Earlier this year, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%. Given nearly a decade of economic growth, longevity in the workforce and birth rates falling below the 2.1 replacement rate, the U.S. unemployment rate is at a 30-year low. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job openings dropped down from 6.8 million to 6.6 million as of the close of May: enough openings to employ all those actively seeking jobs and, perhaps, then some. It’s a job seeker’s market.

While low unemployment rates are a boon for job hunters, they can create a myriad of challenges for businesses. For instance, low unemployment rates can lead to holes in the workforce with ever-lengthening time-to-hire spans. This often places more strain on existing employees, souring the company culture – the catch-22 being that job seekers increasingly place high importance on a positive company culture. The longer open positions remain unfilled, the greater the chances that over-burdened employees will leave to seek greener pastures.

The Conference Board has been conducting CEO surveys to assess their main business challenges and pressure points since 1999. In 2018, they found that as the global recession faded, issues around talent shortages became of utmost importance; failure to attract and retain top talent became the #1 C Suite hot button issue around the globe.

Given the wealth of available opportunities, companies need to get creative in order to attract and retain the right candidates. CareerBuilder’s Annual Employment Forecast notes five employer trends to watch in 2018:

  1. Capturing New Talent Early
  2. Importing Talent from Abroad
  3. Re-engaging Past Employees
  4. Hiring for Potential
  5. Boosting Compensation

All five trends have one thing in common: They are proactive.

Go Get ‘Em

Bersin by Deloitte talent acquisition research found that 74% of companies are still recruiting in the “traditional” way – a job opens up, it’s posted on the internet and they wait for people to apply. During low unemployment eras, this passive manner of recruitment simply won’t do. In an article for Forbes, Bersin explains, “In today’s job market this is insane. If you aren’t honing your employment brand, seeking out passive candidates who fit your culture, actively engaging with senior leadership to improve your talent pipeline, and looking seriously at gig work and leveraging talent pools, you’re fishing in a pond that is way overfished.”

Passive candidates are people not actively searching for employment. Recruitment agencies and hiring personnel scour LinkedIn for talent to match roles and companies. Others find networking and professional events through platforms such as Facebook and Meetup in a proactive effort to make connections that may fill open positions or lead to other connections that may lead to filling positions. They also keep those connections active, connecting on a semi-regular basis in order to gauge interest and opportunities. Finding a good customer relationship management (CRM) software that will help you track both contacts and customers to call upon when hiring stores run thin will give you a leg up.

Hold Your Ground

There is a difference between filling a position and finding the right candidate. Low unemployment rates mean job seekers are getting pickier, but that doesn’t mean employers can’t be picky too. Personality and career insight tests are increasingly popular tools for finding the right candidate. When hiring, consider your employer brand. Consider the role and team into which you are hiring. Insight tests will help you find a cohesive fit for the culture and position.

Plan For the Long Game

One wise proactive measure is to have contingencies in place for the growth and furthering of key personnel. For a valuable resource, look no further than your older labor pool. “Rising life expectancies and an aging global workforce present organizations with unprecedented challenges and untapped opportunities. Companies that plan, design, and experiment with workforce strategies, workplace policies, and management approaches for longer working lives can reap a longevity dividend,” reports Deloitte Insights 2018 Global Human Capital Trends. “Organizations could find great value in older workers’ ability to serve as mentors, coaches, or experts. Taking on these kinds of roles allows older workers to ‘pass the baton’ to younger generations, while making room for ambitious younger workers.”

Skill and Reskill

Some people feel a prospective employee ought to check off all the boxes of a job summary before applying for a position. However, oftentimes finding the right candidate requires more than seeking skill, you have to seek potential. As pointed out by CareerBuilder, it’s important to start your recruiting early, with college students if possible. Unfortunately, more and more businesses are finding college graduates trained with the hard skills needed for a position lack the soft skills necessary for company culture. Don’t be afraid to take a young professional under your wing and train them in the ways of teamwork, analytical reasoning, complex problem-solving, agility, and adaptability. Consider mentoring, as mentioned previously – offering opportunities for growth to more than one employee at a time. Providing them the necessary skills will serve to strengthen your company culture and the bonds that lead to long-term relationships.

Sometimes potential is already in your midst. When looking to fill or create positions, don’t discount current employees. Reskilling is on the rise and companies are increasingly offering training to employees in order to fortify their talent and workforce in this era of economic and technological growth. While it’s still an option and, in some cases, prudent, reskilling no longer requires the expense of sending employees back to school. A recent study by Workday and Bloomberg Next discovered companies are looking to reskill in-house.

A majority 85 percent of companies said their top way to reskill employees is to provide internal, in-person training, while 62 percent noted self-service or online training. In addition, more than half plan to evolve job responsibilities to reflect future needs and improve their recruitment of diverse talent to address the impact new technology has on their workplace.

For those daunted by creating an entire learning curriculum in-house, there are numerous companies and platforms offering resources for educational advancement in an employment setting. Just remember to give your employees the time they need for these learning opportunities. You’re bound to get nowhere fast if over-burdened employees are expected to pile on additional training without the support and freedom to do so during working hours.

Low unemployment is good for the economy and speaks volumes to the leaps and bounds occurring in the business world. It’s a job seeker’s market and people are happy to use that to their advantage. That doesn’t, however, mean that you have to be taken advantage of. Don’t get caught in a time-to-fill crunch. Factor in your current talent. Create resources for growth within. Today, finding the right candidate requires creativity and insight. Take your time to build your workforce, your company culture, and pool of influence. The right candidate may already be in your midst.

Melissa Reinke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a storyteller, editor, writer, and all-around word nerd extraordinaire. She spends her days managing web content and her nights unwinding in myriad creative ways, including writing for herself and others. From personal memoirs to professional solutions, when writing and editing for others Melissa’s singular goal is to sculpt each piece into its best, most successful form while maintaining the integrity of the original voice and vision. Based in Music City, USA, Melissa can often be found enjoying great live tunes with even better friends. Then again, she’s just as likely to be found curled up with a good book and a tasty beverage.

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