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At the time of writing in late 2021, the U.S. has more than 10 million open jobs, a record-setting number. Job vacancies are so high, they surpass the number of unemployed Americans looking for work. In fact, there are over one million more unfilled positions than unemployed people. For companies trying to hire, there’s a lot of competition.
Job seekers have the upper hand due to more demand than ever — but what do they really want? A bigger paycheck? Yes, but their salary isn’t the only priority. We’ve researched the reasons behind the employee shortage crisis. Here are some of the top ways you can encourage quality hires, and retain current employees, during a worker shortage:
Market your business with the help of current employees
Employer reviews are extremely valuable for job seekers, especially while choice is abundant. 86 percent of applicants research company reviews and ratings in their job search. This includes reading customer reviews, but more than likely, they’ll be looking for existing and previous employees’ opinions.
To provide job seekers with a behind the scenes look of your workplace, ask your current employees to share their experiences online through a Glassdoor account, Google reviews or even via social media. You should even go so far as to encourage candidates to check out your reviews — this not only demonstrates a level of confidence in your employees’ satisfaction, it shows that your company is comfortable publicly acknowledging their opinions. Reviews will provide an internal benefit as well — by providing a review, employees can help to shape company initiatives and attract talent similar to themselves.
If you’re worried about negative reviews, you might have a longer project on your hands. Applicants and current employees alike are looking for perks such as flexible workspaces, competitive benefits and positive company culture (spoiler: we talk about these factors in other tips) and they’ll look for evidence of these in employees’ reviews.
Use your job descriptions to show off your company culture
Company culture is important to nearly 1 in 4 Americans, so be sure to show off yours. First things first though, you need to have a positive company culture to market one. So, what should you be doing to ensure you do? Value your employees’ time and effort, encourage feedback, promote wellness and invest in your employees through training and mentoring — there are many more great tips online. Company culture is important for job retention too, with 47 percent of job seekers pinpointing a lack of company culture as the main reason for wanting to leave their current position.
One of the first places you should speak about your company culture is within your job descriptions. Job descriptions shouldn’t just be a list of your expectations and requirements for the role. It’s imperative that you highlight what the candidate can get out of working for your company. You can even go a step further and include employee testimonials or videos of current employees within the job posting. Going the extra step and providing detail about employee perks could be the differentiating factor between your position and a competitor’s.
Related: How to Create an Amazing Company Culture
Showcase a flexible workplace within the recruitment process
Around the world, office workers have replaced long commutes with a short walk from the bedroom to the living room or the equivalent. On top of this, the 9-5 workday has been pronounced dead by Salesforce, which added that “the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.” People have gotten used to working remotely — it frees up time, saves money and often allows for more flexibility around work hours. As we move past the pandemic, more and more leading companies are rolling out plans to permanently allow staff the choice to work from home due to the demands of employees and job seekers.
Some researchers believe job flexibility, such as having the choice of where and when to work, has become more important than pay. A recent survey showed that 56 percent of respondents said flexibility was their primary reason to look for a new job. Even where money can be tight, the survey noted that flexible work conditions were the top concern for the lowest-paid Americans (earning less than $30,000).
Businesses that are serious about providing a flexible workplace should demonstrate its priority within their recruiting process. Surveys have shown that over 78 percent of candidates say the candidate experience indicates how a company values its people. Consider utilizing recruitment tools such as candidate-scheduled video interviews — this shows the candidate that you value their time, and can easily adapt the hiring process to their schedule.
Highlight the importance of mental health in your workplace
If you’re in a good position to offer competitive benefits, you should certainly do so. Mental health awareness has skyrocketed in the last few years, and for good reason. A report that compared the mental health of workers in 2020 to 2019 showed that 46 percent of respondents were struggling with mental health issues, compared to 39 percent a year earlier. Uncertain working conditions and the risk of employee burnout while juggling other commitments can be tremendously tough, and job seekers are aware of challenges.
Candidates can grasp the importance your workplace puts on mental health through the information online. Evidence should be available in employee reviews from past employees and even be a benefit that’s listed in your job description. Perhaps you even have additional information listed on your website.
If mental health hasn’t been a big factor in your business so far, don’t let that hold you back. There are ways to promote mental wellness without costly investments or timely rollouts. Promote a healthy work/life balance with a few of the following examples; remind workers that they don’t need to answer late-night emails, tell employees to step away from their desks and stretch or offer meditation sessions or breathing exercises. There is an abundance of ideas out there that can help you to improve the emphasis you put on mental health.
Related: 5 Steps to Creating a Workplace Focused on Mental Wellness
Pay a highly competitive wage for low paid workers
Yes, we’re ending our list with the obvious one. But it’s important to understand why you should be upping wages if you can. The pandemic has changed the way people work — particularly in low-paid, labor-intensive jobs. At the beginning of the pandemic, front-line workers such as healthcare staff, long-term home care workers, truck drivers and cashiers were celebrated for their service during a tough and unpredictable time. As time passed, the applause didn’t cut it anymore, especially when they were risking their health (and chances are, with no or little sick pay) and wages remained too low to adequately cover living expenses.
If you can afford to increase wages, even fractionally, it may be a very effective way to improve your applicant pool. Additionally, the demand for workers has given applicants and employees a bargaining power they haven’t had before, which is pushing up wages. Companies that don’t comply risk being sidelined for better-paying positions. For example, the hospitality and healthcare industries (two industries that house many low-paid positions) have seen average hourly wages increase well above the trend line. In 2021 (January to August), wages in the hospitality sector rose by 12 percent after dropping by 1.2 percent in 2020. Healthcare and education wages increased by 5.7 percent in 2020 and continue to rise in 2021. In comparison, these wages only increased by 1.4 percent in 2019.
Of course, not all businesses can afford to increase their wages, especially with supply prices also rising. That’s why we made sure to cover four effective ways to attract applicants that don’t require such a large investment.
Related: 10 Unique and Creative Ways Businesses Are Recruiting Right Now
The worker shortage is very real, but in many ways, this is an opportunity to better America’s workforce for once and for all. All five of these actions touch on pain points that have quietly been kept under wraps for far longer than the employee shortage crisis — from needing to better invest in and empower employees, to understanding the struggles of living off of low pay. Capturing job seekers’ attention requires work from within, but work that’s extremely important for the future.