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The Road to COVID-19 Recovery: October 2020

By: Geno Cutolo, CEO, Staffmark Group

Our country continues to slowly march toward economic recovery with more people returning to the workforce. In September, the unemployment rate dropped by 0.5% to 7.9%, and the number of unemployed persons fell by one million to 12.6 million. Job growth has slowed, as many businesses have now finished recalling furloughed workers. Employers added 661,000 jobs last month, far fewer than August’s 1.5 million. More than one million jobs have been added every month between May and August, yet the country is still down 10.7 million jobs since February.

The recovery is still unknown, but according to a COVID-19 Staffing Needs Analysis conducted by Hanover Research for Staffmark Group and RGF Staffing, 43% of organizations expect to see a continued impact of COVID-19 on their organizations for the next six to 12 months.

Two of the most common obstacles that continue to impact businesses today include:

  • Low application rate. The unemployment rate is up, yet the labor force participation rate remains down. The participation rate (the number of workers employed or seeking employment divided by the working population) dropped by 0.3 percentage points to 61.4 percent in September and is two percentage points lower than February. Many workers are fearful of the current situation or apprehensive to make big decisions, like a job change.
  • Obstacles to returning to work. For months, parents have been juggling work, homeschooling, and childcare. With childcare shortages and many schools offering hybrid and online learning models for this school year, many parents are unable to return to work. Absenteeism is also on the rise due to illness, caring for sick family members, and confusion about what constitutes exposure.

Recruiting & Retention Trends

To manage ongoing change, organizations need to find ways to thrive in a world of unpredictability. Here are some of the strategies that our most successful clients are using:

Expedited hiring processes

To efficiently recruit while also social distancing, recruiters are relying on technology, including recruiting software and video conferencing tools, to attract passive candidates and move candidates quickly through the hiring process. Many employers are also finding ways to speed up the interview-to-hire rate, with some offering same-day hiring and/or relaxing screening requirements, such as background checks.

Competitive compensation

When setting wages, no matter the economic situation, it’s important to review market rates. Employers also now need to take unemployment benefits into consideration. For the week ending September 12, the total number of people claiming unemployment benefits was 26.5 million. In comparison, there were 1.4 million claiming benefits in the comparable week in 2019. The $600 weekly unemployment supplement ran out at the end of July. Since then, President Trump signed an executive order for a smaller, $300 weekly supplement funded by diverting money from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Many states have already depleted the allotted funds.

Staffmark Group polled 2,000+ talent in September 2020 to better understand what is most important to them at this time. This survey found that “pay” is not only the most important aspect of a job, it is also the top reason that they would leave a job – followed closely by “lack of opportunities for advancement” and “not feeling supported/valued by your manager or supervisor.”

Candidates will only accept offers with compensation that is greater than their unemployment benefits or above market rates. In addition to increasing base pay, here are some of the ways that employers are increasing total compensation to attract and retain workers:

  • Bonus opportunities, such as attendance, return-to-work, sign-on, and performance bonuses
  • Temporary pay increases, aka hazard or seasonal peak pay
  • Job perks and benefits, such as daily pay, employee discounts, and wellness programs
  • Incentives, such as lunches, giveaways, and appreciation events
  • Profit sharing

Flexible staffing options

To accommodate workers with scheduling and childcare conflicts, employers are offering flexible work options, including staggering employee shifts, rotating days or weeks, and offering part-time options. Telework also remains common. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22.7% of workers were still telecommuting in September.

Safe work environments

Staffmark Group’s talent survey found that 52% want “masks required,” 46% want “daily disinfection of work areas,” and 46% want “hand sanitizer availability” – and most employers have implemented these safety precautions. In addition, hiring events and onboarding processes are managed virtually, and employers are staggering work shifts to limit staff contact.

Managing Ongoing Change

In business and in life, you can count on one thing: change. We are often confronted with circumstances that are outside of our control. When these things occur, we have two options – throw in the towel or persevere.

We all need to lean on each other now more than ever, and Staffmark Group is here for you. Whether you need help building your workforce or you simply want to stay on top of the latest hiring trends, reach out to your local Staffmark Group office. Our teams are eager to help and ready to tackle any hiring challenge.