Get smart: As millions of workers quit jobs, employers must lead with innovative hiring solutions

Dan Sines

CEO | Star Wars & Superhero Fan, Adventurer, aspiring Renaissance Man | Inventor/Visionary in Work

The picture has become a familiar one for US employers: there are more jobs to fill than there are quality workers to fill them. And it’s not just a hunch circulating among hiring managers: the chronic headache is proven by data from the US Department of Labor. We’ve now seen sixteen straight months in which the statistic is flipped compared to the preceding several years. The number of jobs available exceeds the sum of those looking for work. As the second quarter ended, that differential was 1.4 million more in the “help wanted” column than in the job-seeker one.

Analysts have plenty to say about these trends. One factor stands out: workers just aren’t sticking around. The volume of job holders who are walking away from positions shows a steady upward climb that’s been pushing higher year over year for nearly a decade. The number of “quits” is now at the highest levels ever recorded. This calendar year, that’s easily been more than 3 million every month.

Quits vs. Layoffs and Discharges, from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Layoffs and Discharges: Total Nonfarm [JTSLDL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;, August 19, 2019.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quits: Total Nonfarm [JTSQUL], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;, August 19, 2019.

With this playing field, savvy employers have long since realized that riding this out won’t work. This is now vital: implementing strategies to stop the revolving door.



Finding fit

This goes without saying: not everyone is cut out for every job. Yet many employers still rely on twentieth century methods to evaluate their applicant pools. They’re still focusing on education and experience as reported on a resume. For many lower-skilled positions that are often prone to high turnover, those factors buy little. Why? Because they often don’t differ much from one candidate to the next. Not only that, but an associate’s degree or nine-month stint at a related job may not be the best predictor of performance for the unique combination of tasks, coworkers, and work settings that an open position will involve. Understanding who you really have in your applicant pool, and how each will react to a real workday, can be a much more powerful indicator than an applicant’s “stats.” That’s why a smarter evaluation process must include tools that extend beyond the old way of doing things.


No data? No edge over the competition

If you’re not gathering data from applicants, you’re letting people enter and exit your applicant pool without gaining insights from them. That means you’re constantly reinventing the wheel. People analytics has emerged as a major force in human resources. By collecting data from applicants, organizations can understand who they’ve got applying for jobs, and whether they’re experiencing a chronic mismatch between who’s knocking at the door and who ends up becoming a top performer. If a mismatch exists, that means it’s time to target the talent pool differently, to tone up the employment brand, and to revisit recruitment strategy.


Reinvent the interview

Interviews are another example of a dated screening tool in need of a refresh. Think about what they often look like. Someone is brought in based on our old standard pieces of information -- those same self-reported stats employers have been using throughout our lifetimes. Then these conversations are often a “gut-feeling mission,” in which an interviewer ends up with unquantifiable impressions. Moreover, standards might be applied unevenly, and “like attracts like” -- we tend to notice and trust candidates who are similar to ourselves. It’s no wonder that this old method doesn’t provide much more insight than “red flags”. When interviews are instead guided by data and customized to the individual, they can be much more helpful.


Create another talent pool

A consistent take-home point when it comes to the labor gap has been the need to find more workers. As Alexia Fernandez Campbell pointed out this month, “Economists agree that employers need to do more to entice workers to join the labor market.” Here’s a solution that’s been underutilized: finding talent among those who don’t check off our usual boxes.

Maybe they’re men and women who have focused on full-time parenting and have therefore been outside of the paid workforce. Maybe they’re skilled workers who want to blend off-site telecommuting with flexible schedules to achieve a customized work-life balance. Or maybe they’re around retirement age and would value the opportunity to contribute. When we take the same flat, resume-driven approach to finding candidates, we miss this untapped resource. Again, using data to identify who people are, what they might bring to a workplace, and how they would handle the actual day-to-day of a job can open doors that have foolishly been kept shut.


Data is a priority

There's no time left to lament the state of hiring in the US. It’s a worker’s market, with both skilled positions and unskilled workers having plenty of pull. Investing in smart, data-driven approaches to talent acquisition is a clear priority and will remain so as we progress through the 2020s. Tools that deliver that data with the best speed and efficiency will continue to emerge as essential in today’s employment marketplace.


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