All throughout the country, you see the same signs: HELP WANTED. “It’s not a ‘labor shortage,’ says the headline of an apt article in the Washington Post. What is it then? “It’s a great reassessment of work in America.”
What should employers do?
Creative Circle knows.
Two professionals on staff, who have their pulse on this issue, offer their informed views. Britt Waitek, sales manager, and Lauren Kaminky, account executive, answered 10 of the top questions on the minds of employers today.
Why is it so important to retain employees right now?
Things have changed. “Where Have All the Workers Gone?” asks the question on the top of employers’ minds today and goes on to answer it too.
In short, when an employee leaves a job, it’s not a simple backfill. In the best case, the departing employee gives the traditional two weeks’ notice when resigning. Finding and onboarding a qualified replacement in that timeframe is not realistic anymore. Count on that hole to last much longer, because there’s fierce competition for talent everywhere. In this environment, don’t expect to bring someone on in weeks. It takes months.
Beyond the effort and time required to recruit, interview, and select a fitting candidate, there’s another challenge — getting the one at the top of the wish list to accept the offer. During this process, the existing team, likely spread thin already, struggles to get all the work done. That’s the reality of losing just one team member and the critical reason to maintain full staffing.
How can employers attract and retain candidates?
In this environment, employers need to convey what’s in it for employees to work in a role and at a firm. It’s no longer money alone. Employees value additional factors, such as growth potential as well as flexible hours and location.
Employers need to adopt a new mindset about these and related tangibles and intangibles. For the first time in a long while, employers must sell candidates on working at their company. They need to do the same to retain staff. For recruiting, this process starts with the initial interview. That’s when the candidate starts evaluating the job and the place to work. Employers, take heed!
In today’s fight for talent, the best candidates are available for not weeks, but only days. Time is of the essence. Recruit efficiently. Doing so says to candidates that they are a priority. Streamline the interview process by stacking the segments. Schedule the candidate to meet with required stakeholders/touchpoints in one nonstop cycle. During those dialogues, show the candidate you value them and that the company offers value. Dedicate true time at the end for Q&A’s. Probe deeper; listen intently to points the candidate raises. Then move decisively and quickly — if you don’t, your competition will.
How have candidate/employee preferences evolved over the past 12–18 months?
Over this time period, something dramatic has occurred. Candidates/employees have come into power. Consequently, employers must get those who work for them excited and then keep them engaged.
To land candidates, the pace of recruiting must be exponentially faster than before. In case there’s even a minor lag, check in daily with those on the short list. Where else are they interviewing? Have they gotten offers? Who else is reaching out to them? Remember: if your preferences have changed, the same has occurred at other companies. And the competitive sphere has expanded. In today’s world, it can be global. Think out of the box and far and wide as to what candidates want. Then act swiftly.
What common themes do you see at companies where candidates are most happy to work?
The top companies make employees feel that they matter. How? By treating people like people, not the resume you hired. Employees provide value — let them know that. Ask them for input. “What are you excited about? What recommendation do you have for us?”
People who feel they are actively participating and contributing to change are involved. They have a voice and stake in their role, team, and company. Learn more about this issue from the perspective of both employees and employers here.
In this competitive environment, how do you set expectations with employees and ensure they are meeting them?
The essence of performance reviews has changed. In today’s world, it no longer should reflect a teacher-student mentality. This exercise is not a report card anymore. Adjust accordingly.
Open it up and change the focus to what the company can do to help the employee develop. Ask: How do you like your role? What do you want to grow into? What more would you want to do? Where do you see your role in one year from now, in three and five? How can we help you? What can we take off your plate? Is there a way to shift a responsibility or perhaps outsource it? How can we evolve your role to make it what you want?
This is the gist of the process. As a result, job descriptions are fluid; the imperatives still are integral but some movement is too. Regard the job description as, more or less, a wish list and set expectations for the employee to build on this too.
Supplement the performance review with spot meetings to take temperature checks. Creative Circle likens this activity to a mock exit interview or an “anti-resignation meeting.” Why take this step? All employees today — not only active job-seekers— are on the market. Companies interested in recruiting staff are reaching out to employees on payrolls everywhere, your company included. With this in mind, ensure your employees are satisfied with their role and their prospects. One idea is to ask employees to keep a diary for two or three days of their tasks and time spent on each. This exercise provides a template for discussion. It also serves as a springboard for the employees to draft their future job description and context for you to help them move toward it.
