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Guest view: From a firm in the middle, a perspective on hiring

A year ago, about 75 percent of managers surveyed nationally were struggling to find suitable candidates.

Here in Central Pennsylvania, where unemployment was even lower than the national rate, that percentage was likely even higher.

And a year later? Little has changed. We’re experiencing the tightest labor market conditions in 18 years.

The unemployment rate in counties in Central Pennsylvania ranges from 3.0 to 3.8 percent — great for job applicants but a significant challenge for employers with open positions to fill.

Those of us in the staffing and recruiting industry understand those challenges — we’re dealing with them ourselves. While most of our time is spent finding top prospects for our clients, we’re also looking for and hiring candidates for our own open positions.

Tackling the challenge

With most professionals currently employed and not job hunting, businesses are having more difficulty than ever finding candidates for key positions. To combat shortages of skilled and technical labor, companies are increasing pay and expanding training opportunities.

And in this strong economy, companies are adding positions as well. So, while they may be searching for qualified people to fill vacant existing jobs, they may also be looking for skilled workers for new positions.

Some searches are requiring extraordinary time and patience, particularly for positions that entail specific technical skills. Top performers might be mulling over several employment offers. So, if you need to find the best candidates for a key position, start sooner rather than later. Your search could take even longer than it would have a year or two ago.

Now more than ever, companies need to be strategically smart when recruiting employees. Here are several actions to include in your recruitment plan:

  • Network with peers from other companies — yes, competitors — who may have leads to share from time to time.
  • Review salaries and benefits, compare them to the local market and upgrade as needed. Improve other incentives, such as advancement opportunities, training and education.
  • Look at employees already on your payroll who show promise and ambition. With some training, some might be well-qualified for open positions.
  • Use behavioral and personality assessments to identify candidates who appear compatible with your company but may need additional training. While ability is important, so is a good fit for your company’s culture and values.
  • Be more flexible when hiring part-timers by fitting their work time to their needs. If you can accommodate their personal schedules, you have a better chance of keeping them.
  • Plan ways to create positive candidate experiences. Today’s employees desire a work/life balance and want to feel happy and fulfilled, including at work. Potential employees are more likely to join your firm if they sense camaraderie and a welcoming environment.

When the market is tight, your competitors are experiencing the same challenges, so don’t let your best employees get lured away by your competition. You might have to go the extra mile to retain them. In addition to providing generous compensation, offer valuable employees professional development and mentoring as well.

What will the employment picture look like a year from now? No one knows for sure, but 2019 is looking to be much the same as 2018. So, continue to plan ahead, start candidate searches promptly and use strategy in your recruiting efforts.

(Photo: Submitted)

Scott Fiore is president of TriStarr, a staffing, recruiting and consulting agency in Lancaster. TriStarr serves client companies, as well as temporary and permanent workers, in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, York and southern Berks County markets.

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