Hiring Trends: Winter 2022
Here we are in February 2022, and it’s hard to believe we’re nearing the two-year anniversary of our economy’s first efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. In March 2020, Florida businesses found themselves scrambling to protect their employees and set up remote work options. There were more questions than answers back then, and companies relied on innovation and pure grit to stay afloat.
Since then, most employers have successfully adopted pandemic-era business practices, even while they continue to grapple with worker safety issues, remote work constraints, and questions about compliance with COVID-related regulations.
The good news is that economic optimism is still the prevailing force. There is pent up demand for goods and services, and businesses are planning for growth. They’re also planning to increase hiring in 2022, and we’re seeing signs that workers are willing to switch jobs for the right opportunity. Here is a summary of the top hiring trends in our region:
Employers continue to deal with uncertainty
Return to work was underway when the Omicron variant moved into Florida and reset the starting line. Employers were once again desperate for clear direction as conversations about mask mandates and worker rights took one turn after another. Conflicting information and fears around potential legal issues made decisive decision-making all but impossible. Fortunately, a Supreme Court ruling in January made expectations clear, and businesses are finally moving forward with confidence, although many are still working to find vaccine and masking policies that satisfy both employees and customers.
As businesses aim to establish easy to understand policies, it’s becoming clear how difficult it is for companies to account for every scenario that might arise in the workplace. For instance, employers might require testing, but lack a process for making sure the test is administered correctly by an accredited source. Or they might require workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to stay at home, but lack protocols to follow if a worker tests positive on a day they’ve been in the office. Smart companies are making time to think through policies in both broad and narrow strokes, and assigning someone on their team to manage and monitor reporting requirements, testing and vaccine tracking, and compliance.
The hares are leaving turtles in the dust
By now almost every employer has been affected by the tight labor market. New hires are hard to find, and many of those who come on board don’t stay. Staffing challenges are slowing companies’ momentum at a time when productivity has arguably never been more important. What can companies do to come out ahead in the race for talent? As our executive vice president Shaun Androff likes to say, “buy the fire extinguisher before the fire.” It boils down to being proactive:
- Front-load job descriptions so they can roll out the minute a position becomes available, and have work agreements reviewed and approved by your legal team before they’re needed.
- Establish well defined and streamlined interview processes to vet prospective hires quickly. This means avoiding multiple rounds of interviews in favor of gathering stakeholders together to talk to candidates.
- Review compensation strategies, and be ready to make changes. Employers that are winning the recruiting race are revisiting pay structures, giving raises, and making counter offers to keep the best talent. The disconnect between employer and employee thinking when it comes to wages is real, and rising concerns around inflation haven’t helped.
- Make a plan for your most important workers. What you can do to retain them, and how will you handle the transition if they leave? For example, most companies rely heavily on their IT team. Now is the time to ensure that they’re happy, while also confirming that you have access to all of your company passwords and accounts. Get a list of the skill sets across the team, implement cross-training as needed, and consider lining up freelance resources to step in if the unexpected happens.
- Don’t ignore onboarding. Getting a prospective hire to say “yes” is a win, but in this competitive environment, a negative experience during the training process can send them right back to the candidate pool. Formalize your onboarding practices so every new team member has access to the equipment and information they need from day one – computers, user accounts, passwords, a list of important links, and ideally a single point of contact they can turn to with questions. This can be tricky for companies that operate across different shifts, and some businesses expect people who accept evening or overnight work to train during daytime business hours. If they have family responsibilities or another job, this requirement may be a dealbreaker.
Communication is (still) king
Sharing clear and consistent communications with employees has been a challenge during the pandemic as teams have shifted to working from different locations, sometimes across time zones and on different shifts. This reality is starting to catch up with leaders as their workforce is feeling more disconnected, less appreciated, and uncertain about opportunities for growth and mentorship.
Information empowers teams to make good decisions and to support each other with confidence, while also boosting morale. A lack of information leaves them guessing and filling in blanks with their imaginations, often creating unexpected rumors and behaviors along the way. Here are a few steps employers can take to keep their team members in the loop and employee anxiety at bay.
- Communicate clearly and often about workplace safety protocols, masking and vaccine requirements, and strategies for handling in-person customer and co-worker interactions. Uncertainty about these details can cause unneeded stress.
- Acknowledge good work and make your team feel appreciated. At a time when workers have more options than ever, this is a key component of employee morale and retention.
- Share your vision for the future, and build excitement about your plans. If they include returning to the workplace, help your team understand why they’re coming back, and underscore the positive things that in-person work will make possible, such as deeper collaboration, more hands-on learning opportunities, and team-building fun.
Employers in our region are finding ways to move forward despite our complex hiring environment. If you run a company in Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Petersburg, or the Tampa Bay area, contact our team to find out how we can help you connect to the exceptional job candidates you need.