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How to Retain and Attract Talent in Today’s Job Market

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by Charlotte Gurney

It’s not an understatement to say that the world of work has been changed in big ways by the global pandemic. It can be seen in how people search for jobs and the perks they want. For employers, the first critical challenge is retaining top performers as the landscape shifts back to in-person collaboration and shared workspaces. The second, is identifying and attracting qualified talent in a job market full of candidates who have been shaped by a year and a half of improvisational workdays and flexible work environments.

A Talent Pool in Control

To retain the best employees, companies need to address a talent pool which feels more empowered to take ownership of their career and work/life choices, and confident in their ability to find employers willing to adapt. The transformative workplace flexibility shown by so many businesses at the height of the pandemic cannot be unseen by today’s workers.

Prudential’s latest Pulse of the American Worker Survey found that half of people surveyed feel the pandemic has given them “more control in deciding the direction of their career.” And 48% are “rethinking the type of job they want altogether.” Those numbers are evidence of a sizable portion of the workforce that will be more discerning when it comes to career choices.

23% Plan to Leave

The same Prudential survey also found that nearly one-quarter of employees plan to look for a new job when the pandemic is over. This puts added pressure on businesses that are in a fight to retain talent to ensure momentum. Dependable, knowledgeable, committed workers will be vital for all businesses navigating the marketplace uncertainty ahead.

3 Tips for Retention in Recovery

What can businesses do to keep valued workers, their experience, and their institutional knowledge? Based on what Volt is seeing in the market today, here are several retention strategies most businesses of any size can implement:

#1 Make the Workplace a Growth Place

The employees companies want to retain are go-getters and hard workers. They know the pandemic created skills gaps in many areas and, sometimes, affected their own jobs and teams. Employees will want a chance to learn new skills, try new technologies, and even consider new jobs. Create a strategy to help workers upskill and progress. Develop ways to help employees gain new capabilities and explore opportunities for growth.

#2 Put Effort into Work Schedules & Safety

Consider how to help employees who adapted to, and possibly enjoyed working from home, feel more comfortable in the workplace. This might mean hybrid work schedules which combine remote and in-office days. Or, it could mean location flexibility, allowing managers and teams to decide when it’s time to come in and when it’s acceptable to work from home.

For those with Covid safety concerns, take time to listen and address them. Share plans and strategies for ongoing worker protection across office and other work spaces. Communicate where exceptions can, and will be, made for employees with health challenges. People want to feel safe in the workplace and achieving this is key to retaining talent.

#3 Assess Compensation

Like home prices across the U.S., salaries and pay rates have increased. Any hiring manager or recruiter can tell you job seekers are asking for more—and expecting more— knowing demand for talent is high. They are in the driver’s seat in many negotiations.

For existing employees, this can lead to earnings frustration if new employees are being brought on at higher pay rates. Existing employees may feel undervalued at a time when they are being approached by competitors who are willing to beat salaries to gain experienced talent.

The lesson for employers is to get ahead of performance reviews and start conducting action and goal-driven conversations. Find out what salary and pay expectations are and how to keep the talent you have on board.

3 Tips for Recruitment in Recovery

While retaining employees today has its challenges, recruiting new talent presents even more obstacles. The good news is that employers who adapt quickly to employment trends will avoid many issues. Here’s where they should focus:

#1 Grassroots Recruiting

In-person recruiting has a new kind of power, which is a direct result of the isolation and digital reliance of the pandemic. In-person engagement and relationship building are powerful currencies in a job market that was 100% relegated to job boards, Zoom, Teams and other video conferencing technologies for the last year and a half.

In addition to the fatigue of video interactions, job board fatigue is also on the rise. While technology accelerates the hiring process, boards and online applications also tend to make job seekers feel anonymous and unimportant. A candidate can use job boards and online application tools to submit hundreds of applications daily, and never get more than an automated response. That’s a lonely approach to finding work and why candidates today are hungry for personal connection.

Simple, old-school approaches—from job fairs and community events to office tours, personal emails, and phone calls—can make a big impact on candidate engagement and acceptance rates. For example, Volt recently worked to fill 10 professional jobs for a client using both a well-respected job board, and a grassroots approach with an on-the-ground job fair and community engagement. While the job board yielded more candidates than the grassroots efforts—50 vs. 30—the grassroots candidates were much more motivated and qualified. As a result, 90% of the jobs were filled by the grassroots recruiting push. Volt’s recruiters felt strongly that the opportunity to meet with hiring managers and connect in-person attracted the best talent.

#2 Know What the Market Is Paying

Sign-on bonuses are a trend at almost every job and pay level right now. From fast food and Amazon workers getting $1,000 sign-on bonuses to private equity firms offering a $100,000-200,000 bonus for associates to stay on board, compensation is one of the first challenges a business faces in recruitment. Squeezing budgets by instilling salary freezes on existing employees, or offering below-market rates is sure to negatively impact the business.

One of Volt’s USA retail clients recently saw the value of compensation insights and action firsthand. After struggling to fill 800 retail associate roles across their Southwest market in the spring of 2021, the client asked Volt to conduct salary research. The Volt data insight team found the retailer’s hourly rate was averaging $1.00/hr less than competitors. The company increased the hourly rate by $2.00/hr and was able to fill 60 positions within the first day of the new pay rate. Within two weeks of the increase, all jobs were filled. This strategic, data-led decision made an instant difference to the company’s recruiting capabilities and is something businesses of all sizes can do to increase candidate interest.

#3 Showcase What’s Cool about the Work

Whether your company exposes employees to interesting technologies, unusual projects, or impressive clients, take time to showcase the “wow factors” of the work. Today’s job seekers have faced tedium for the last 18 months and are hungry for excitement and growth. Let them hear and see what’s interesting about the job and opportunities to gain new skills. Everyone is eager for something to look forward to and this type of information can help them build enthusiasm for the opportunity.

A strong recovery from the pandemic, and the business challenges it has brought, will require a robust talent pipeline. Businesses that are ready to adjust in today’s shifting workforce needs will be best equipped to advance in the upturn and beyond.