RIDESHARE TO THE RESCUE

RIDESHARE TO THE RESCUE

 

One of Chinesa’s duties at Abel Personnel is to handle phone calls and voicemail messages from those notifying Abel that they will not be in attendance at their assigned company that day. Some of those calling off are short-term temps, while others have long-term assignments, some lasting several years. As Abel Personnel employees, they are required to call the Attendance line before 8:00 AM. Abel’s commitment to its clients is to notify them about any absences or tardiness by 8:00 AM so these clients can plan work distribution for the day.

Chinesa considers herself a “morning person,” so arriving at the office before 8:00 AM, an hour before the doors are unlocked, is no problem. The office is quiet then, great for plowing through this work. She isn’t always the first one in, and the others who are in early, most recruiters, keep to themselves, answering emails and voicemails left after whatever time their day ended yesterday.

With the advent of the pandemic shutdown and later a return to hybrid work, many days Chinesa responds to these phone calls and voice messages at home. This still allows her to complete her client notifications in a timely way.Occasionally she picks up a 6:30 AM call on her cell phone just before she starts her morning workout, greeting a surprised caller who is hoping not to talk with an actual person and to just leave a message. Chinesa can easily guess which of the excuses those callers are giving might not be entirely truthful.
A few years of this responsibility have led Chinesa to identify four types of callers on those early mornings:

  • Apologetically Sick:  These callers often struggle not to sound so sick, and are either sorry to be disappointing their assigned company or losing pay for that day.
  • Questionably Sick:  Greater effort is made here to sound sick. This is especially true on Monday mornings when Chinesa becomes suspicious that someone either wants to prolong the weekend or is feeling low from a weekend of excess. Often a sick call is offered as an excuse rather than admitting the actual reason for the absence.
  • Family Needs:  The person can work, but needs to care for someone else or do something that can only be done during regular business hours. Often, a backup child care plan falls through, or other matters that are unavoidable and unpredictable.
  • Transportation Issues:  These are employees who unexpectedly do not have the means to arrive at work. Often this is a car breakdown, their vehicle or one belonging to whoever is giving them a ride. Occasionally the usual public transport does not arrive or is missed. Many of these callers still need a few more months of wage-earning to buy a new or more reliable car. Missing days of work can have adverse consequences for job security and extend the date until they can have consistent transport.

This last set of callers has become an opportunity for Abel to offer an innovative approach benefiting both their clients and the assigned staff. Chinesa will verify the caller’s location and a contact phone number. An Uber or Lyft is sent to pick them up and shuttle them to work. She can make the same arrangement to take them from work to home, or some to daycare facilities to retrieve children and then home. For those with little cash to spend or no credit card, Abel pays for this service and then deducts the cost from their next paycheck.

This service in most cases is received as a godsend. These employees want to work, want to be dependable, and need income. The small cost of the ride is better than earning no money that day. It also keeps them in good standing on their assignment. For Abel Personnel, this is also an opportunity to assure their employees’ needs are met, they can arrive at work, be paid, and have a solid attendance record.

Abel wants to see our employees succeed, and helping them with transportation is part of that effort. Employees with strong attendance are valued by companies, enabling them to have employment longevity, annual wage increases, and opportunities for recognition and promotion.

Chinesa noted that since 2020, a number of our clients have offered remote or hybrid work opportunities. This change has improved attendance and diminished tardiness. Many employees with minor ailments can work from home, even if they don’t feel well enough to be in an office, and of course, getting to work on time is no problem. Still, Mondays, which are often the busiest days at many companies, have the highest number of call-offs. That problem, Abel hasn’t solved.

RECONSIDERING RETIREES


A staffing recruiter with nearly 20 years of experience and based on the West Coast was recently in town for a family event. She took time away from this first family gathering in over two years for lunch with a colleague who is a recruiter at Abel Personnel. The two women had met at an annual national staffing association conference several years ago and had renewed their friendship each year at the conference. They would also occasionally be in touch between those events to consult with each other on how to leverage certain opportunities or diffuse unexpected setbacks. With the annual conferences having gone virtual, this was also the first time for them to meet in person since 2019. After catching each other up on their families’ lives, their discussion inevitably went to “talking shop:”

“When folks around here talk about the ‘Great Resignation,’ they act like all those people simply left the workforce.”

