Hard Look at Recruiting Process Can Counter Soft Labor Market Conditions

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Savvy recruiters know that even in periods of elevated unemployment, there are no guarantees that they’ll land the perfect candidate for their open positions. In fact, many would argue that they have to work even harder to land top talent when faced with soft labor market conditions and the disparities between the workforce skills that are available and the skills that are needed to fill available jobs.

Now it seems that job seekers are growing more critical of job availability, as well. In a random sample of 1,015 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, a February 2013 Gallup poll found that only 23 percent of respondents believe there are good-quality jobs available in the current economy. This is on par with the 25 percent who responded similarly in a January Gallup survey, which was the highest positive response to the question that Gallup has measured since March 2008.

The results aren’t such a surprise, given the country’s tenuous economic situation and the fact that millions of Americans have been out of work for months, despite efforts to land a job. However, the labor market is in a recovery period, and at any given time there are roughly 3.5 million job openings in the United States across a variety of industries.

The Gallup survey reveals that in addition to low demand for high-quality jobs and a workforce skills gap, there’s a major confidence issue plaguing both the employer and job-seeker sides of the labor market.

What’s the solution for recruiters trying to fill vacancies while grappling with such conditions? Focus more on promoting the “quality” points of jobs that are currently available. There is a renewed emphasis on promoting a total rewards approach to recruitment and showcasing the broader benefits of working at a particular organization, some experts contend.

Salary growth continues to be weak, indicating it’s no longer an option for most companies to solely offer a hefty compensation package to attract new workers. So to counter the flat new-hire trends, many recruiters are placing a greater emphasis on short- and long-term incentives. For example, health care and retirement plan options, as well as career development potential, should be stressed when employers prepare offers for new or existing employees, said Laura Sejen, global practice leader for rewards at Towers Watson, in the article HR Salaries: Stuck in Neutral,” featured in the December 2012 issue of HR Magazine..

Recent SHRM research demonstrates that companies are using this strategy. Nearly one-third (29 percent) of organizations are leveraging their benefits program to recruit workers, according to one report in SHRM’s State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace survey report series.

Thirty-one percent of respondents said they are highlighting their benefits program to recruit highly skilled workers for positions considered critical to the company’s long-term and short-term success. Of that group, employers reported they are touting health care benefits (75 percent), retirement savings and planning benefits (58 percent), and professional and career development opportunities (41 percent) to recruit top talent.

A majority of respondents also predicted that health care (75 percent), retirement savings and planning (69 percent), and professional and career development (66 percent) benefits will grow in importance as recruitment drivers during the next five years, as will flexible work options (69 percent) and family-friendly benefits (57 percent). 

Considering Gallup’s survey findings and the fact that jobs are being created again, a new approach to recruitment is likely at hand. While all signs point to slow, gradual growth in the labor market and in compensation levels for the next several years, look for the competition for skilled talent to be waged and won by benefits-trend-savvy recruiters.

For more information, please visit SHRM’s Labor Market and Economic Data page.

Joseph Coombs is a workplace trends and forecasting specialist at SHRM.  To read the original article on shrm.org, please click here.  Tro