The Talent Search: Attracting and Retaining Good Employees in a Tight Job Market

Talent Search

Recently we have been experiencing a near-historic low employment rate. While this is certainly something to celebrate it comes with the challenge of finding qualified and quality workers when businesses need to hire. Low unemployment implies that most people who want a job are currently employed, leaving candidates who may not be as determined to hold down a steady, full-time job left on the labor market.

Many employers are reporting challenges hiring talent and often incur hurdles such as finding candidates who are able to pass a pre-employment drug screen, finding candidates who will show up for work, and finding candidates who are likely to stay with the company after countless hours of onboarding and job training have been invested. These experiences are frustrating for employers who are often left wondering what they can do to find the talent they need.

As mentioned, low unemployment means there is a thin pool of qualified job seekers. While we certainly want our nation to maintain a low rate of unemployment, at the same time we need our small businesses to be able to find the talent they need to run a successful enterprise. As you may have realized, the same hiring strategies that work well when there are robust options for talent are not going to be as effective when options are limited.

Overcoming the Challenge in Securing Talented Employees

RETHINK the current means of operation. Are the current procedures and processes flexible enough to adapt to the availability of the skill sets that you are able to hire? Often businesses can become cemented in their operations without giving them a periodic review to determine if they are running their business in the most effective way possible given their available options.

Successful businesses need to be adaptable so that they can operate in any given market with the resources available to them. Perhaps the addition of new software, refining a process, the purchase of a piece of equipment, or other resources can help a small business to rely less on available manpower and instead shift their reliance to a new means of production. This isn’t always the most affordable option, but it is certainly worth considering the investment if it means circumventing complicated, hard to solve ongoing labor issues.

REWRITE the employee handbook. Oftentimes the challenge in finding new talent rests in a recruits inability to pass a pre-employment drug screening. While I am aware marijuana is still a polarizing issue, many candidates who might test positive for marijuana likely do so for “off the job” recreational use. The results of a positive test for marijuana may better be a cause for correction rather than a permanent barring from employment. An option would be to have your company policy address measures for this scenario such as allowing a prospective candidate to re-test within a 7 to 14-day time frame after you inform them of your company’s no-drug policy. This could allow candidates the chance to amend their behavior to fit your company expectations.

RESOLVE issues that are causing a short-term employment trend. Employees who leave the job after a short stint do so for various reasons. Some may not enjoy the work atmosphere or their job duties after experiencing it in action. Some may not feel valued as an employee, or their work may feel meaningless. And, some may just flat-out lack the interest in staying employed.

If a company experiences high turnover, especially in a specific position within their company, it is worth taking a long hard look at the role of that job. Are there changes that could be made to create a better work environment for those who hold that position? Better lighting, better ventilation, climate control efforts, noise reduction, procedures to make the job safer to perform, or any other improvements that may be possible? If a job environment can be improved, levels of turnover will begin to decrease.

Reevaluate the problems in a high turnover of a specific position. Can the turnover rate possibly be associated with the pay scale? While this is never something a small business wants to do, an increase in wages or the addition of other benefits that are favorable to the employee often solves the turnover problem. Good jobs are as hard to find as good employees.

How do you define a good job? Fair compensation for the position held and duties required in that position is a starting point. However, today’s workforce also wants benefits that make staying with the job a positive reinforcement. Those benefits can include anything from sick leave to child care assistance or paid vacation days. Flexible work hours and work from home flexibility could be options that appeal to the employee.
A small business that is willing to invest more in their employees will find that higher wages or a benefits package can be a rewarding strategy for finding and retaining talent in tight labor markets. Making those job positions harder to leave through a combination of work incentives and performance awards can often go a long way in solving high turnover in any company.

There are new candidates arriving in the labor market every day from sources such as Adult Education Centers, post-secondary or tertiary education providers, and even high school graduates. Don’t overlook these sources for new talent. Though they may lack the experience desired for specific positions, many companies are turning towards making the investment into their on-the-job training programs rather than their recruiting efforts. Almost anything can be taught, and honestly, a two or four-year degree is not necessary for most occupations in the workplace, including many of the jobs that require them.

There are multiple workforce development and educational agencies throughout the state of Arkansas that have proven fertile ground for producing ready-to-work candidates, begin to develop a relationship with those agencies so that they can help to groom their clients in the direction they need to grow in order to be successful with your company. These agencies exist to get their clients job ready and they are eager to develop relationships with employers that need the services their clients can offer.

The important thing in hiring good employees is to ask relevant questions in the hiring interview that identify what’s important to the employee. The more you understand employee needs, the easier it will be to rethink, rewrite, resolve, and reevaluate your company’s compensation plan. It’s like any other sales job – you have to take the time to listen and show sincere interest in the well being of the workers you are hiring. Listen and understand employee needs. You may be surprised at what you learn!

Miles Crawford
Miles Crawford

Miles is the CEO of Go Ye Employment Services. He has served as Chairman of the Western Arkansas Workforce Development Board and President of the Staffing Association of Arkansas. He is active in numerous initiatives around the country that center around workforce development and the future of work.