“I know what you mean. Over 80% resigned to take new jobs. Besides the total number who decided it was a good time to switch employers, what was incredible was how many quit without having a new landing spot lined up.”

“Still, that’s an amazing number that left the workplace. When I did exit interviews, I was intrigued by the number who decided to be a stay-at-home parent for a while, and those who were choosing early retirement, sometimes as many as five years earlier than planned.”

“But know what? I’m starting to hear from a number of those folks who are now reconsidering the choices they made during those months of lockdown.”

“I hear you. With most offices opening up now, more employment situations moving permanently to hybrid, and of course, the domestic or retirement life may not be all they thought it would be, I’ve not been surprised.”

“What surprised me is the initial pushback from employers. Some are unwilling to consider applicants who have been away from the workforce and only want to return as from-home workers, part-time, or as temps. They suddenly seem to forget how difficult it is to find skilled and experienced workers these days. All that flexibility they offered during the pandemic, and the employee goodwill they achieved, seems to be forgotten now”

“I am seeing the same reluctance to consider recent retirees now looking to return to the workforce. And these applicants are not asking for special conditions, necessarily. In many cases, they are interested in lower pressure positions and at lower pay, and part-time or temporary assignments.”

“So what’s the disconnect?”

“Those employers are looking to fill some of these positions with talent that is seeking a long-term career and advancement opportunity. These returning retirees are only looking for 3 to 5 years, assuming their health remains good.”

“Huh. Before the pandemic, those below senior management were switching jobs about every two years. We were thrilled when junior staff stayed on for three or more years.”

“Given the type of skills and experience these returning retirees bring to the workplace, and their lower expectations in terms of salary and advancement, Abel Personnel has begun to actively recruit and promote that talent segment.”

“We’ve reminded employers that many of these returning retirees do not require the training investment that younger staff need. No fretting about your training dollars walking out the door to benefit your competition.”

I like that pitch. Mind if I use it?

The luncheon ended a short time later, with both women hoping to be able to meet in person at this year’s national staffing conference. The Abel recruiter was excited to hear that recruitment of retirees was becoming “hot” on the West Coast, which inevitably presaged what started in Central Pennsylvania by several months. She would soon be searching her database for those under-70 retirees who might be reconsidering the leisurely life. She would raise this option with her clients who were frustrated in their search for staff somewhere in the position range above entry-level and but not necessarily career employees.

IS THE FOUR-DAY WORKWEEK THE NEXT WORKPLACE TREND?


In reviewing position requirements for an administrative manager opening with the Abel Personnel recruiter, Meredith unexpectedly hesitated when asked, “Assuming this is a five day a week position?”

Her response finally came, “Funny you should ask that.”

Meredith then explained that her 100+ person company was reconsidering its entire workplace structure as a lessons-learned deep dive from the pandemic experience. “Part of this study is an attempt to retain workers and attract applicants, either as a labor marketplace advantage or to match what some of our competitors for talent are offering.”

The recruiter confirmed that this question was not as arbitrary as it might have sounded, and certainly not one she would have been sure to ask two years ago. She shared the following survey data from Qualtrics with Meredith:

  • The four-day workweek was wildly popular with workers, with 92% wanting their employers to make the shift.
  • Many workers view this option as a means of reducing stress. 79% thought it would improve their mental health, and 88% said it would improve work-life balance.
  • What’s in it for the company? 82% said it would make them more productive, and it would be the number one thing that would cause them to stay in the company longer.
  • Nearly three-quarters of workers felt that they could complete their work responsibilities in four days, and the same number agreed that they would need to work longer on those days to achieve that parity.
  • Most slightly preferred a workplace with complete flexibility in hours to a four-day workweek.

