How Employers are Adapting to Labor Market Shifts

Various factors have combined to create what is being called the Great Resignation. Historic stock prices buoyed 401ks and runaway home prices left many older workers feeling financially secure enough to retire early. Many workers have left jobs because they either fear exposure to COVID-19 or don’t want to deal with precautions like masking, testing and vaccinations. Rising prices combined with numerous job vacancies have prompted others to leave one job for a better opportunity elsewhere.

But labor markets, like all markets, are cyclical, and some evidence suggests things may be slowly improving for employers.

Job Marketing Shifting Back to “Normal”?

In an article for Reuters, Lucia Mutikani  points out that U.S. job openings in June saw the greatest decline in more than two years. While Mutikani notes that demand for retail and wholesale trade workers diminished in June, overall the labor market is still a tough one. “Despite the larger-than-expected decrease in vacancies reported by the Labor Department in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Tuesday, the jobs market still favors workers. At least 4.2 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in June and layoffs declined,” Mutikani says.

These numbers are obviously aggregated across the entire American economy, and experiences can and do vary widely across different industries and sectors, but even in industries as varied as retail, education, construction and tech, job openings seem to be falling.

In retail, Mutikani reports, job openings decreased by 343,000, while vacancies in the wholesale industry dropped 82,000 and education dropped 62,000. “Construction, which is highly sensitive to interest rates, saw job openings decrease by 71,000,” Mutikani says. “There were modest declines in manufacturing and leisure and hospitality. Job openings were little changed in professional and business services, and edged up in financial activities.” In the tech industry, many job seekers are even reporting job offers being rescinded as employers scramble to curb their labor usage.

So what’s really going on the in the labor market beyond these high-level numbers? We reached out to employers and industry experts to get their front-line experiences of the current labor market.

Employers Not Giving Up on Hiring

We expected to hear some employers say that they have given up hope in their hiring ambitions and shifted their focus to other strategies like cross-training or automation. There are certainly some who are looking at such options, but by and large, employers remain cautiously optimistic that the labor market tide will turn before too long.

“We have not given up,” insists Kimberly Nepouni, VP of Talent and People Operations at JustAnswer. “In fact, we’re investing more in hiring with additional recruitment tools, more recruiters, better materials to support hiring managers, upleveling the candidate experience, and getting our employer brand out there more than ever. To be clear, JustAnswer is hiring! We are here for those impacted by layoffs and/or expectations to ‘return to the office.’”

Increased Workplace Flexibility and Remote Work Can Help Ease Burden

The American labor market is extremely dynamic, and no single factor impacting the supply of or demand for workers exists in a vacuum. Lisa Fleury, Senior Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Human Resources Operations at Voya Financial points out that some COVID-triggered workplace shifts have helped her company mitigate (although not completely escape) some of the challenges of a tight labor market.

“At Voya, we have embraced a flexible, hybrid work model, and it’s getting easier to find people due to the flexibility of the roles we’re seeking to fill,” she says. “The sheer fact that we can now recruit nationally, and roles are not tied to a specific location, opens up many more options for us. Candidates desire flexibility and that wasn’t table stakes before the pandemic. Because we offer flexibility, we’re attractive to many job seekers. That said, it’s still a candidate’s market and many are pricing themselves at the upper level of the market, which can be challenging.”

As companies are able to expand their hiring nets through remote work opportunities, it’s important to remember that other companies can do the same, meaning that the ability to recruit nationwide or even internationally doesn’t necessarily confer a permanent advantage as much as it represents a shift to a more integrated and less localized national and international jobs market.

Employee Referrals

Word-of-mouth can be a great way to find workers who are a good fit for a particular company or position.

“We’re continuing to see heightened competition for talent as remote work has expanded opportunities for employees,” says Hannah Yardley, Chief People and Culture Officer at Achievers. Organizations are no longer simply competing on a regional basis for talent—they’re competing globally, Yardley notes. That requires a multi-faceted approach to identifying talent.

“As the demand for talent drastically exceeds the skills available, one strategy we’ve implemented—and found success with—for finding great talent at Achievers, is building out an employee referral program,” Yardley shares. “Current A-Players are the best at identifying others who may be a great culture-add, we trust and value our employees’ perspective on who is best to work alongside them. We have a company set goal that 40% of our organization provides candidate referrals and subsequently we hire on average 30% of our referrals, and we continuously exceed these metrics.”

It’s important to note that word-of-mouth is a recruitment channel that lends itself to greater candidate insights but is fundamentally difficult to scale up. There’s simply a limit to how many people employees can refer relative to the reach of less personal media like online job boards.

A Greater Shift Toward Recruiting Passive Candidates

Many companies are also getting more aggressive about reaching out to passive job applicants – those who aren’t actively looking for new roles but may be enticed by the right offer.

“There was a point in time where applications and active talent were coming in, and recruiters were able to peruse those applicants to find the talent to hire,” says Voya’s Fleury. “We’ve seen a shift in the last two years. We are now targeting passive candidates that are currently employed and not applying.

The shift has been to get those candidates into the market and we’re leveraging numerous avenues to do so – social media, career sites and events, employee ambassadors and more. Additionally, our hiring managers are moving to make offers much quicker, so we don’t lose talent by delaying the offer process.”

The last couple of years have not been kind to recruiters and employers. While there are signs things may slowly be turning around, many companies are still struggling to find qualified staff. Nevertheless, those we spoke to have not given up hope and continue to find and explore new strategies for employee recruitment.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.