What do job seekers care about most?

To recruit and hire during a labor shortage, start by understanding what makes workers happy.

High-volume hiring has not been an easy undertaking in recent years. Turnover rates had already increased in the 2010s before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with August 2019 recording an unprecedented 4.5M people quitting their jobs. Public health shake-ups of 2020-2021 then led to historic job losses, dispersing many workers. As summer 2021 arrives, "Hiring Now" signs decorate store windows. While these realities are painful for hiring managers and cause ripple effects across business operations, the upside may come in the form of an overdue reckoning: is there a better way to build a workforce?

Bringing workers in

First, let's look at recruitment. Released this spring, Traitify's Happiness Report surveyed more than 1,100 individuals who typically work in hourly roles. This included a small subset of individuals not currently employed. What do these folks say they look for in a job? The top priority was practical: convenience of the location.

Top Factors Influencing the Unemployed Accepting a Job: 49% location, 45% safety protocols, 36% work schedule, 30% benefits, 26% pay, 26% job tasks/duties

That suggests that signage can indeed attract local eyeballs. It also highlights the potential of micro-recruiting into surrounding neighborhoods. Further, given the value placed on convenience, initiatives to ease transportation burdens can help employers stand out. Long-term loans of bicycles or electric scooters could attract quality applicants who live nearby, as could funding a shuttle system. Shuttles can double as convenient transit to retail, healthcare, and schools, thereby serving as an employee benefit.

Josh Bersin, in his recent analysis of the labor shortage, offered that it's not enough to simply dip back into the talent pool more often to hire more workers. "We can no longer just 'find candidates,' we have to 'create candidates,'" he explained. He described efforts companies have undertaken to educate and upskill the talent pool themselves.

Another way to "create" candidates is to address chronic barriers to re-entry. For those caring for school-age children or grandchildren, pandemic-era disruptions to weekday routines have been a major hurdle. Companies should offer support services and advocate for public funding of them. Managers need not overthink: something as simple as facilitating shared childcare among workers, for example, could be a welcome measure.

Understanding the impact of life circumstances

Another barrier may lie in the life circumstances of the high-volume workforce. Data from late last summer found that a narrow majority of 18-29-year-olds were living with their parents, a number that had increased in the preceding six months and surpassed figures from previous generations. As workers return to childhood homes, pursue short-term arrangements, and chronically seek cheaper alternatives, their ability to remain on the payroll at a given worksite is undermined.

In response, employers should seek to meet people where they're at. That might mean offering leaves of absence and/or facilitated re-hires, providing roommate-finding support, or coordinating across sites to enable easy transfers. Relatedly, employers should consider how else they can help employees manage both their jobs and their lives. Onboarding should recognize the need for more than job training. It can include financial literacy education, wellness programming, and communication platforms for employees to share advice and resources.

Refresh the candidate experience

The Traitify Happiness Report also addressed workers' beliefs about the process of applying for a job. We found that workers look for an easy-to-complete process, citing both the ease of using a job-search website and of completing the application itself. But equally important were three related factors often missing for the potential hire: regular updates, a timely yes or no, and not being "ghosted" at any point. The typical candidate experience too often represents a missed opportunity to begin building the employer/employee relationship. Candidates may click those "Apply Now" buttons on websites and then feel as if their application enters a black box.

Top Job Candidate Happiness Factors

With job-seekers able to be choosy these days, employers should be mindful that many people interested in working for them are also their customers. Candidate, employee, and customer experience are all linked. Treat your customers well, and enjoy better application numbers. Treat each and every applicant well, and think of that effort as a form of customer service.

The workforce is made of real people

Understanding what makes workers happy, even before they've been given a job offer, is important. Recognizing the holistic experience of employees should be fundamental for hiring managers. Hourly workers exist outside of the warehouse, sales floor, kitchen, or lobby where they spend their workdays. Recognizing that simple reality — and incorporating that into how we recruit, hire, and onboard each individual — can be a lasting positive change to emerge from the upheaval of the pandemic period.


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