Unemployment report offers hope, but challenges remain
Today’s BLS employment report offers a number of reasons for cautious optimism regarding the strengthening economy. The challenge for many companies is balancing this optimism with the reality of the resources and costs for finding and keeping good, skilled workers.
First, the good news. The number of jobs added in January — 243,000 — is encouraging, especially considering that the jobs were added in a variety of areas. This includes a rise in temporary jobs and even positions in the retail sector. The broad range of jobs created likely means that companies are bracing for improvement. It also indicates that perhaps companies are starting to believe that the recovery is happening.
Now, the bad news. There are significant challenges that remain, specifically for companies that have not yet seen their industry or business being pulled into this rising tide.
The broad distribution of new jobs means that there have been little increases in many areas. This is good news overall. However, for some it means that many of the readily available workers with experience (and perhaps those out of work for a short time) are rejoining the workforce. This slow, gradual uptake will mean that when the time comes to aggressively add workers, companies might be unable to find the number of qualified workers they need.
In addition, top performers will continue to take note of the available jobs and will be more likely to commit to changing. Those who were tentative to start looking at the end of last year might also join the search. This coincides with the start of the new year, a natural period for unhappy workers to seek a fresh start.
Companies need to take steps now to address their ability to find and keep good workers. Here are a few crucial and immediate steps.
- Re-invigorate engagement efforts. This will help retain top performers and, almost as important, create a good work environment. A positive work environment will prompt current employees to refer workers to your company.
- Evaluate your ability to source and recruit. Now is the time to look at the procedures, resources, and partners you have in place to source and recruit in earnest. From experience, we know that the hiring cycle can be long and slow, especially in the beginning. Knowing how you will meet a sudden or steady uptick in hiring will be vital to your ability to capitalize on positive changes in your business.
Lastly, the BLS numbers indicate that although optimism is fairly widespread, it is far from robust. As we’ve seen, it will likely be a bit of a roller coaster ride from month to month depending on your industry.
Are you ready and confident that you can ride with both hands up? Or will you be white-knuckled half way through the year, wondering when the ride will be over?