Attracting Talent in a Competitive Employment Market

Post-COVID, many employers and Human Resources professionals are finding themselves in an unfamiliar position – one in which finding top-notch candidates, or any candidates at all, is quite challenging.

As the pandemic has waned and the economy has rebounded, enormous shifts have been occurring in the labor market. A record number of baby boomers retired over the course of the last year. We’ve also been experiencing one of the highest rates of job quitting that has ever been seen in the United States. Anecdotal evidence shows that the disruption and anxiety caused by the pandemic motivated many people to reassess their career, life and future. A record number of employees took the opportunity to pursue other positions, go back to school, start their own business, move or retire.

We’re now caught in a tight spot for employers whose businesses are booming at pre-pandemic levels or better but can’t find enough quality staff to fulfill the demand. For the first time in many years, workers have the upper hand in the labor market. This leads to some short-term distress for businesses seeking workers, but over the longer term, this job shifting can have a positive effect as individuals seek out work that they are passionate about and which is a better fit for their talents.

In the meantime, in this type of tight market, employers may have to be a bit more creative in offering perks and benefits to entice applicants to consider working for them, and to hopefully stay and become dedicated, long-term employees.

Offer non-traditional benefits to attract and keep top-notch staff.

Traditional benefits like health care, paid leave, vacation time, child care, bonuses and raises are all still important, especially in such a competitive labor market. However, in addition to those, consider the power and appeal of some less traditional benefits.

Flexible hours.

When surveyed about the most important benefits a company can offer aside from the traditional ones, flexible hours was the most popular with employees. And due to the fact that so many people worked remotely over the past year, having the option to work at least part-time in a remote capacity is now a requirement of many potential employees.

If you can design ways to allow your employees to have more flexibility in the hours that they work, to work from home or to create a hybrid remote/in-person schedule, this can be a major selling point, particularly for those trying to juggle the schedules of their children and/or needing to care for an elderly parent for instance.

Even if your business requires people to work set hours, you can still make employees’ lives easier by giving them predictable work schedules as much as possible and allowing them to swap shifts with each other when needed.

Free food.

It should come as no surprise that everyone loves free food. There is ample evidence that feeding your employees leads to more productive meetings and happy staff. Your employees are more productive when they are not hungry, and snacks are a very popular perk. In terms of bang for your buck, ordering in some fresh bagels from time to time and having gourmet coffee in the break room is a pretty cost-effective way to build loyalty and keep staff morale up.

Anytime the workload goes up or you hit a really busy time of year and staff might be feeling overwhelmed, that’s an especially great time to order in lunches or provide extra snacks in the break room. Want to really hit a home run with employees or reward them for great work on a big project? Consider bringing in a caterer to create an omelette bar and waffles for brunch or bring in a food truck for a special fun lunch.

Training and education.

Many employees want to move up in their career to better positions but may not have the time or finances to easily integrate the needed education or skills training into their lives. If you can offer training opportunities for people, you can cultivate new leaders and build loyalty. Employees who are forced to pursue their own training and education to get ahead will be more likely to look elsewhere for advancement once they have the skills. Talk to your employees and interviewees about their aspirations and career goals, and if you can help them reach those goals, it will likely be to your long-term benefit as a company.

Social events.

Don’t underestimate the power of a positive company culture to help attract and retain good employees. Workers who socialize with each other and engage fully in a spirit of teamwork are more likely to feel the type of bond that keeps them committed long-term. The past year has been a big blow to maintaining a cohesive corporate culture and may be part of the reason so many people became disengaged enough to quit and look for new positions.

Don’t rely on your employees to always organize their own social activities, be sure to create some company-sponsored events and team-building exercises. The “Party Planning Committee” was always a running joke on The Office, but it’s actually a great idea to assign someone to be in charge of office engagement, and planning ways to get employees interacting in a fun and sociable way.

The possibilities are endless and will depend on your specific company culture but could include things like a “Cutest Pet Photo” contest, game night, trivia night, company picnic, costume or theme day, chili cookoff or potluck lunch, volunteer project for a good cause, escape room night, fantasy football league, softball team, and so on. Survey your employees, they may have the best ideas.

Above all, this is the time to be open to trying new incentives to attract people to your team. And don’t forget about your current employees. Take a survey and see what types of perks would appeal to them most.