Winning the Talent War: Navigate a competitive hiring landscape with a solid recruitment strategy
By Carla Marht
The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, The Great Realignment, The Great Reshuffle and Quitter’s Market… …these are all headlines you may have seen or heard in reference to the record number of U.S. workers quitting their jobs voluntarily beginning in early 2021.
Texas A&M University professor Anthony Klotz coined the phrase “The Great Resignation” in May 2021 when he predicted the mass volunteer exodus. Klotz cited four trends unique to the pandemic, including: 1) A backlog of resignations due to the pandemic’s uncertainty; 2) An elevated level of burnout among workers; 3) A term called “pandemic epiphanies;” and 4) Companies restructuring their work schedules to a fully remote, in-person or hybrid model.
In reference to high levels of burnout, Klotz said, “If you were a manager who was managing through the pandemic, it was stressful. If you were a remote worker working from home, balancing your professional and personal lives was stressful. So, there were these widespread reports of burnout and burnout is a predictor of quitting, so high burnout leads to high quitting.”
The pandemic has given many people the space to reflect on their quality of life and a new priority placed on shifting personal values. These “pandemic epiphanies” have caused some people to ask themselves “Is this the life I want to be living”? Sometimes that answer is no; hence the change in employment. Others who were near retirement decided to check out early, while many entrepreneurs decided it was finally time to start their own businesses. A 2021 study conducted by UCLA highlighted how American values now resemble those of small, isolated communities around the world: a newfound focus on togetherness, time, freedom and purposeful subsistence paired with diminished concerns about financial wealth.
“Quits” hit an all-time high in November 2021 when 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in the U.S. December and January figures did not show much improvement at 4.4 and 4.2 million, respectively.
The labor force has declined by 2.1 million workers since February 2020. This, coupled with record levels of job openings – 10.9 million at the end of 2021 – has caused pain points for those companies looking to hire. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that currently the number of unemployed individuals per job opening is 0.6. For comparison, in April 2020 that number was 5. Pre-Great Recession, the norm was 1.5 unemployed individuals per job opening. Since 2017, the number has been below 1.0 but has gotten progressively worse over the past two years.
This national level of “quits” has certainly affected the electronics industry as a recent survey of ERA conference attendees bore out. Seventy percent of respondents indicated their hiring experience the past year was somewhat to more difficult than prior years. The biggest hurdles in hiring were reported to center around three obstacles: 1) Candidate compensation requirements are too high; 2) Not enough candidates are applying; and 3) Candidates are not qualified.
Candidates in the driver’s seat
The record number of people quitting has certainly made hiring more challenging and left the candidates/employees in the driver’s seat. Now more than ever it is important to create a recruitment strategy. Recruitment strategies can/will vary depending on the position you are trying to fill. But there are several key components in every good recruitment strategy.
Clear direction and consensus on the role are important. Key stakeholders in the company must be on the same page regarding the position details and the ideal person/attributes to fill the role. This clarity must be reflected in a compelling and current job description. Be certain to make titles as specific as possible. Open with a captivating summary of the position and include verbiage on your company that paints a picture of your company culture highlighting your values and your people. Make the candidates want to work for your company because, as you know, they have many options.
Realistic and flexible expectations are imperative when considering compensation and benefits. Work-life balance is top of mind for many candidates in today’s market as evidenced by Linkedin’s Global Talent Trends 2022 survey. Sixty-three percent of job seekers report that work-life balance is their top priority, trumping compensation and benefits, as well as colleagues and culture.
Stay competitive by offering new benefits
Compensation is still a key factor to consider in the hiring process. Now more than ever, compensation needs to be competitive. There are assorted services available providing compensation information for a multitude of positions/experience levels. Simply perform a Google search and several companies will pop up – Glassdoor, Linkedin, LaborIQ, Salary.com, Payscale and Indeed. In addition, industry recruiters often have accurate, real-time insight into compensation trends.
