HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

How HR Pros Can Use the Competitive Job Market to Their Advantage

We’re looking at a window of opportunity for HR professionals. With unemployment at historic lows, business leaders are embracing new strategies to better compete for talent.


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From raising wages and expanding benefits to adopting new tech tools and expanding culture efforts, there are many ways HR professionals can help their organizations do so.

If done correctly, this can create across-the-board wins for employees and the organization as a whole. But to accomplish this, HR pros should align their suggestions with the organization’s broader goals.

Aligning HR with the Organization

Why is this so important? As most HR professionals know, business leaders often consider Human Resources (HR) efforts cost centers to be minimized. Leadership teams and HR departments can sometimes be at odds when it comes to organizational priorities.

But the current low unemployment rate has changed this dynamic and created an environment for the strong alignment between HR efforts and business development goals that should always exist. Recruitment, retention, and workforce issues have a clear impact on organizational growth, so if your team is experiencing challenges, it can have long-term effects on the success of the company.

This presents an opportunity for HR leaders to provide valuable insight and advice on optimizing recruitment and retention efforts for organizational growth, including expanding benefits or increasing wages.

Here are some tips for conveying these changes to business leaders for the best results.

Don’t Lead with HR Headaches

HR teams are often sounding boards for workforce issues and employee dissatisfaction. Whether it’s wages, benefits, schedules, or other culture challenges, HR teams tend to get an earful, which can be frustrating.

But they shouldn’t allow their frustration to influence their requests to leadership. You may have always been in favor of changing scheduling processes or compensation structures, but business leaders may feel differently.

The decision-maker at your organization may have different concerns and goals for the state and future of the business, so it’s important to focus on how your suggested changes are in line with its priorities.

In other words, start the conversation by aligning what you’re asking for with what your supervisor is already worried about.

Identify Recruitment and Retention Pain Points in Your Organization

How do you accomplish this? First, identify the pain points your organization faces when it comes to recruitment and retention. According to BerniePortal’s 2019 Recruitment Report, 61% of employers said that hiring was their primary HR goal, but finding quality applicants was noted as the top hiring challenge.

Are you facing this issue? This could mean your application process is too arduous, your job description is ineffective, or your compensation range is not competitive.

Are there bottlenecks in the hiring process? In other words, are you receiving applications but struggling with your offer acceptance rate? This may mean your organization is hiring too slowly, and applicants are getting quicker offers elsewhere.

It can also mean your offers aren’t competitive. If you’re seeing a substantial number of applicants engaging with your team throughout the hiring process but then negotiating or declining an offer, you may need to evaluate the compensation structure or other perks and benefits.

Your turnover rate is another indication of whether this is an issue for your organization. Increased turnover is a sign that other organizations in your area are becoming more competitive with applicants.

While this is something HR pros and business leaders know intrinsically, it’s difficult to make a compelling argument for increasing the company’s investment in wages, perks, or benefits without good data.

This is where HR technology can provide a lot of value, especially in smaller organizations that don’t have an official “HR person” tracking this information.

By using HR tech to track metrics like the number of applicants, quality of applicants, offers made, offers accepted, and turnover rates, as well as regional compensation rates and benefit offerings, you can back up your suggestions with data and demonstrate how the changes would fit with the organization’s long-term goals.

HR sometimes hears “no” a lot from business leaders, but with most organizations focused on hiring, there’s a better chance for a “yes.” By providing good data and good advice, HR can have a significant impact on business growth.

Alex Tolbert is the founder and CEO of BerniePortal, an all-in-one Human Resources Information System (HRIS) for small and midsize businesses. He is an industry-recognized expert on HR technology, the benefits industry, small business operations, and software development.

Tolbert received his BS and BA in Finance and International Studies from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, and obtained his JD and MBA from Vanderbilt University Law School and the Vanderbilt University Owen School of Management.

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