Due to pandemic restrictions lifting across the U.S., several sectors are enjoying a steady increase in trade. However, more and more businesses dependent on hourly workers are struggling to hire fast enough to meet customer demands.
Although there has been significant job recovery in industries that depend on hourly workers, the number of workers in these industries is still well below the level it was in February 2020.
These industries, which still have 3.8 million fewer employees than before the pandemic, are facing 5.1 million current unfilled job openings:
- Leisure and Hospitality
- Health Care Support and Social Assistance
- Retail Trade
- Transportation and Warehousing
Where did the workers go who filled these jobs before the pandemic? How can in-house talent acquisition professionals and recruiters fill the gaps?
Here are some key hiring trends employers should be aware of and consider adopting to try and bridge the worker shortage and keep businesses running at a higher capacity.
A Quick Look at Job Gains and Losses
Very few industries have escaped unscathed from the pandemic. For example, in nursing care facilities, employment has declined every month since 2020, with an additional 58,000 job losses this year alone.
Although grocery stores and home delivery services initially benefited from pandemic-induced behavior, food and beverage stores lost 56,000 jobs in 2021, and couriers and messengers are now down 34,000 jobs.
On the plus side, as COVID restrictions start to ease, businesses that were hit the hardest, like restaurants, are beginning to bounce back. In fact, the restaurant sector filled 1 million jobs in the last six months, and other arts, entertainment and recreation venues added 327,000 jobs.
What is Keeping People from Returning to Jobs?
With a high unemployment rate, currently about 6% to 10% for many of the hourly blue-collar jobs, why aren’t people rushing back to work with all of the available job openings? There is currently a mismatch between what these openings offer and what the current labor force is seeking. There are also some workers who decided to leave the labor force during the pandemic, either for an extended term for personal reasons or to permanently retire.
Some of the often-mentioned obstacles that keep potential candidates from applying to new roles include caretaking responsibilities. For starters, schools are still closed for the summer across the country. Although most school districts are planning in-person classes in the fall, child care remains an issue for some parents. Others still have health concerns about returning to work, especially with the recent virus resurgence, when there are vulnerable family members at home.
In addition, with supplemental unemployment benefits extended to September 2021 in about half of the states, in many cases, this means for now that lower-paid workers earn more by remaining unemployed.
Hiring Trends That Are Helping
So, what trends can businesses and talent acquisition leaders follow to overcome these obstacles?
1. Workplace Flexibility
Scheduling – For many, child care is a significant concern. However, employers can meet candidates halfway by offering more flexible employment options so that caregivers can schedule work around their children or parents. At the very least, employers can assign consistent shifts so that caregivers can plan and schedule the resources needed while they are at work.
Salary Advances – A newer way to help employees with flexibility is to provide the option for an advance on their salary. This is considered helpful by more than 94% of hourly employees who often need to cover expenses due before payday. Responding to these relatively simple requests goes a long way to providing more stability and flexibility to workers. Businesses wanting to provide employees with a salary advance easily accommodate this using online employee management platforms, automated services that help employers manage payroll, hiring, onboarding and time tracking more efficiently.
2. Higher Pay and Incentives
Increased Pay - There's been an ongoing push to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In February, the minimum wage increase was dropped from the Democratic stimulus plan. But this doesn’t mean that increasing wages isn’t still on the minds of many hourly workers. Unemployment benefits currently present fierce competition for businesses paying minimum hourly wages, as do other employers who have already raised their pay rate. Not only does increasing compensation attract new candidates, but it also cements the feasibility of the career choices your current staff has picked - a win-win.
Incentives – To improve recruiting efforts, some organizations have started offering a prize or payment to reward applicants who show up for their interview. Many businesses have implemented sign-on bonus payments, and to increase retention, these may be paid at various employment milestones. Depending on the type of business, monetary and other awards may be used when employees or teams accomplish goals. This encourages positive work behaviors and provides extra incentive to remain with the employer.
3. Remote or Hybrid Work
If the type of work required from new candidates can be done remotely, consider permitting employees to work from home. Working remotely has been a clear trend throughout 2020 and 2021. The great benefit to workers is that caregivers can be home with their children. But most importantly, it lowers the risk of exposing and/or spreading COVID-19 among your workforce. Even hybrid options where staff work from home some of the time can make the position much more appealing to workers.
Retraining and upskilling existing staff to fulfill more responsibilities is another trend. Recruiters and talent acquisition professionals, listen up. You can cast your candidate net wider by offering retraining and upskilling opportunities to potential hires from other industries. This may be the incentive they need to switch career paths; some employers offer continuing education or tuition reimbursement.
Are You Changing the Way You Hire in 2021?
The world of recruitment has been shaken up, and businesses need to adapt quickly to prepare for the upcoming wave of hiring. As demands increase and employees return to work, your job offer must stand out from the rest by providing the safety, flexibility and stability that hourly employees crave.
As a recruiter, you need a diverse and open-minded approach, too. If you only seek candidates who’ve worked exclusively in your sector, you may be shutting out talent from other industries. Many sought-after transferrable skills aren’t exclusive to specific industries, so broadening your horizons could bring enormous benefits to your business.