Aside from compensation, how can employers nurture a culture where staff feel happy and fulfilled?
Employees today want a true work-life balance, and that’s both valid and important. They also desire purpose. Ideally, let them formulate it themselves. Give them an opportunity to craft their own personal mission statement. Then talk about it. You’re leaving it up to the employee to decide what and how to do this. You’re not saying: “Give me 60 words about it.” You’re asking them to think about why they are working.
It could be anything, such as just showing up, trying to buy a home, saving for a car or overseas trip, or just wanting to get away from their surroundings. Whatever it is, requesting that they ponder it shows you are valuing them as a team member who’s expected to perform. Plus, it shows that you’re interested AND invested in them as a person.
Is it viable for employers to insist on in-person work for desk jobs now?
It’s going to be tough to insist on total in-person work. Employers: be realistic about what this means for your talent pool. Consider building in some flexibility for hybrid arrangements and other features to attract and retain employees. There needs to be ongoing communication across the company with considered thought given to this topic and the decisions surrounding it.
The simple truth is that today work differs from the way it’s always been. In this New York Times article, a company calls the “Zoomisphere” its “center of gravity.” The article raises serious implications about the present and potential future of work life in the office.
Are there industries or jobs where its particularly challenging to maintain a full workforce?
No one industry or group stands out as an exception. Worker shortages are pervasive — they are occurring at businesses of all kinds, sizes and locations. This pattern cuts across North America and then some; it’s global in nature.
If your company hasn’t experienced this situation yet, don’t get too comfortable. Your time may come. In our experience, a talent hunt is underway everywhere. And, as noted, businesses in need are potentially going after your employees. All said, whether employers are in hiring mode or not, they are participating in this dynamic.
Tip for being a great place to work
Take your lead from The Beatles: Come Together. Develop a continuous conversation loop across key functions, such as human resources, finance, and senior leadership. Discuss prevailing market and employment imperatives and set reasonable expectations. Then formulate policies, as needed, around budgets, salaries, interview processes, and skill gaps. Ensure the flow of information is two-way to take into account pain points, priorities, opportunities, and changes. Connect and revisit this agenda often to stay on point, in the now and the know. All hands on deck and in sync is the recipe for success in these difficult conditions.
What are some creative ways employers are attempting to overcome workforce shortages?
Employers are trying all means to be fully staffed. They’re covering all the bases to secure workers. They’re reaching out to recruiters and staffing agencies and providing signing bonuses and other extras to entice talent to come onboard. These include nontraditional work arrangements, such as hybrid schedules, freelance, part-time, and flex time. It also encompasses stipends for home offices, child care, meals, and commuter benefits.
Another aspect of this issue relates to the profile of employees that businesses are seeking. Previously, a potential candidate needed to check all the boxes for a job, come from the same industry, and have directly applicable experience. That’s changed. Employers have broadened their horizons. They realize that a top performer may come from a different background but have skills that transfer well; in the process, that candidate may offer additional perspective. That’s truly being creative.
If you could give one piece of advice to an employer having trouble finding workers, what would that be?
Ask for and listen to feedback. If job candidates are dropping out during the interview process, if they’re turning down your offer or if employees are leaving a role, find out why. Have the chat about what was missing, what you could change. Take in all of this information and act on it. If it’s a salary matter, review wages and scales. If candidates are pulling out of the interview process, speed it up.
It could be any number of factors. But when you are hearing the same thing from different people, connect the dots and do something constructive about it. The world has changed. To succeed, employers need to acknowledge this trend and strive to get ahead of it.
Count on Creative Circle for help. We have thousands of fully vetted digital, marketing, and creative candidates available for work in freelance, full-time, and even freelance-to-full-time positions. Contact us to discuss a solution for your business!
About the author.
You name it, she covers it. That’s the can-do attitude Sherry M. Adler brings to the craft of writing. A polished marketing and communications professional, she has a passion for learning and the world at large. She uses it plus the power of words to inform and energize stakeholders of all kinds. And to show how all of this can make a difference, she calls her business WriteResults NY, LLC.