September is National Workforce Development Month, and Mesa County is ready. Activities will include engaging students in school-to-work programs, high school apprenticeships, college internships and job fairs. It’s an exciting time for human resource managers and recruiters challenged by the labor shortage.
Forgetting the job market in 2020 — as many of us would like to do — Mesa County reports
22 percent more job openings than 2019. Labor was in short supply before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Mesa County posted a record low unemployment rate of 2.5 percent in September 2019. The unemployment rate in the United States fell to 3.5 percent in 2019, the lowest rate since 1969.
In July 2021, the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.
For the plethora of employers counting on the end of federal unemployment assistance of $300 a week scheduled for Sept. 6 to open the flood gates for new applicants, I suggest this won’t be the answer to all our woes.
It seems that in America, we consume more than we create. Statistics show that about 60 percent of adults have jobs. That leaves 40 percent of adults and all children relying on the goods and services working people provide. Most of us neither grow our own food nor provide our own health care, so we must rely on the supply side of the house to provide us with even basic needs. This means the pressure is on for business to supply this increasing demand regardless of the labor shortage.
Competition for employees presents a challenge in all sectors of business today. There’s also something the HR community calls the turnover tsunami. Employees are leaving jobs in record numbers. The lesson we’re learning from this phenomenon is retention is more important than recruiting. Companies bribe candidates with everything from ice cream to $50 simply to show up for an interview. They also offer hire-on and referral bonuses and higher starting wages. The challenge then becomes keeping employees. While such concepts as engagement, empowerment and inclusion are offered as the answer, what does that really mean?
HR managers find the best way to keep employees is to get the right fit. This is particularly difficult when they’re unable to interview a variety of candidates. Companies are hiring on the spot — often the first candidate they see. There’s no longer the luxury of a month-long process to make an offer, even when relocation is necessary. What that means is the choice might not be the right fit for the employer or employee Since it was easy to get this job, the employee often finds it’s easier to just get another. It’s like trying on shoes.
This is time consuming and expensive to employers. Lack of retention not only hurts the current demand issue, but also hampers the development of new products and growth of the company. It also slows upward movement for employees and reduces security for their families.
The most successful retention practice is honesty. Open doors and the assurance supervisors and HR departments are allies for employees are the best policies. Creating the value proposition your company has to offer and being honest about the expectations of the company offer a more effective approach than increasing benefits.
My advice to business owners and managers is this: foster trust. It’s cheaper and more effective than adding pet insurance to your benefit plans.