Meredith was impressed. She wanted to know if the survey identified any downsides cited by the workers. The recruiter cited that close to half of respondents said the schedule would hurt sales and revenue, and 55% said it would frustrate customers.

“I worry that the relatively fast pivots in the workplace we made for COVID may have set unreasonable expectations. A lot of those changes were for special health circumstances, which of course were required longer than almost anyone imagined, and many of these are now being rescinded. Others were truly eye-openers in making our workplaces better. I think a hybrid workplace will have been easier to accomplish. Going to a four-day workweek without ‘frustrating our customers’ will require careful consideration, be complicated to implement, have unintended consequences, and not something we can try and then revert back,” Meredith offered.

The recruiter, who annually meets with hundreds of applicants trying to align their family requirements with prospective job needs, added, “We’ve found that innovations such as hybrid workplaces and flexible hours work for some positions but not others, such as customer-facing positions. Similarly, these innovations work for some employees and not others. Tech workers are the most enthusiastic about working four days. We saw similar results on work-from-home surveys. The segment that will be affected most negatively by the four-day workweek, we understand, is those with young and school-age children”

“I can see that,” Meredith affirmed. “Longer days at daycare. Arranging before school and more after-school care for children. It’s hard enough arranging daycare around a five-day, eight-hour-a-day workweek.”

“Some of the internal logistics are daunting, too, even for positions where five-day accessibility for clients is not a concern,” the recruiter shared. “How do you schedule intracompany or inter-company meetings if everyone has a different weekday off?”

As this conversation progressed, the resolution appeared to be that there should be a reconsideration of the hours and on-site needs of each position, rather than a companywide introduction of popular innovations. Accommodating the needs of employee segments that are of a minority interest (such as parents of children, caregivers of elderly parents) should be considered rather than employing an approach that most workers want. The majority does not rule. Otherwise, employers will miss out on hiring some great employees who cannot accept a four-day workweek.

Meredith concluded, “Just as our customers now understand that we are more than willing to customize our products and services for them, our employees need to understand that we feel the same willingness to meet their needs while we meet the needs of our customers and our company. It’s not a compromise where everyone feels they have to give something up for some greater good or harmony.”

As for the days and hours for the administrative position that sparked this dialogue, Meredith and the recruiter agreed to note, “Open.”

Sourced from Dive Brief, “The iron is hot for exploring a 4-day workweek, Qualtrics exec says,” Emilie Shumway, April 12, 2022.

CYNDEE’S STORY


I loved my job every day.

Looking back on a 34 year career working at Three Mile Island, Cyndee adds, “Maybe every now and then I didn’t like it much. And I have Abel Personnel to thank for changing my life!”

Cyndee’s life after high school was somewhat typical of that era of the 1970s. Marrying shortly after high school graduation, she worked in human resources at both the city and state levels until childcare responsibilities, including caring for a deaf son, required her to stay home in 1978. Seven years later and newly single, Cyndee was desperate to return to the workforce. She did not have a college education and in that short period of time desktops were now home to personal computers. When she had left to stay at home, her employer had just purchased a Wang minicomputer for the entire office to share.

Her initial contact at Abel Personnel led to two opportunities in Human Resources. Cyndee was passed over on the first opportunity in favor of another candidate, but the second opportunity was equally promising. “Then I got the call that the candidate at the first opportunity had decided not to take the job. They wanted me! And I was at Three Mile Island until I retired in 2019.”

While it is not so typical now to be at one company for over three decades, Cyndee’s career at Three Mile Island offered her a variety of opportunities that she always loved, if on rare occasions did not like. Her first 6 years were in Human Resources, until that function was outsourced by GPU. This was followed by 10 years overseeing the Operating Department payroll. The sale of the facility in 2000 brought a brief hiatus from employment there, taking the severance package rather than staying on as offered. Not long after leaving, she was asked whether she was willing to return. She agreed, and stayed, this time as a union employee, until retirement.

