Businesses were questioning their ability to survive a pandemic just a year ago. Today, they’re trying to figure out ways to scale up their workforce.
Vaccination progress has provided for a hopeful job outlook. Unfortunately for businesses, the workers just aren’t there. Instead, businesses have been forced to look at new ways to recruit. More companies — including small and medium-sized firms — have adopted pre-employment assessments and video interviews in response to the pandemic. They have also had to accelerate the hiring process with the help of applicant tracking systems and human resources information systems, all to create a smoother candidate-to-employee path.
Those are significant steps for addressing the talent that’s in the job market. The lag in qualified candidates, however, when compared to new job creation is being felt across all industries. It’s making it difficult for businesses to find the necessary employees to reopen and operate without restrictions.
The Labor Market By the Numbers
Finding workers was hard before the pandemic. In March 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate was 4.4% before ballooning to 14.8% just a month later. In September, the unemployment rate was 4.8%, the lowest it’s been since the start of the pandemic.
The number of people working or looking for work — known as the labor force participation rate — is hovering around 61.7%, its lowest level since the 1970s. That’s not horrible, considering the average is 62.8%. However, millions of people have just “dropped out” of the labor force, walking away from jobs to care for children or reduce the risk of exposing themselves to the new Delta variant of COVID-19.
The impact of these constraints is only compounded by rapidly increasing competition for top talent. Businesses are paying more and taking even more drastic retention efforts than ever before to fill roles and keep them filled.
Factors Influencing Job Seekers
1. It’s a “Seller’s” Market
As demand for workers grows, so too do the options available to job seekers. Businesses are forced to significantly raise wages for the first time in nearly 25 years. In some states, the pressure to increase the minimum wage has pushed companies like Under Armour to boost hourly wages from $10 to $15. Chipotle also raised its average hourly wage by 15%, and the wages at company-owned McDonald’s stores went up 10%.
2. Health Risks
The Delta variant has led several people to hit the “pause” button on going back to life as normal. That includes work life.
The rising number of cases exposes how many people are not vaccinated, making job seekers leery of developing a “breakthrough” case. Workers want a few more assurances before they go back to work.
Last year was a nightmare for working parents who tried to conduct business while simultaneously teaching homebound children. Kids, who initially seemed to show limited effects from COVID-19, have been much more susceptible to the Delta variant.
Until there is an approved vaccine for those under 12 years of age, several working parents may choose to stay home and care for children. Otherwise, they risk the need to take time off when their school or daycare option closes because of an outbreak.
How To Adapt
No one can solve a problem without knowing what it is. Now that we understand some of the causes of candidates’ lack of engagement, here are potential solutions.
1. Don’t Hesitate
We already talked about some of the tools businesses are using to help speed up the candidate-to-employee transition. Automation through a digitized recruiting process is key to optimizing this experience. You can bet you won’t be the only person interested in a qualified candidate. Give them a reason to stick with you. Review your processes, not just for your potential candidates and talent pool, but for your hiring and HR managers.
2. Focus on Safety
Be clear about your health and safety protocols. Potential job candidates want to know and will scour online sources like Glassdoor, social media channels, and news outlets.
Communicate transparently about the particular role you’re recruiting for and any exposure risks that might come with some positions. Honesty goes a long way.
3. Adapt Your View of the “Ideal” Candidate
Never let perfect be the enemy of good. Many “ideal” candidates are inundated daily by recruiters for similar roles. Expand your talent pool by looking beyond just hard skills. Consider each person holistically, taking into account soft skills, culture fit, and transferable experiences.
Anyone can learn how to perform a task. Attitude, resiliency, and adaptability are inherent and incredibly valuable right now.
4. Show Support
It’s been a challenging year. Each of us, including job seekers, has juggled changing health headlines, changing work environments, and the upheaval of our personal lives. Not everyone has support systems or coping mechanisms.
Consider employee wellness programs that look beyond physical well-being. Embrace flexible work options and child care benefits to demonstrate your genuine care for current employees.
A Constant Evolution
The pandemic accelerated many inevitable changes, including in the labor market. Business owners that survived the pandemic have already demonstrated their ability to adapt.
As the recruiting landscape evolves, be ready to stand out through creative solutions that allow you to reach the talent you need faster than the competition.