Looking to build out your team this year? Here’s the employment outlook and some strategies you can use to find your next new hire.
The New Year had just barely kicked off when Lowe’s ambitiously announced that it would be hiring more than 53,000 new workers ahead of its busy spring season. Spread across its 1,700 U.S. stores, most of the full-time, part-time, and seasonal associates would come into their new positions via walk-in hiring events where the company says candidates “may receive on-the-spot offers during this open interview process.”
According to CNBC, Lowe’s target of 53,000 new hires is less than the big-box retailer’s goals for a total of 65,000 workers in 2019 (of which 50,000 were seasonal hires, 50% of which were converted into permanent positions). The open positions include cashiers, stockers, loaders, and merchandising associates.
Lowe’s announcement comes at a time when unemployment rates are at historic lows and where qualified candidates are fielding multiple job offers in many industries and geographical markets. “Unemployment remains near record lows,” CNBC reports, “and that makes it more competitive for companies to find talent (for example, larger rival Home Depot also ramps up hiring ahead of the spring).”
Here’s the Outlook
As of December, the national unemployment rate was 3.5%, with the most recent job gains occurring in healthcare, technical services, and manufacturing industries, according to the BLS. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since May 1969, and is much lower than 3.5% in some states.
In November 2019, for example, Vermont (2.3% unemployment rate), South Carolina (2.4%), and Utah (2.4%) ranked as the most labor-strapped states. Some industries are also feeling the labor shortage more than others: at the mid-year point, tech’s unemployment rate was 1.3%–a number not seen since the turn of the century.
Electrical distributors don’t have it much easier. While they may not need to fill 53,000 jobs by spring, most have struggled for years to find qualified, skilled candidates to round out their teams. Last year was no picnic on this front, and 2020 is already shaping up to be another challenging one for companies that need to fill positions.
Ira S Wolfe, president at Success Performance Solutions and author of Recruiting in the Age of Googlization and Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization, tells electrical distributors to prepare for a competitive hiring environment in 2020 and beyond. “Short of a war, everything is pretty much baked in on the economic front this year,” says Wolfe. “Even if the economy slows slightly, it’s not expected to impact the employment situation in 2020 or 2021; it’s still going to be very difficult to find people to fill positions.”
Other key employment trends that distributors should be aware of include the introduction of more automation into the workforce and the different skillsets that this technology requires. “This will only shrink the talent pool further,” he says, noting that finding workers in fields that require specialized skills (i.e., electrical distribution) will remain challenging in 2020.
If your distributorship is hiring this year, it’s in good company. According to Manpower Group, 22% of employers expect to add to payrolls during the first quarter of the year, with 5% anticipating a decrease and 72% expecting no change. It says companies in the Midwest expect their “strongest hiring pace in 19 years,” while those in the South anticipate the “strongest labor market in 13 years during the next three months. Cities with the highest positive net employment outlooks include Chattanooga, Tenn., Columbus, Ohio, Cape Coral, Fla., Baltimore, Md., Charleston, S.C., and Little Rock, Ark.
In terms of which industries are hiring, Manpower says employers in all 13 U.S. industry sectors expect to grow payrolls during the first quarter of 2020, including leisure and hospitality; construction; professional and business services; wholesale and retail trade; transportation and utilities; and government (among others).
Navigating the “New Normal”
As distributors figure out how to navigate the “new normal” employment environment—and as companies like Lowe’s roll out their bold plans to add thousands of new workers to their own payrolls—there are some key tips that they should keep in mind. One of the most important involves what Talent, Inc.’s Jeff Berger refers to as “digital recruitment innovation,” or basically, using technology to find, attract, and recruit new workers. Chatbots and automatic texting, for example, both allow companies to focus on the human side of the hiring process instead of getting mired in the mundane tasks (i.e., sifting through applications).
Companies are already catching on to the value of technology in the applicant-vetting process. According to a recent Top Resume survey, nearly one-third of organizations use competency, job-knowledge, and technical-skill tests to evaluate their candidate pools. Another 15% use personality and neuroscience games to determine soft proficiencies, too. “What’s more, these technological advancements will allow candidates to be better informed regarding the status of their application and more engaged in the overall process,” Berger tells Ladders.
At a more fundamental level, Berger says companies should also understand that money isn’t always the biggest incentive for all workers. A good health insurance plan, lenient vacation policies, and flexible work schedules, for example, can all go a long way in attracting today’s top job candidates.
Step Up Your Tech Game
In Forbes’ Three Hiring Trends to Watch In 2020, eSkill’s Eric Freidman writes about how the opportunity for companies to optimize the hiring and training process is greater than ever. “Armed with cutting-edge tools and insights, businesses can streamline processes, eliminate inefficiencies, mitigate biases, and leverage internal talent,” Freidman adds. “To keep up, you need to have your finger on the pulse of modern hiring practices and the latest innovations.”
For example, he says IBM administers skills tests to ensure candidates have what it takes to succeed in positions ranging from software engineer to accountant. “Skills tests can decrease human effort while maximizing profit potential and minimizing bias in hiring decisions by objectively predicting fit and performance,” Freidman writes.
Other strategies that distributors can work into their recruiting processes include more inclusive hiring (online job postings for diversity and inclusion positions rose 30% between August 2018 and August 2019, Glassdoor reports) and more objective interviewing processes (e.g., “blind” interviewing technology that removes candidates’ identifying information from typed responses to interview questions, thereby helping to eliminate the potential for bias).
Wolfe says one of the simplest steps that an electrical distributor can take is to create and/or update its online application to make it easier for potential candidates to apply. Citing 50% abandonment rates at the point of application—usually because those applications either aren’t mobile-friendly or take too long to fill out—Wolfe says a simplified, streamlined, mobile-friendly approach will net the distributor a wider field of candidates to choose from.
This is especially important in a world where 96% of individuals under the age of 40 in the U.S. own a mobile phone, and where nearly 75% of them have no other device for connecting to the Internet. “Use your own mobile phone to try to apply for a job at your company,” he advises. “If the process is frustrating, change it.”
Tagged with hiring, recruiting