Looking back on her career

Cyndee remains grateful all these years later for Abel Personnel’s efforts to secure her the position despite her rusty skills. Abel saw her as having great potential to be an outstanding employee, a perception confirmed by the longevity of her placement. This gratitude extends to the salary that she was able to achieve on that first position, providing a nice lifestyle in support of her children as a single mom. An added benefit, which Abel is perhaps less responsible, was meeting her husband of 30+ years who was a fellow employee at Three Mile Island. That first phone call to Abel had made a monumental difference hard to predict in 1985, though a reoccurring story.

Cyndee has not been in touch with Abel Personnel since that first placement so many years ago, but a Facebook posting prompted her to be back in contact with this reminiscence, “I saw an ad for a job through Abel Personnel in 1985. I had been a stay at home mom for 8 years so I had no recent work history. I was newly single and desperately needed a job. They helped me get that job. I retired from that job in 2019. Thank you, Abel Personnel. You truly changed my life.”

THE GREAT RESIGNATION, SABBATICAL, UPGRADE AND UNTETHERING

Danielle, Jessica, Alice, and Trudy had met in an evening MBA program in the early 2000’s. While representing a ten-year spread in their ages, they were all at about the same stage of their careers, and immediately clicked at program orientation. This led to forming a study group, cheerleading each other through the program, and all graduating on schedule despite work and life interventions that should have derailed this effort. They were able to stay in touch, had stayed in the same city, at one point Jessica took a position of working for Trudy and would meet together for an extended dinner a few times a year.

That was, of course, until COVID. Now, like so many other enduring friendships, they were finally able to meet face-to-face for the first time in two years rather than a few times eating takeout together in front of a videoconferencing app. This was also the first time they realized that none of them were in the same job that they had each held 18 months ago:

  • The Great Resignation: Danielle had been an IT project manager when most of her company’s offices closed. Deemed an “essential employee,” she was directed to continue working on-site within the proscribed protocols. She loved the visibility and the fact that she knew how important her work was in allowing her company to meet its commitments with most staff working remotely. But after a year of 50-hour weeks (and a few spot bonuses), she realized that she was not enjoying the projects she was being assigned nor working with the staff being designated to support her. “I confess I was a little burned out, too,” she admitted to her friends over appetizers. Danielle explained that one afternoon she just walked into her boss’s office and gave notice, not having planned it more than a few hours beforehand. Her husband was not surprised and was very supportive. Her children were thrilled, “but they’ll get over that.” They have enough funds to support their COVID-diminished lifestyle for several months, and she is confident that she’ll quickly find a new and more fulfilling position whenever she decides to return to the workforce. Alice, who is a manager at a staffing agency (Abel Personnel), agreed with Dannielle’s assessment and will be ready with a placement for her.
  • The Great Sabbatical: Jessica, having been promoted from her job with Trudy a few years ago, had a similar tale. The women agreed that the difference was largely due to Jessica being less spontaneous. When Jessica could see that her interest and commitment were waning, she negotiated a sabbatical, a gap year with her current boss. Her husband did the same at his employment, and the two took off for a year to experience many of the US National Parks, “a very socially distant endeavor.” Jessa explained to her friends that she was “borrowing a year from my retirement. When I’m 65 I may not be able to do this degree of strenuous hiking and camping. So maybe I’ll now retire at 66 instead of 65.” As she was preparing to offload her duties to others just before she departed, Jessica’s boss advised her that he could not guarantee the position would be open when her year away was over. Jessa countered that she could not promise that she’d want to return to the company, either, but if she did, there would need to be some modifications to the position. This exchange was consistent with the total honesty Jessica and her boss had always shared, allowing each to make such an informal commitment, Jessica explained as their main courses were being served. And if resuming her position did not work out, Jessica will be in touch with Alice!
  • The Great Upgrade: Alice’s story was a twist on the same mid-career rethinking of her peers. Her contributions to her (now former) employer’s revenues and profits were not fully appreciated in recognition and bonuses. When the opportunity to be promoted into a supervisory slot was held by an unexpected early retiree, she was excluded from consideration. Inquiring why Alice was told that she’d only been there two years and “no one as young as you had ever held that position.” Alice was now ready to move on and found several staffing firms anxious to offer her a position as a supervisor with a better compensation package. Ironically, the position she accepted at Abel Personnel did not provide a significantly higher commission nor any managerial responsibility. Abel’s approach to handling their recruiters Alice was sure would mean better compensation and a supervisory opportunity when Alice understood enough about the company to have a vision on how to increase its capacity to succeed. Had there been no COVID and a senior employee’s early retirement, “I never would have thought to look elsewhere. Pretty funny coming from someone in the staffing business, right? Anyway, time to order dessert!”
  • The Great Untethering: Trudy had always been the maverick of the foursome, and her pandemic experience bore this out. As a single parent with two children under the age of six, she had been the most nervous about how to care for them unvaccinated, struggle with remote learning, and schedule around intermittent daycare when her mom was unavailable. Trudy was unofficially working from home two months before her company was mandated to send home its non-essential workers per state law. In her accounting position, Trudy was more effective at home than she was in the office, no longer having to be polite to everyone who stopped to chat as they passed by her cubicle. By August 2020, Trudy had a business plan completed that she had developed evenings after her children were in bed. She would become a “gig worker.” She had heard of many opportunities to provide part-time accounting administrative services that she could continue to provide from home. And, she could plan around whatever hours she was needed by her children, at rates that “I’d only need to work 30 hours even paying for health insurance to make the same pay I took home at full time.” Alice had been helpful in this endeavor once Trudy launched in early 2021, securing remote temp accounting assignments for Trudy as part of Abel’s “Total Talent Solutions.” Trudy continues to be “untethered” even though her children are back full-time in school and daycare, loving the variety, appreciation, and freedom.

