Gabi and Alexa met early in their careers as staffing recruiters, starting around the same time at a national franchised recruiting firm in Harrisburg. Since then, they had both moved on to a series of different companies but still stayed in touch. Gabi developed an expertise in IT recruiting and Alexa became her firm’s go-to person for accounting positions. This difference in specialties rarely put them in competition for the same job order, making their regular meetings for lunch unclouded by rivalries or conversation limits due to confidentially. They had many leisure activities and life experiences in common outside of work to discuss. Still, inevitably their luncheons focused on the state of the industry and the culture of their offices.
At the most recent noontime meeting, the women shared their concerns about the probability of an upcoming recession. They agreed that this would likely result in a pivot from too few applicants to too few openings, a dramatic change after so many years of high labor demand. Pay scales may actually decrease or stop rising so fast, and benefits added in the past few years may be curtailed or at least not further expanded. Alexa was the more doubtful about a recession, sharing her husband’s view (he was the director of a logistics facility) that the current inflationary pressures and thereby dampening consumer demand would ease once the Ukrainian War and COVID-induced supply chain issues were resolved.
“I sure hope he’s right,” Gabi responded. “I do wish everyone was as keyed on talent supply chain management as they are on materials and products.”
This different lens on the labor market surprised Alexa. Asking Gabi to explain what she meant, Gabi continued, “I read about all these big manufacturing companies discussing how they need to get closer to their suppliers, how ‘just-in-time’ is just not good enough anymore. They are giving their suppliers as much as a year’s heads up on their material and component needs, or at least their possible needs if certain contracts come through or new product introductions are successful. I sure wish my clients would be in touch with me long before they needed a staff addition or replacement yesterday!”
Alexa agreed with that sentiment. She recounted how she recently discovered that one of her most active clients had plans to add 6 positions during this year, but would not give her a confirmed job description or opening until the month before the planned hire date. “Given that some of these positions will take a few months to identify, interview, and vet candidates, wouldn’t it be better to share that hiring plan at the beginning of the year?” she asked rhetorically.
Empathizing, Gabi then reported on a large EV battery manufacturing client who had addressed all the supply chain issues with building materials, equipment, and raw materials but had not identified a source of labor with the skill training and experience. This oversight was requiring a plant redesign to increase automation for lack of personnel, at a greater cost.
Using Alexa’s notes application on her smartphone, the friends identified the following opportunities to address talent supply chain issues through partnering with a staffing firm:
- Share Long Range Hiring Plans: This includes known staff additions and replacements (e.g., retirements), predictable turnover rates, and potential needs if contract bookings or product demand exceed most-likely projections.
- Have Processes and Procedures in Place: Create a means to quickly alert about a sudden staffing need or the client or an available exceptional candidate identified by the staffing firm before there is an immediate need.
- Identify Ongoing Entry Level Needs: This will allow the staffing firm to coordinate with area colleges and vocational high schools on anticipated needs and training to be considered for daytime students and retraining for evening students.
- Address Total Talent Solutions: Evaluate positions as to which must be “traditional” employees (full time, on payroll, onsite), and which could be part-time, temporary, hybrid, or from anywhere (click here for more on TTS).
- Develop a Labor Market Feedback Mechanism: Periodic updates by the staffing firm on what applicants are seeking and what competitors are offering relative to wages, benefits, workplace flexibility, and other amenities. This will also support employee retention efforts.
Alexi was able to share how her employer, Abel Personnel, was already offering many of these partnering benefits to their client companies. This has resulted in more well-qualified resumes received, offers better aligned to market conditions and applicant needs (resulting in higher rates of acceptance), and overall, hiring cycles being successfully completed by the time each opening needed to be filled. Gabi agreed that these five tactics represented best practices as the pandemic became endemic, and together were the approach she offered to her clients, whether or not there was a recession.