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Competing for Talent: 6 Ways to Win by Bill Benson

Timely article written by our colleague and friend, Bill Benson of WilliamCharles Search Group in MI. In today’s new employment marketplace, companies will need to assess how they will hire and retain talent on a larger scale than ever before with the work from home and remote options made available due to the recent COVID 19 pandemic.

Here at Rita Technology Services, we can work with you in your strategy on identifying and retaining your best employees locally, regionally, nationally or globally.

Let’s start by acknowledging the current challenging environment - WOW. And challenging might be the understatement of the year! If you are an employer, hiring manager or HR professional, you know that people are extremely difficult to find, especially for skilled and unskilled labor positions. Any increased flow of candidates caused by expiring unemployment benefits will be quickly absorbed by increasing demand for labor caused by the “V” recovery. Job openings exceed available workers and lack of available employees is providing a drag on the growth of the economy. Companies succeeding in finding labor right now have a clear advantage!

The impact of COVID-19 on the overall workforce is driving significant change. A recent Fortune article, The Battle for Talent: Workers have the Edge on Employers as the Pandemic Wanes, cited that 26% of employed workers plan to look for a job as the pandemic eases. What is driving this change? Reasons include the perception of how their employer handled the pandemic or perhaps they have lost some job security due to shifts in the economy and the impact on their company. In many cases, employees are deciding they want a different work arrangement. The number of people wanting to continue to work from home continues to rise.

The Fortune article cites a Prudential Financial Survey which indicated that 42% of current remote workforce said if their company does not continue to offer remote work – they will look for a job that does. The survey also shows 26% of people wanting to make a job change and up to 50% preferring remote work. These numbers are hard to ignore.

The reasons for people liking remote work are varied according to the Bloomberg article,

“Employees are Quitting Instead of Giving up Working from Home.”

The two primary reasons are “no commute” and “cost savings.” Other factors come into play such as childcare responsibilities and even being home with pets. In many cases, employees just want the flexibility of working from home, their parent's home, or wherever they want (not necessarily in the company location).

Existential factors are also causing “antsiness”. Many people have dealt with tragedy and death within their families or other trauma caused directly or indirectly by the pandemic. For all of us, what had become expected in life was taken away almost overnight. This sense of loss and stress has caused many to reconsider their current path and priorities.

If you are relying on workers to relocate to your town, it is important to know that people are less likely to relocate for a job. A recent Wall Street Journal article cites that in 2018 about 10% of professional workers were willing to relocate for a job. Their recent study indicated that number was down to 5%. People are relocating, but not for jobs. They are moving closer to family, to lower cost areas and to places they want to live. During the last year of remote work, many made physical moves away from their employer’s location. These employees will likely not be coming back to the office.

Another factor causing some to reconsider their employment options relates to them feeling overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated. People in general feel “burned out” and are looking for work environments that will alleviate this feeling rather than add to it.

The Disconnect. Many employers are not feeling giddy about moving to a permanent work from

home environment. The Wall Street Journal cites in a May 23 article that “Bosses Still aren’t Sure Remote Workers have Hustle.” In many cases companies are ill-prepared to manage remote employees. For some positions it is not practical or possible to work remotely. Some employees working from home while others are required to be in the office will create equity issues and the perception of fairness or even discrimination, says the recent NBC news article. This phenomenon is not going away as many of the largest banks and other employers are requiring employees to be back in the office by this fall.

The war for talent is raging and the rules of engagement are changing. Not every company will have the same success hiring in this competitive landscape. Here are some steps you can take to help you get on the winning side.

Engage with your employees. Keeping current employees, especially your best employees, should be a top priority right now. Focus on what is important to them and listen to their thoughts. “Listening” needs to be central to your management approach. Conduct “stay interviews” to understand what is keeping people engaged and also what may potentially be driving them away.

Hiring processes need to speed up. The shelf life for candidates is shorter than ever. Do you have multiple steps and a lengthy hiring process? It is time to revisit and shorten that. Expect candidates to receive multiple offers and you may have to pay more than you expect to get the person you want. Be clear about your interview process up front and try to streamline it as much as possible without sacrificing your due diligence process.

Review your compensation. Salaries are rising and many employees feel underpaid for the work they are performing. Job seekers are looking to be paid fairly and at market value for the position. Be transparent about compensation and share salary information up front. There should be no surprises at the end of the process. Also, “lowballing” is a bad tactic. Let candidates know you will make your best offer. While you may ultimately do a bit of negotiating to land in the right place, lowballing the offer is a big negative in the eyes of the candidate and you may not recover from that.

Consider remote or hybrid work. A recent LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index showed that “flexibility” is deemed more important than salary, benefits, or company culture. The “new normal” for many is working from home rather than coming to the office. Understandably, many positions simply cannot be remote, but finding ways to give some level of flexibility is a strong selling point. This might be offering one day per week working from home or even having a flexible environment related to the workday. Can they work part of the day from the office, leave for a ball game or some other children’s activity, then plug back into work later in the evening? Focusing on results vs. time in the office is a good way of showing you are flexible and trust your people’s ability to accomplish their work.

Offer a clear value proposition. It is a buyer’s market for employees. Now is the time to sharpen your company’s value proposition. Provide the best professional development for employees and/or marry the company or brand to a bigger cause or purpose, these are just two ideas. People want connectivity and community within their work environment. If you are embracing remote work, find ways to make people feel acknowledged, supported, and connected. People often stay in their positions because of co-worker relationships. Social events and open office workspaces will help you keep that sense of community. This value proposition should begin with the job interview. Treat your candidates the way you treat your employees and show them why they would want to come to work for you.

Employee Referrals. Birds of a feather like to fly together. People that have a connection to a co-worker may be more likely to come on board and stay. Finding people that appreciate the work environment and culture offered at your company will be more critical than ever. Have your current employees help you find these people. If your value proposition is working and you are retaining your good employees, they can be a great source to find candidates that will be a good fit.



Competing for Talent - 6 Ways to Win by Bill Benson
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