In February 2020, most organizations were in the comfortable spot of having the majority of their positions filled, and receiving plenty of applicants for those that became open.
Then, the pandemic hit. In a state of frenzied uncertainty, many organizations—especially those whose staff were considered “nonessential,” or that had to close their doors—engaged in massive furloughs sending people home indefinitely.
As prevention guidelines adjusted and vaccines became more available, employers began calling employees back to work. Many were startled to find that some employees simply didn’t want to come back, and others had taken positions elsewhere. Suddenly they found they needed to drastically modify their recruitment strategies to get results in this new environment.
Employers around the country found themselves faced with what has come to be called the Great Resignation, and an employee-driven market that is tighter, more competitive and more challenging than employers have ever faced before.
Some industries hit harder than others
The hospitality and food services industries were especially hard hit. Now, even as mandates have begun to ease and businesses try to return to normal operations, these industries are finding that the demand is far outpacing the supply. A shortage of staff has led to intermittent closings and service, accompanied by an outcry from consumers who aren’t shy about taking their grievances online when their favorite pre-pandemic restaurant is now closed, or the breakfast buffet at the family vacation hotel is still shut down.
As employers struggle to adjust to this new hiring climate, they’re experiencing some key shifts in where they find the talent they need.
According to the new Visier InsightsTM Report, The Great Rehire: A data-driven approach to hiring smarter, an analysis of hiring trends before and during the pandemic (2019-2021) found that:
- 2021 was a year of recovery and growth. Organizational external and internal hire rates topped pre-pandemic levels.
- External hiring was the top way organizations replaced talent lost to resignations.
- Internal hire rates for women are increasing every year and are higher compared to men’s.
The analysis also pointed to three key hiring pitfalls that employers should work to avoid during this tight labor market:
- Pay inequality
- Unproven new hires
- Job candidate ghosting
What successful recruitment strategies include
Recruitment is a process, not an event. Successful recruitment strategies are ongoing and designed to identify and leverage the channels that lead to the best recruits. Companies must also put their best “brand face” forward, stressing the work culture and mission-related attributes that make their organizations great places to work. There are a wide range of best practices that the most successful companies use for effective recruitment. In addition to a strong brand focus, these include:
- Clear and compelling job descriptions that accurately convey the realities of the job. Realistic job previews help to minimize the potential for ghosting or turnover in the early new days on the job.
- A focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These topics are top-of-mind these days with employees who value working for organizations that have a strong DEI focus.
- Treating potential employees like valued customers. Today, more than ever, employers are truly in the role of wooing new candidates their way. A strong focus on service and engagement can help lead candidates to a job offer.
- Efficient interview process that includes clear, transparent and ongoing communication. Communication efforts may also include postings on social media sites, recruitment videos and well-developed websites that clearly convey the culture and benefits of working with the organization.
- Making connections with passive candidates. Some of a company’s best job candidates can be people already in a job who aren’t searching for new opportunities. Reaching out to these people–and maintaining connections with them–can help them think of you when they’re in the market for a new job.
- Employee referral programs. Your best employees can be your best source of referrals when jobs need to be filled. Keep them in the loop and engaged in the process.
- Using data and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs). Throughout the recruitment and hiring process, data can help companies improve the process to gain access to the best candidates–and potential future employees.
In addition to a focus on successful recruitment strategies, companies need to work to overcome some common hiring obstacles.
Hiring obstacle #1: Pay inequality
In Visier’s new hiring report, we found the tight labor market has forced companies “to compete for talent and pay up until it hurts.”The problem with throwing money at the problem, though, can be pay compression as current employees’ pay raises fail to keep pace.
In a competitive talent acquisition environment it’s important for companies to monitor salaries closely for both new hires and existing staff to avoid pay compression and the resulting challenges that can be created. Pay compression occurs when new employees are paid more than those who have been in the job for some time. Striving for both internal and external equity in pay practices can help to minimize or eliminate pay inequality—and keep your employees feeling happy and valued.
Hiring obstacle #2: Unproven new hires
In a tight labor market, the quality of external candidates often diminishes while competition for that talent rises. The more critical the position and the more senior the role, the greater these challenges will be.
But many hiring managers overlook a rich source of quality candidates that is right under their nose: internal candidates.
While data is mixed on the relevant value of internal vs. external hires, in a tight environment internal hires are known commodities that also are familiar with the company culture and have established relationships with other employees, customers, and vendors. Plus, they won’t require onboarding, speeding up your time-to-value ratio significantly.
Analyzing data on applicant sourcing to understand where the best employees come from and whether they are internal or external can shed some light on the issue—based both on retention rates and performance analysis.
Hiring obstacle #3: Job candidate ghosting
Ghosting—the practice of suddenly “going silent” during the hiring process—has become more common among both job seekers and employers during the pandemic. A 2022 Visier study found that 84% of job seekers have admitted to having ghosted potential employers—or even new employers once hired.
One of the major drivers of ghosting is a slow hiring process with suboptimal communication. Especially in a competitive labor environment it’s not unlikely that candidates are applying at other companies and may receive job offers from others before you’re at the point of offer.
Challenges in the talent acquisition process have become more apparent during the pandemic as the pool of potential job applicants is shrinking. Taking a data-based approach to attract both internal and external hiring metrics, while taking steps to address the top three obstacles shown here, can help you improve both the quantity and quality of your new hires— and avoid ghosting!
The hiring landscape is decidedly different in 2022 than it was just a few short years ago. Talent acquisition professionals are facing challenges in their ability to offer competitive pay for top candidates, in finding high quality candidates, and in keeping candidates engaged throughout the hiring process. Keeping a close eye on compensation rates and changes, considering the potential of existing talent to fill open positions, and maintaining a focus on frequent and consistent communication throughout the hiring process can help to avoid some of these pitfalls.
About the author: Linda Pophal
Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.
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