For recruiters, staffing professionals and HR managers, these are neither the best of times nor the worst for workforce planning.
The economic recovery has not taken off as hoped this year, resulting in a mixed bag of opportunity and challenges in employment trends. While private payrolls grew a meager 18,000 in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ongoing pace of employee turnover continues, with 4.07 million hires made in May across all industries.
More working professionals are willing to take a chance on changing employers and millions of qualified candidates remain jobless, making it somewhat easier for recruiters to meet the demanding criteria set by employers.
Taken together, it’s a dynamic environment for employment trends in the second half of 2011.
Recruitment Varies by Region and Industry
The recruitment recovery is widespread but uneven in its geographic distribution.
“We’re more fortunate than most people around the country,” says Tony Beshara, principal of recruiter Babich & Associates in Dallas, which is benefiting from the Texas energy boom. “We’re ahead of last year. Companies are expanding, but hiring very cautiously.”
Even within an industry, employment trends vary widely this year. “Manufacturing has really come along over the last six months,” says Craig Libis, a recruiter with Executive Recruiting Consultants, a Management Recruiters International affiliate in Dell Rapids, S.D. “Factories are adding shifts and weekends. But things in Michigan and Ohio are still very, very difficult.”
Entry-level production openings may still be easy to fill, but more skilled jobs requiring experience are a different story, Libis says. “We’re having a hard time filling orders for shift supervisors and production coordinators.”
Financial and advisory consulting firms have ramped up their recruitment activity, some even to pre-recession levels. “Firm-wide, we recruited 11,500 people in the year ending June 30,” says Miranda Kalinowski, sourcing leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ advisory practice in the United States. “We’re looking for people in management, technology, deals and forensics, among others.”
Shifting Staffing Trends
Many companies, having allowed attrition to keep them short-staffed for quite a while, are discovering they may not be able to find an ideal fit for every vacancy they now fill. “Clients are loosening up in terms of waiting for the perfect candidate who meets all criteria,” says John Touey, a principal with Salveson Stetson Group in Radnor, Pa.
But Libis says his clients are being just as demanding as ever. “Employers are still being very picky; they can hold out for everything they want in a candidate.”
Some recruiters are finding that clients don’t realize that, even in times of higher unemployment rates, it can be just as hard to find qualified candidates. “We have to convince our clients that despite high unemployment, their best candidates might already be employed,” says Beshara. “Even now, you have to assume that if you’re interviewing a really good candidate, he’s talking to three other companies.”
Employers are also demonstrating their insecurity about taking on full-time employees in uncertain times by overdoing the interviewing stage, some recruiters say. “Three or four years ago, the average interview process included three people -- now it’s six,” Beshara says. “The fallacy is, the more people you involve in the process, the better the hire you make.”
More Candidates Willing to Change Jobs
Ever since the financial crisis, many incumbents have been unusually cautious and unwilling to even consider changing jobs. That mindset appears to be changing.
“It’s a little easier now than in the recent past,” says Touey. “People were very reticent to take a risk in 2008 and 2009; they had to be really dissatisfied or presented with an outstanding opportunity.”
The “quits rate,” which is described in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover report as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to change jobs, has moved up substantially, from 1.5 million in January 2010 to 2 million in May 2011.
From Kalinowski’s perspective, the pool of potential job changers is growing. “We’re getting a lot more interest now from people just dipping their toe in the water,” she says. “It gives candidates confidence when they learn that we recruited 6,000 people in each of the recent recession years,” 2008 and 2009.
One major roadblock to successful recruitment hasn’t budged as of mid-year 2011. With the real estate market in many regions still on life support, millions of potential candidates with negative equity in their homes can’t even consider moving for a new job.
“It’s virtually impossible to relocate candidates,” says Libis. “We’re looking for people who are renting.”