4 Tips for Hiring in a Tight Labor Market

By Robert Half on November 19, 2021 at 2:00pm

After reeling from a pandemic-driven slowdown, many companies are now gearing up for growth. They’re rolling out ambitious expansion plans and looking to hire talented professionals who can bring those plans to fruition.

That sounds like good news for everyone — but there’s a catch or two.

The first is the nationwide talent crunch, with companies struggling to source the skills they need to grow. The second is the so-called Great Resignation, evident in the unusually high quit rates reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in recent months. For many hiring managers, recruiting and retention have never been so challenging.

If you’re trying to bring in or hold on to skilled talent, here are a few suggestions for how to make sense of this chaotic hiring market — and gain a competitive advantage in the process:

1. Embrace flexibility

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to send employees home and quickly put in place a remote work model. While the move was initially a business necessity, it largely proved to be a great success — so much so that many workers today don’t understand why they should return to the office on a full-time basis. Employers who have insisted they do may have inadvertently pushed valuable staff to leave.

Without question, the desire to work from home — whether due to the improved work-life balance it offers or the health concerns about sharing office space — has been a prime driver of the so-called Great Resignation. (Robert Half gave early warning of this possible development when we reported this spring that one in three professionals working from home said they would look for another job if required to return to the office.)

Companies that allow employees to work off-site will have an advantage over those that don’t. But work-from-home doesn’t always have to be a deal-breaker. If your business cannot operate efficiently with a remote workforce, then think about what other arrangements you can allow for those who must come into the office.

While research conducted for Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide found that 56% of employees said remote work options were their top priority, 66% said they want flexible schedules. To put it another way, many people want to return to the office, at least part of the time, they just don’t want to return to the grind. Whether it’s through flextime, windowed work or a compressed workweek, you might be able to give employees the flexibility they want.

2. Review your salary structure

Competitive pay is key to hiring new employees and holding onto skilled talent in a competitive recruiting market. That said, many workers today are dissatisfied with their level of compensation. Research for our latest Salary Guide found that, on average, nearly half of workers (49%) consider themselves underpaid.

Some groups feel especially shortchanged: 52% of women and 57% of Generation Z say they don’t receive adequate salaries. And before shrugging that off as mere grumbling, consider this: Around one in three workers (31%) say they will walk if their compensation doesn’t improve soon. That’s not idle talk. The search for better pay and benefits has been cited as one of the key factors for the Great Resignation.

So, be sure to adjust your salary structure so it meets or exceeds local market averages. Talk to a professional recruiter to better understand what your competitors are paying. Or if you want to do it yourself, you can start by consulting our Salary Guide to determine average national salaries by industry and job title. You can also use our Salary Calculator to work out average starting salaries in your area.

3. Promote a supportive, inclusive workplace culture

Even before the pandemic, a vibrant organizational culture sent a powerful message to job candidates: You can flourish here. You’ll be happy here.

That’s still true. A workplace environment that gives employees an opportunity to build experience and new skills, grow a career, feel supported, and to be themselves is a powerful draw. If that’s what you have, then you need to shout it out it — not only in job postings, but also on your website and even in your social media posts.

Organizational culture is a company’s true differentiator. If you’re not sure you are offering a great culture, then now’s a good time to huddle with your managerial team and human resources (HR) leaders to assess your workplace culture and identify opportunities for improvement. For example:

What kind of messages about work-life balance does the company send?

Aside from flexible work options discussed above, policies and perks that can make a worker’s life easier both on the job (onsite daycare, for instance, or hiring contract talent to help during a busy season) and off (such as generous paid time off — and encouraging employees to take it) show a company committed to its employees’ well-being.

How does the company help employees advance their careers?

It’s an especially important question today: In a Robert Half survey, 38% of workers said their careers had stalled during the pandemic. And when people feel they’ve lost career momentum, many think their best option is to look elsewhere for fresh opportunities. Firms that offer formal professional development and mentorship programs, subsidize continuing education, reimburse fees for professional certifications, and have a policy to promote from within will have the edge in attracting and keeping top talent.

How does the company promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in its workforce and hiring?

Fostering an environment of inclusivity, one where everyone has equal access to opportunities to be heard and the space to be themselves, can be critical to your recruiting and retention efforts. Great pay and career opportunities won’t mean much to a skilled professional if that person doesn’t feel accepted and that they belong.

If your workforce is entirely remote, you will also have to discuss strategies to promote teamwork and camaraderie, maintain a sense of cohesion, and mitigate feelings of isolation. Communication will be key here. On-camera conference calls, for example, won’t have the same intimacy as huddling in a meeting room, but seeing a virtual room of friendly faces can still help people feel connected. Scheduling a weekly casual team lunch, where team members talk about anything but work, can foster bonding and friendships.

4. Refine your hiring process

Recruiting started moving online years before the pandemic, as newspaper classifieds jumped to job boards and talent solutions firms posted candidate profiles on their sites for employers to browse. Hiring managers and HR professionals, however, were generally slow to move to video interviews and online assessment tools. That changed when COVID-19 turned the world upside down. Now, nearly every aspect of the recruiting and hiring process is online.

Going virtual almost overnight may have been a bumpy, if frantic, start to a new recruiting process. But if you were quick to adapt, online recruiting likely proved to be a faster and more efficient means to assess applicants and interview candidates than did old-school, pre-pandemic office meet-and-greets.

Still, you might not be moving fast enough to attract the talent you want most. Job seekers today want quick hiring decisions. Robert Half research conducted shortly before the pandemic found that 62% of professionals lost interest in a job if they didn’t hear back from the employer within two weeks after the initial interview; that number jumped to 77% if there was no status update within three weeks. Skilled talent today isn’t going to be any more patient.

Above all else, be persistent

In this chaotic recruiting environment, you have to meet candidate expectations while moving faster than the competition. Review your hiring process to make sure you’re leveraging all the resources available to you, from applicant tracking systems to automated interview scheduling. Work with your HR department or a professional recruiter to determine how to best streamline steps to post open positions, corral a hiring panel to meet and evaluate candidates in one virtual room, and onboard new hires online.

Make no mistake, this is a race for talent like none we’ve seen. None in recent memory, anyway. Yes, a shrinking talent pool, always a challenge, is nothing new — we saw it only a couple years ago, in fact. But there’s now a confluence of multiple trends that add layers of complexity to the job market. You can’t dust off an old recruiting playbook to compete in an environment like this.

The tips above are a good start on where and how to adapt to today’s hiring realities. Put in place what you can and what makes the most sense for your firm. Then confer with your management team and HR department to see how else you can get creative and up your game. And be persistent. Skilled talent available for hire may be in short supply right now, but your next great hire is definitely out there.

Still unsure where to start? Contact us — we can help with your candidate search.

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