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How to find good labor workers in today's market

By Joanie Courtney, Employbridge Chief Marketing Officer and President of Professional Services

For the first time in recent history, the number of open jobs in the U.S. has outpaced the number of job seekers—and the trend is hitting employers competing for blue-collar workers especially hard.

The labor shortage is expected to get worse in manufacturing, where 77 percent of employers plan to increase hiring and 72 percent plan to increase wages or benefits. The trend is similar in transportation and logistics, where big-rig orders reached the highest level in 30 years, but there won’t be enough people to drive them. Trucking is already 63,000 people short of filling current job openings, and demand for drivers is expected to double in the coming years.

Just six years ago, companies had their pick of workers to choose from, with unemployment ranging from 8 percent to 10 percent in certain markets. As we enter peak holiday season for retailers and see growing demand for products and services across many sectors, are you ready to compete for talent in this market?

Hint: If you haven’t already changed your recruiting and HR policies for single-digit unemployment rates, the time to act is now.

Four Secrets to Winning the Labor You Need in Today’s Market

No. 1: Hire Right

Coming off the recent recession, when companies raised the bar on their expectations of job candidates, employers must take a hard look at hiring requirements—especially those that may knock out capable people from the very start. We see many of our customers today relaxing their hiring requirements when it comes to education, years of work experience and even background screening, to focus on what they need to get the job done versus what they want.

Ask yourself: Do you have a GED or high school diploma criteria? Is it relevant for all the jobs in your facility? Did you know there are 10.5 million workers in the U.S. with less than a high school diploma?

No. 2: Pay Fair

Blue-collar wages rose only 5.5 percent since 2003, while the cost of living grew over the same period 29 percent. Because of short supply, wages are correcting at a rapid pace. It took about 12 years for supply-chain workers to earn an hourly increase of $1. Yet in 2017, hourly wages for these same workers rose between $1 and $2 in one month’s time, driven by spikes in demand coupled with fewer available workers.

Ask yourself: Do you know how large the available applicant pool is in your city or area? How many competing jobs are available? What is the going rate for the skill you’re hiring?

In today’s environment, if you haven’t done a competitive wage assessment customized to your local market in the last three months, you may be at a serious recruiting disadvantage.

No. 3: Act Fast

Our research shows that job applicants, especially low-wage earners, are accepting job offers at an unprecedented speed. With 96 percent of labor already employed, companies that don’t act quickly to move applicants through the screening and hiring process may be limiting themselves to hiring from the bottom 1 percent or less of available workers. Once hired, employees during the first 30 days of onboarding are at high risk of turnover. An employer who makes a good impression from the first point of contact all the way through a candidate’s first 90 days on the job, has the highest probability of retaining its workforce.

Ask yourself: Does your current hiring process take too long from the time a candidate is identified to the day they start? Is your onboarding process successful at helping to get new hires productive quickly? Are you experiencing higher-than-desired turnover during the first 30 to 90 days?

No. 4: Treat Well

Turnover can cost a facility from $500 to $5,000 per employee, without counting the expense of lost productivity. In a labor market with more open jobs than job seekers, retention is critical to maintaining desired production levels. In addition to offering competitive wages, sensible absenteeism policies and good, old-fashioned courtesy, respect and recognition for a job well done goes a long way in engaging and retaining blue-collar workers.

Ask yourself: Is your attendance point system pushing good workers out the door? Is there an effective system for recognizing solid performers early on? Are you able to clearly define for employees and candidates why it is great to work for your organization?

Nimble Recruiting Required

In today’s fast-changing business environment, staying abreast of labor supply and demand trends, wage dynamics and employee expectations is crucial. Companies who remain agile and adjust pay rates, recruiting tactics and human resource policies to achieve their staffing goals will stay ahead of the competition.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017 PWC CEO Survey, National Association of Manufacturers 2Q 2018 Survey.

About the Author 

Joanie Courtney is an executive with Employbridge, America’s largest industrial staffing firm putting 85,000 people to work each week and serving 10,000 hiring organizations. Employbridge’s specialty workforce divisions include ResourceMFG, ProLogistix, ProDrivers, Select, RemX, Westaff, Remedy Intelligent Staffing, and Bluecrew. As a recognized industry expert, Courtney is a frequent guest commentator for national news organizations and speaker at industry events on the employment market.

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