Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 38 million people quit their jobs between January and October of 2021, and more recent BLS data indicates that this departure was multi-sector: As of the end of January, 4.4% of all positions in education were open, along with more than 6% in retail, more than 8% in healthcare and nearly 9% in hospitality. That’s almost 1.5 million vacant positions in just those industries.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a long-overdue analysis of corporate structure. For years people across industries wanted change in their respective industries, but it wasn’t until a global pandemic hit that the world finally took note of their struggles. Food service staff members living below the poverty line and warehouse delivery service personnel working in inhumane conditions no longer went unnoticed, at least in part. Even employees at global tech companies, raising concerns about burnout and mental health issues, are getting fed up.
These concerns, plus the added weight of the pandemic, has led employees to reevaluate their choices, and for many prompted the question, “What place does work have in my life?”
With a significant percent of Americans leaving their jobs, many are left wondering why open positions are remaining hard to fill. The truth is, people aren’t rushing back to work. Companies desperately need to hire, yet they no longer hold the power. Employees can get higher wages at the next company, plus signing bonuses, tuition assistance and flexible work-from-home schedules. Put simply, those looking for jobs have much more leverage and room for negotiation than in the not so recent past.
While some speculate that the power will tilt back to employers as people burn through their savings, companies that want to stay ahead of the curve should use “The Big Quit” as a catalyst for a new approach to hiring. Here are six ways HR teams and corporate leadership can provide more diverse benefits to attract top talent.
1. Pre-start incentives
Companies and organizations need to ask themselves, “Does our internal culture reflect a good working environment?” For example, some are allowing new hires to take the initial days, even weeks as paid time off at the start of a new job, during which they can rest, get organized and feel ready to start a new role. Spearheading this initiative is hospitality tech company SevenRooms, which provides new employees with the first two weeks on the job as paid time off.
2. Prioritize pay equity
Now is the time to review market pay rates and ensure that everyone at the same level and function in your organization is paid fairly and equitably. Are women and Black and Indigenous people of color being compensated at the same levels as their white male counterparts? (Nurses, for example, critical to the survival of our healthcare system, are just now being heard on unequal pay concerns.)
Pay isn’t always the highest priority for workers, but it’s still important, and crucial that it be equitable. Compensation, along with autonomy, flexibility and a generally supportive employer are at the top of the list of what employees value, especially after living through the ups and downs of this pandemic.
3. More equitable hiring practices
Avoid common hiring pitfalls such as finding “the right fit” or “a culture fit?” Instead, ask yourself bias-countering questions such as, “Are we making assumptions about this applicant?” or “If we don’t hire this person, what are we missing out on?” Even people with the right background will take time to train, so those with transferable skills shouldn’t be automatically eliminated. Use this as an opportunity to look for candidates who might have otherwise been passed over and may provide fresh perspectives, adding diverse value to a company.
4. Ensure there is safe space for all via employee resource groups
Employee resource groups help support staff members in identifying with others in their spaces, and also help build communities within a company. These spaces allow for individuals who identify together through their demographics to discuss, celebrate and elevate what matters most to them, as well as to create an impact within workplaces. It’s also a great way to work across intersectionalities and to find ways in which people can learn from one another as well as advocate for each other.
Additionally, make sure employees feel they are in an environment that is considerate of their needs, such as providing nursing mothers a place to pump, making accessibility changes to accommodate the differently abled or supporting those caring for an elderly or sick relative. Look for ways to accommodate a variety of circumstances to achieve a better work-life balance.
5. Recruit from diverse communities
Don’t rely on the same sources over and over when looking for candidates. Want more women in technology positions? Look for groups and networks where they hang out, then seek them out. Identify top talent by posting jobs in diverse pools and avoid selecting just from networks of familiarity. Think of Historically Black Colleges and Universities as an example of where to actively recruit.
Another strategy is to encourage employees to refer women colleagues and diverse candidates from their personal networks, but be careful not to rely too heavily on such referrals. According to a 2014 study by the Public Religion Research Institute, and as reported in an August 2014 Washington Post article, “…the average black person’s friend network is eight percent white, but the average white person’s network is only one percent black.” This is yet another reason why it’s critical that recruiters look outside of their networks. If you don’t want a homogeneous workforce, you can’t constantly recruit from the same source and expect to attract new talent.
6. Publish diversity reports
Take measuring diversity metrics a step further by making reports public. Transparency and honesty should be considered a measure of success. There are many companies, such as Slack and Google that have led the path into publishing diversity reports, holding themselves accountable to the world while also providing an example for others to follow. These are a great way of tracking progress and committing to DEI growth in your organization.
With the surge in job openings across the U.S., corporate leadership has been given a chance to rewrite the wrongs of its past, so putting more equitable hiring practices in place should be at the forefront to attract top diverse talent.