There’s a feeling of hope in the air as we begin to reimagine life following the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, it’s undeniable that we’re all returning to a very different world than the one we knew. It’s a job seeker’s market, and despite the influx of employers seeking employees, many businesses are struggling to find and retain talent within their organizations. Understanding what employees want, and taking stock of your own recruiting strategies, can help keep your business on top of trends and position you as an employer of choice for years to come.
Did COVID-19 Kill The Workforce?
“Help Wanted” signs have been popping up all over the U.S. for months and online job-posting sites are inundated with available positions. Employers are ready to bring their talent back to work. Unfortunately, employees don’t appear as eager.
Some say increased unemployment benefits, by way of the CARES Act, deterred employees from returning to work. But that claim fails to tell the whole story. While the pandemic certainly escalated the battle for top talent among employers, we know other concerns have weighed on employees’ minds for much longer. COVID-19 may not have killed the workforce – but it may have fueled the perfect storm.
Numerous studies (local, state-wide, and national) have tried to get to the bottom of the talent shortage and why it’s increasingly difficult to retain existing talent. Findings point to health concerns, under-compensation, and a desire to change career fields as primary reasons some employees have chosen to delay their return to work. Furthermore, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show even those who were able to retain their positions during the pandemic are now quitting their jobs in record numbers. In April 2021 alone, 4 million people reportedly quit their jobs in what’s now being called “The Great Resignation.” What’s more, data from researchers at Microsoft® indicates that 40 percent of the global workforce is ready to resign by the end of the year.
Clearly, employers must do more to attract and retain employees at all levels.
What Are Some Employers Doing to Bring Back Employees After COVID?
- Offering hazard pay and sign on bonuses
- Improving and expanding healthcare offerings
- Increasing PTO available to employees and encouraging PTO use when needed
- Offering mental health services and resources as a benefit of employment
- Offering flexible work-from-home options
The Generational Shift
While the pandemic has certainly accelerated the need for businesses to do more in the area of recruitment and retention, we must remember other factors, like generational shifts in the workforce, were already well-established pre-pandemic – albeit at a much slower pace.
In 2019, Millennials officially eclipsed Baby Boomers, and Gen-X, as the nation’s largest living adult population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while data suggested Baby Boomers were staying in the workforce longer (at the highest rate for people their age in more than 50 years). By 2020, the number of Boomers retiring from the workforce had more than doubled.
Extensive research tells us the ideologies and core values demonstrated by Gen Z and Millennials are vastly different in many ways from their predecessors. From compensation and paid time off, to workplace amenities and access to volunteerism activities, younger generations are shifting the power dynamic and demanding changes, benefits, and greater flexibility in exchange for employment.
How Are Some Employers Addressing The Generational Shift?
- Flexible work scheduling – offering 4-day work weeks, earlier or later work times, and schedules that are more closely managed by the employee
- Opportunity for gym and health club-related refunds, allowing employees to explore tools for better physical wellness
- Work-from-home and hybrid work options
- Stronger business-wide focuses on volunteerism and activism as values
- Increased wages and opportunities for raises
Technology: The Wedge Between Us Or The Tie That Binds
The world continues to witness monumental change, particularly in the area and advancement of technology. We have seen clear differences between Baby Boomer and Gen X when compared to Millennials and Gen Z regarding their level of comfort with technology. Immersion in technology took hold naturally among Millennials and Gen Z, while older generations weren’t as easily convinced. Even so, the benefits of technology were clear and more businesses than before were beginning to embrace greater tech-savvy business models.
Then, as we saw with other workforce concerns, the pandemic hastened the adoption of technology worldwide. Overnight, many business owners had to embrace technology just to keep their doors open and employees on the payroll. Inadvertently, the pandemic fostered a situation that led to similar results as the tech boom with Millennials and Gen Z. Suddenly, every other generation began to accept and explore tech at rates that rivaled their younger counterparts, and workers who previously would not have considered virtual work options began to see it as a viable option – redefining standards for what the workplace could be across the board.
How Are Some Employers Helping Their Employees Embrace Technology?
- Offering comprehensive training sessions on various programs used by your company, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Outlook
- Providing ongoing messaging about the various benefits associated with remote work
- Paying for additional hands-on instruction
- Providing continued technical support on a case-by-case basis
- Encouraging exploration into new technology as it’s available and instructing employees of its purpose and benefits to the business overall
How To Emerge As An Employer Of Choice
Taking the time to conduct a thorough assessment of your business and identify strengths and weaknesses is the first step to improving your company’s recruitment and retention strategy. Start by walking in the job seeker’s shoes and ask yourself, if you were in the market for a new job, what qualities would you want your future employer to have? What benefits would you be looking for? How do you want to be treated as an employee? Next, compare notes. Does your list of wants and needs from the perspective of a job seeker align with your company’s existing benefits, culture, work-life balance, etc.? Finally, consider the changes you could make to set your company apart from the competition in the battle for talent.
What Are Employees Looking For From Their Employers?
- Greater work-life balance & excellent paid time off (PTO) program
- Access to remote work & flexible work hours
- Excellent healthcare coverage
- A family-friendly culture
- Competitive compensation
Remember, how you recruit new employees and retain existing staff members will depend on a variety of factors. Therefore, it’s a good idea to maintain open lines of communication at all levels of the organization to find out what truly matters to your current and future team members.
Acknowledging challenges within your company’s existing culture or recruitment strategy is not an indication of failure. It’s a characteristic of a growth-minded organization. Additionally, when you work with an HR professional with experience, expertise, and insight, you become better positioned to adapt to changing workforce trends and, ultimately, emerge as an employer of choice. If you’d like to learn more about how our experienced professionals can help you improve your existing recruiting and retention strategy, contact Rea’s HR consulting services team or email me directly today.
By: Renee West, SHRM-SCP, PHR, director of human resources consulting (New Philadelphia)