New Jersey employers should not expect the hiring shortage to end soon, and employees will likely have leverage for quite some time.
That’s according to a group of experts gathered for a Nov. 30 NJBIZ panel discussion titled The Great Resignation: Recruit & Retain, which covered a variety of issues related to hiring in a difficult environment.
“We don’t see this as a temporary situation,” said Manisha Subramanian, the owner and strategic partner at the Edison recruiting firm PrideStaff & G.A. Rogers.
While COVID-19 had not been the “primary culprit of the hiring shortage” – the exact cause has been debated in academic, political and business circles – the hiring shortages will nonetheless “continue for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Initial expectations in the spring and early summer were that once the federal $300 weekly unemployment relief checks ran out around in early September, many people would simply return to the office, or to their retail, restaurant or other hospitality jobs. But the effect was muted at best.
A recent survey by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association found that three in four employers – 73% have been faced with hiring shortages over the past year. Many reluctantly raised wages in order to attract workers. Many prospective workers – 57% – simply did not show up for their interviews, while 49% opted to stay unemployed and 46% canceled interviews.
The NJBIZ panelists suggested that employers will have to work harder and adopt some tactics that might have seemed unthinkable before the pandemic.
Some are obvious. Base pay is important and “you want to be competitive there,” explained David Pearson, a senior vice president at the Woodbridge human resources firm ExtensisHR. But benefits – paid time off, holidays and health care – should be high-quality.
Smaller firms that can’t afford these more “generous compensation packages” can be creative with perks such as unlimited vacation time, Subramanian explained.
And remote work offerings may be considered essential, according to Delores Murphy, who heads human resources at the information technology firm Integris. “So many more candidates are looking to work from home as opposed to coming into the office, so we have to have that flexibility,” she said.
Subramanian said that this remote-work reality means that employers can recruit from outside their local areas, and even “reach across the country.”
In addition, employers should reach out to non-traditional communities. Lynn Spence, a senior executive for human resources at the engineering consulting firm T&M Associates, said that virtual career fairs, scholarship opportunities, participation through professional organizations such as the society for women engineers all help to build “brand recognition.”
“Again, showing that it’s not just words, for us, in terms of waiting to diversify our population, but supporting and making changes in our process and the way we approach the relationships that we build to expand the diversity of our workforce,” she continued.
Murphy agreed, saying that employers will need to go beyond the higher education route for finding talent. That means working with community schools such as two-year colleges.
“We’re helping younger students branch into the IT world a little earlier than they would because they’re still in school, but getting that exposure,” Murphy said.
On job interviews and the recruiting process, Mazars USA Managing Partner Paula Ferriera said that employers need to conform more to the applicant’s timeframe, rather than the other way around. “It can’t be at the same pace that we did 18 months ago. We have to act a little bit quicker because there’s a lot of people out there looking for candidates,” Ferriera said.
“So where in the past, we may have taken a few days to a week to get back to somebody, I don’t think that time exists anymore.”
In addition, employers might need to be more “forgiving” in what constitutes grounds for rejection, amid the hiring shortage Pearson said.
“Whether it’s in somebody’s home and the dog is barking in the background, rewind the clock a couple years ago, ‘no I am not working with this candidate’,” Pearson said. “If they have to hold the interview in their car, that’s OK because they’re trying to get out of a noisy environment.”