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Rethink Hiring Strategies to Shore Up Open Positions

By Kathy Gurchiek

September 10, 2021


LAS VEGAS — Employers say it's getting harder and harder to find qualified workers in the midst of the resignation tsunami, according to Alexander Alonso, SHRM-SCP, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


Nearly 30 percent of U.S. workers are actively seeking a new job and 24 percent plan to look for a new job soon, he noted during a concurrent session, "The Future of Work and How SHRM Can Help Maximize Your Potential," at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021 on Sept. 9.


Four out of 5 business leaders report it is taking two to three times longer to fill a position than in past years. The "COVID-19 reset" is partly to blame, according to Alonso, as workers—including managers—have re-evaluated their jobs since the pandemic began.


Job candidates want more opportunities, whether that translates into more money or career advancement, rather than the widely reported desire for workplace flexibility, Alonso said.


Organizations have training budgets that are 41 percent higher than they were five years ago to meet that need for job growth. Additionally, employers are paying more than they ever have before to recruit "because they are in dire need of employees who can start immediately," he said. Salaries across industries are roughly 11 percent higher in 2021 than in 2019, according to research SHRM is releasing today.


Increasing the salary budget can be challenging for some employers, such as those in the nonprofit sector, Alonso acknowledged. Instead, focus on your organization's mission and the kind of impact the job candidate can hope to have with the company. If possible, consider whether your organization's salary offer can be within 10 percent of what the candidate could receive in the private sector.


Emerging professionals also expect employers to provide an inclusive environment and want corporate activism to match their own values, Alonso said. Gender diversity is the biggest lever employers can use to attract job candidates, but efforts must go beyond hiring for diversity to make employees feel welcome. Organizations are engaging in culture-alignment assessment, spending 30 cents out of every talent-allocated dollar on building inclusive workplaces, he said.

Employers also need to rethink requiring college degrees.

"The era of achievement is going away," Alonso said. "We used to use one big proxy for how we sourced talent—the college GPA [grade point average]. It was the easy thing to do," but how learning is delivered is shifting significantly as noneducational institutions offer credentialing programs. Focus on skills-based assessments instead of personality tests, he advised.


Additionally, college programs that once were the mainstay for certain professions, such as architectural engineering, are dying out as individuals with other backgrounds, such as civil engineers, have the capability to do that work. Some employers, Alonso pointed out, are partnering with educational institutions to develop curriculum that meets the employers' skill needs and creates a pipeline of job candidates in the process.


Don't overlook a boomerang employee who voluntarily left the organization and may be interested in returning. That former employee is a known commodity who understands your company culture. That person may have discovered he or she was happier with your organization and would welcome an invitation to rejoin the team.



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