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Opinion: Want more job applicants? Be prepared to offer more

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For many reasons – psychological, economic, political and pandemic – the labor pool is not sufficient for many jobs in the current market.

Service industry jobs, in particular, have gone unfilled, with stories of restaurants offering $20 per hour for dishwashers. A longtime Springfield butcher shop closed, partly because the owner could not get any qualified help. We appear to be in a perfect storm, created by multiple stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits, job dissatisfaction in general, and even fears from some employees who feel they and their former work-from-home co-workers are still not fully protected from COVID-19.

It’s common here locally and across the country to see help wanted signs posted in the windows of convenience stores, restaurants and retail shops. Auto dealers need both salespeople and mechanics. As the health care profession continues to recover from the COVID onslaught, it needs to hire or rehire support staff who were laid off when the pandemic hit its lockdown peak. Factories, trucking and manufacturing companies are posting billboards looking for applicants for well-paying jobs, with full health care benefits.

Calling the 800 numbers for large service companies gives us some version of this now-usual complaint: “Due to unusually high call volumes and the impact of the coronavirus, we are experiencing unfortunate delays and may be unable to complete your call in a timely manner.” In other words: “We don’t have enough staff.”

Consider the hiring shortage parallels to the current local and national real estate markets. Springfield Realtors say they have plenty of buyers and not enough houses. Many buyers are purchasing houses for well over the asking price, in all-cash deals, and often just by looking at the online photos. A recent open house in Austin, Texas, drew over 100 buyers, waiting in their cars, in a line that snaked around the block. Realtors and homebuyers agree: In this market, if your house has been on the market for more than a few months, there is something seriously wrong with it. As long as interest rates stay low – and with many buyers wanting to leave expensive states for cheaper ones – this trend seems likely to continue.

If you’re a business owner, executive or manager, your email inbox may be peppered with requests from recruiters, looking to hire for you or steal you away to one of their clients. Applicants with in-demand skills in many fields that are going begging can do something only professional athletes do – negotiate their salary, benefits and extra compensation. If you need to hire, and soon, you may have to do likewise, using the lure of higher-than-normal salaries, signing and retention bonuses, and more employee benefits than usual. It is a sign of our times that applicants now control more of their fate than before the pandemic.

With all that said, consider these hiring tips:

1. Don’t sacrifice employee quality for employee quantity. Just because you need people, don’t skip critical steps like full interviews, application and resume screenings, and background checks. It’s better to wait for the best person to apply – Mr. or Ms. Right, not just Mr. or Ms. Right Now.

2. Reward your current employees with bonuses for bringing good, new hires to you. Your current employees can help you find talented people, if the reward for doing so is in place.

3. Beef up your training, onboarding and new-employee orientation processes. New jobs can be overwhelming and new hires not supported during that critical first day, first week and first month may leave for a job where the pay might not be better but the work culture is.

4. Post the salary range in your job postings. A review of Twitter and LinkedIn postings by job seekers shows that this is one of the main complaints of applicants: “Don’t leave out this important information that helps me decide if your company is right for me. If I go through an interview, only to find out at the end of the discussion that the job doesn’t pay enough, we have wasted each other’s time.”

5. Provide for work-life balance. The need for employees can mean that those already on the job are being worked down to the nub. Overtime is great for the wallet and bad for the physical and mental health of employees. Don’t burn out your longtime employees into seeking other less stressful positions and don’t overwhelm your new hires into wanting to leave because of a grueling work pace. If you can continue to offer remote work options, do so. Getting work done is only possible when you have people to do it.

Steve Albrecht is a Springfield-based trainer, human resources consultant and employee coach. He can be reached at drsteve@drstevealbrecht.com.

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