Aside from traditional compensation, creative benefits can go a long way in attracting talent to your organization. Unlimited PTO, once unheard of, is picking up steam in several industries. A 2021 Mercer survey showed twenty percent of companies offered unlimited PTO to at least some of their employees, up from fourteen percent in 2018. A 2019 study conducted by MetLife revealed that 72 percent of people preferred some form of unlimited PTO. There is also financial upside for the employer, due to not having to manage accrual or pay out unused vacation days. Many companies find employees actually use less PTO and managers need to “stay after them” to take much needed time off.
The average student loan debt in the U.S. runs around $38,000. Several companies are appealing to those with loans by including student loan debt relief in their benefits package. In addition to attracting talent, it serves in employee retention. Do not be afraid to start small – even offering relatively small but consistent amounts is viewed very positively. Companies like SoFi and Gradifi function as third parties between the employee and the student loan company, which makes it easier for the employer to administer the benefit. Partnering with a third party also helps ensure that the funds given to employees for student loan repayment are used for that purpose.
The pandemic threw a wrench into the traditional office workplace sending many workers into a remote working environment. A recent Gallup poll indicated that only 10 percent of those surveyed want to return to the office five days a week. Thirty percent preferred to never return to the office and maintain working fully remote. But a whopping 60 percent preferred a blend of remote and in-office work environments. This indicates that companies will need to be flexible to attract and retain workers and accommodate their work location preferences.
Four-day work week anyone? Employers around the world are beginning to embrace the idea of a shorter work week. From 2015-2019, Iceland ran a trial with 2,500 government employees, reducing their hours from 40 to 35 hours a week. The results showed a reduction in perceived stress and burnout and an increase in feelings of well-being. Productivity stayed level or even improved across the many teams that participated. Parkinson’s Law, the theory on time management that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion, may very well be true. “Whoever cracks the four-day workweek,” said Marta Riggins, employer brand and employee engagement strategic consultant, “is going to win the talent war, because that’s going to be the new in-demand perk.”
An expedient hiring process is vital to ensure you do not lose key candidates who become disillusioned with the length of time from initial interview to offer. Good candidates often have many options when deciding to make a career/job change. Candidates do have a shelf life.
Along those lines, it is imperative that you treat candidates with the same respect you would your customers. Be respectful of their time. Be hospitable when conducting interviews in your facility. Make yourself available after the interview to answer questions that they may have about the position, work environment or company. Finally, do not forget to close the loop and provide feedback on their interview. Do not leave candidates hanging, wondering if the position was filled, what they lacked if they did not receive an offer, etc…These may be candidates you will want to hire in the future, so make sure your hiring process does not leave a sour taste in their mouths.
Today’s recruiters are adapting to the ever-changing jobseeker landscape by fortifying their social recruiting strategies and heavily targeting popular networking sites. Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter remain some of the strongest social media recruiting sites. Glassdoor states that 79 percent of job seekers use social media when conducting their job search. Linkedin reported that in 2021, a person was hired every 15 seconds. There was a 25 percent increase in people changing jobs since pre-pandemic levels and remote job openings nearly doubled.
Tried and true methods
Sometimes it pays to go back to “old tricks” like employee referral programs, school tuition reimbursement, utilization of trade association tools, and even reconsidering past candidates or candidates from colleagues who have recently hired. Never underestimate the power of networking and word of mouth to find your next great hire!
To summarize, there is no silver bullet to recruiting talent to your organization, but rather a series of logical steps laid out in an overall recruitment strategy.
About the Author
Carla Mahrt is founder and president of JJM Search, a global executive search firm. JJM Search is part of MRI Network, leaders in the search and recruitment industry for more than 40 years.
Mahrt began her career in electronics more than 20 years ago working for Vishay Intertechnology, Raychem Corp. and Tyco Electronics. Mahrt served on the board of directors for the Electronic Distributor Show (EDS) where she also served as president of EDS in 2007. Mahrt has also received NEDA’s Distinguished Service award for her work on NEDA’s board of directors. She has been a presenter at EDS, ERA and ECIA conferences and currently serves as a consultant for ERA and service partner for ECIA.