The checks had now been paid, and the women quickly identified a date for the next dinner. Jessica wondered aloud how many of them would be in the same position when they met again in four months. Alice thanked her friends for their candor and told them she was planning to share their stories at the next weekly recruiter staff meeting as case studies to offer applicants looking for “greater” opportunities. They all laughed at that and agreed it was great that one of them was in the staffing business when they each needed her.

Sourced from Danica Lo, “The Great Resignation has morphed into the Great Sabbatical,” Fast Company, January 27, 2022.

THE BEST OF TIMES FOR COLLEGE GRADS

The staffing recruiter watched as her audience entered the lecture hall and found seats. She was assured by the college placement director that she would have a full house, as attendance was mandatory. The recruiter was reminded a bit about her own college experience, as she watched each student enter and guessed which students would immediately take a seat up front, while others slowly moved to seats in the back rows, closest to the exit.

“For those of you who are seniors, you are so lucky to be graduating in 2022,” she began, hoping to quickly grab their attention away from their cell phones. “While you may not have had the on-campus, in-person college experience you expected when you first matriculated, I have not seen a better time to be entering the job market in my twelve years as a recruiter!”

Her first slide identified the following data for US Mid -Atlantic States:

  • Overall, the majority of employers rate the job market as “very good;” last year the rating was “fair.”
  • All industries are rating their jobs market as “good” or better.
  • 68% of employers plan to increase college grad hiring from the Class of 22 over last year.
  • Two-thirds of the employers will be hiring soon-to-be graduates and undergraduate summer interns in the fall rather than in the spring.
  • Almost three-quarters of companies plan to increase starting salaries for new grads.
  • 36% of employers plan to hire those with associate’s degrees, the highest in 7 years.
  • 62% of employers plan to offer signing bonuses to college graduates, the highest in 8 years.

She had their attention now. She explained the data points in the context of the size of the sample survey and the survey date before the recent increases in inflation and the war in Ukraine.

“Now comes the part when you participate in this discussion,” she advised her audience.

“What do you think are the key factors for all these companies in hiring decisions?”

Predictably, students in the first three rows raised their hands first, but there was a respectable number of raised arms throughout the hall. The easy answers came first:

college major, letters of recommendation, bachelor’s degree rather than associate’s degree, diversity goal fulfillment.

“What about GPA?” One student asked.

