brand audits to help clients understand how the candidate market views them, define an EVP that resonates, and help change company policies and employee behaviors to deliver on the EVP successfully. Surveying your current employees, past employees, and candidates generates actionable insights to guide change and address shortcomings within your brand.

Culture. To succeed in today’s competitive talent environment, your culture needs to adapt to a new normal. Have you assessed and, if needed, refreshed policies to align with the new work culture world we have entered? Can employees work remotely? How often can they work remotely? Are your physical and mental health benefits adequate? What is your current PTO policy? How do all these things stack up to your competitors?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). More than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. By now, most organizations realize the importance of DE&I as it relates to innovation, culture, and ethics. But more than ever before, candidates and employees need to experience it to believe it. If DE&I isn’t imperative to your business, you risk turning away talent that you may be desperate for. Aligning your culture with your community will impact talent that comes through your front door.

Early Talent – In a tight labor market, only considering candidates who check every “previous experience” box can slow things down. If you only look at candidates that meet every requirement, you might only have a few candidates to look at. But if you can relax your requirements a little and hire for attitude as much as experience, then you’ll find a broader pool of candidates. 

Many times, this means looking more carefully at interns and recent graduates. Your local junior colleges, colleges, and trade associations can be excellent sources. And there are some real advantages. Early Talent hasn’t developed some of the bad habits that more experienced workers can come with. Early talent is often more open to trying new ideas. After all, they aren’t as set in their ways, more comfortable with technology because they’ve grown up with it, and they may be less costly to hire. 

Recruiting early talent requires an understanding of what motivates them and an ability to recruit on their terms, so you need to pay particular attention to how and when you engage, and personalization is key.

Hiring Process

Personify has seen the competition for talent drive down “days in process” by as much as 40% in the most competitive markets and it’s not uncommon for candidates to receive a recruiting call on Monday and an offer by Friday. It is paramount that a hiring process is efficient now more than ever, so you need to identify ways to streamline the hiring process. Do you really need five rounds of interviews or five people to act as interviewers? Could a virtual process work as effectively for the position as an in-person onsite process? And in tight labor markets, losing a candidate at an interview or offer is super painful, so make sure you elevate and differentiate your game day experience. Finally, don’t forget the hiring process isn’t over with an accepted offer. Glassdoor published an article citing a survey that found almost 30% of people admit to backing out of an offer after accepting it. Make sure you find ways to stay engaged with candidates between an offer acceptance and their start date by finding ways to reinforce the great decision the candidate has made to come work with your firm.

The bottom-line is all indicators suggest the job market we are in – and going to be – is the tightest ever and talent acquisition strategies need to evolve with it.

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