Posted by Paul McDonald on Friday, June 5, 2015 - 07:35 | Follow me
U.S. employers seem to have their foot firmly on the accelerator as we head into summer. Businesses added 280,000 jobs last month, according to the May jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), exceeding economists’ expectations. The May job gains are the most since December of last year. And despite a minor setback in March, the economy has so far seen solid job growth in 2015, adding more than 1 million jobs over the first five months of the year.
Here are some additional highlights from the May jobs report.
- The unemployment rate ticked up slightly in May to 5.5 percent. In April, the rate was 5.4 percent.
- The education and health services and professional and business services sectors added the most jobs in May, reporting gains of 74,000 jobs and 63,000 jobs, respectively.
- Employment gains for April and March were revised upward by a combined 32,000 jobs.
When I consider the results of the most recent jobs report, and I think about the summer months ahead, I see three big challenges managers are likely to face.
Challenge #1: Skilled job candidates are hard to find in today’s market
The BLS reported that the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers 25 years of age and older in May remained unchanged from April: 2.7 percent. But at this time last year, the rate was 3.2 percent — so, the trend is clear.
When hiring for professional-level positions, most employers seek out college graduates with a few years of experience for obvious reasons. And as the new figures from the BLS show, the pool of available talent is small. If you’re in hiring mode, that means the competition you face for the cream of the candidate crop — fierce no matter the condition of the employment market — is now reaching fever pitch.
Highly skilled workers can disappear from the employment market within a matter of days. And it’s not unusual for companies to get into a bidding war for these professionals. Whatever position you’re recruiting for, you can be sure several of your competitors are trying to hire the exact same person.
You need to ask yourself, “What sets my firm apart?” Whether it’s pay or benefits, company culture, or opportunities for advancement, be sure to highlight the most appealing aspects of working for your company in your job postings, during interviews and when following up with promising candidates.
Challenge #2: Your best workers may be thinking about leaving now more than ever
Locating highly skilled candidates is just one challenge businesses may face during the summer months. Retention can also be an issue. Many companies conduct annual performance reviews in June or July, and workers who are not given the raises or promotions they feel they deserve may decide to search for greener pastures.
At the same time, home moves, vacations, graduations and other summer-related activities often give workers reason to pause and take stock of their careers. If there’s any single time during the year when they are most likely to think about making a jump, now is it.
Chances are your best employees are also being contacted by recruiters and hiring managers, even if they’re not actively searching for a new job. The market for skilled talent in many specialties is so tight that employers are trying to woo employed professionals with larger salaries and loftier titles.
In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half, 79 percent of chief financial officers polled said they are taking steps to improve employee retention as the economy recovers. Sixty-three percent of respondents are promoting top performers, and 52 percent are raising salaries. Are you following suit?
Challenge #3: You need to balance smaller staff levels and existing workloads
Summer presents one final challenge for managers: ensuring you have a staffing plan in place to account for upcoming vacations. Whether they’ve alerted you yet or not, you can be sure that a good portion of your staff will be looking to take time off from work in the coming months.
That’s a good thing. Taking a vacation is important for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and, ultimately, helps your staff members be productive on the job. (It’s also not a bad idea for you to take time off to recharge as well.) But if you’re not prepared for these absences, your team could have trouble keeping up with the workload and, in extreme cases, may burn out as a result.
Before an employee leaves on vacation, think about: a) routine but essential tasks that must be performed while he or she is away; and b) demands that might arise and can’t wait until the worker returns to be addressed. Ask trusted staff members to temporarily assume the responsibilities of their colleague. Yes, that may mean more work for the next week or two. But stress that it’s also an opportunity for skills building and professional development.
Delegation has its limits, however — especially if there are overlapping or extended employee vacations, and remaining staff are already managing full plates. Even during summer, business demands never cease. Skilled temporary professionals can fill in while workers are on vacation to ensure key projects stay on track and remaining full-time team members do not become overburdened.
There’s additional upside to this strategy. Many employers find that temporary arrangements provide an opportunity to identify potential full-time hires. You can observe firsthand how these professionals perform on the job, interact with existing staff and adapt to the organization’s unique work environment.
Yes, summer is a time of rest and relaxation and a chance for many of us to put work aside to focus on family and fun. But it can also be an extremely challenging time for managers, especially now that hiring appears to be heating up. If you’re aware of these challenges — and can get ahead of them — you’ll put your business in better position for success the rest of the year.