“That’s an important one. The studies show that about 46% of employers still use that as a benchmark to screen a pile of applications. What’s the typical GPA cutoff number? A 3.0. While “C’s may get degrees,” that won’t assure you the best paying job.” This statistic brought immediate groans from sections of the audience, possibly those in the back rows, but the recruiter couldn’t be sure.

A few more relevant factors were offered by her audience until someone hit upon the one she wanted to emphasize the most.

“Internships! In my experience, when an employer needs to decide between recent grad candidates, they almost always select those with internship experience. Some of you have lined up internships, and that’s great news. For others, it’s not too late, even if you are about to graduate. Your career center has part-time internships available for the spring semester. It’s also more common than you might imagine to accept an unpaid or nominally paid internship over the summer after graduation, to position yourself for a better job in the fall to start your career.”

The recruiter next pivoted to identifying the skills most sought from recent grads when reviewing their resumes:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytic/quantitative
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communication
  • Technology (very proficient)
  • 62% of employers plan to offer signing bonuses to college graduates, the highest in 8 years.

“I know the program you are undertaking here, so you have those all nailed, right?” she quipped.

The recruiter concluded her lecture by noting that her company, Abel Personnel, specialized in placing upcoming and recent college graduates. She would be delighted to schedule interviews with those who were looking for an advocate in their job search or perhaps seeking some advice as they planned the remainder of their college stay to improve their post-graduate career opportunities.

Once the presentation was over, there was a rush of students up to the podium. Again, mostly from the front rows, but also a number from further up the seating tiers, left to wait toward the end of the line. Everyone wanted her business card, some promising to email her their resume that afternoon, while others already had their calendar apps open in hope of securing an interview appointment with the recruiter or one of her colleagues.

Sourced from:

  • “Job Outlook 2022,” National Association of Colleges and Employers, November 2021

SHERRY’S STORY

My name is Sherry, and I wanted to share my story of working with Abel Personnel. This is not at all to brag about my success but to possibly help other middle-aged job seekers and professionals overcome career obstacles that are very real for us.

Last year I was at a stagnant place in my life and career. I continued to go to a job where I no longer felt valued. I had been doing the same tasks for years with little challenge and little room to grow, and I didn’t feel appreciated for my work. My husband and I had become empty nesters, and maybe because of the pandemic too, I was at a very low place in my life, both personally and professionally. With the advice of loved ones, I began applying to jobs, trying to get noticed in the professional space. Days turned to weeks and weeks to months, and I continued applying with no luck. My lack of progress left me defeated, feeling little hope for success. By this time just about everyone in my inner circle knew how I was feeling and suggested professional help in my job search. I made a call that changed everything.

As I sat nervously listening to the ring, I was greeted by a kind, understanding voice. “Thank you for calling Abel Personnel, Danene speaking. How can I help you?” Feeling a little embarrassed, I reluctantly shared my story and struggles in searching for a new job. I was assured I had nothing to be embarrassed about, which let me know I likely wasn’t the only desperate job seeker she would speak to that day. My call was immediately transferred to a recruiter. I think I can say her name, as Melissa now wears many hats in my life—recruiter, career coach, mentor, and friend. Throughout our extensive conversations, she helped revise and update my resume, created a career plan, and provided a path to opportunity. Most importantly, this relationship restored my confidence in my professional abilities and worth.

Within about a week of working with Abel Personnel, Melissa and I were preparing for my first interview in years! I strutted into my interview: I was confident, motivated, and finally prepared for the “new” I desperately sought. A few weeks later, Melissa called and said, “You got the job!” I’m not sure if she was more excited for me than I was for myself, but I had been waiting to hear those four words for what felt like an eternity.

Months have since passed, and I recently earned a promotion! I smile every day with a pep in my step, I bring value to my role and employer, and I love what I do and finally feel appreciated. I hope my candidness can help someone in a similar situation to muster up the nerve to reach out and make the call I did. Trust me—that “Thank you for calling Abel Personnel” will be the change you are looking for.

Sincerely,
Your Friend Sherry