By Joy Jordan

The New Year is a time when many people consider looking for a new job – and when many employers reevaluate their staffing needs and adjust accordingly. According to the experts we spoke with, the hiring trends in 2018 look to create a job market largely in favor of the employee, with most businesses struggling to find appropriately skilled workers for open positions. Yet a frequent topic of discussion in our region is the lack of jobs – what accounts for this disconnect?

In some cases, the cost of housing hinders the size of the applicant pool. In others, the specific skills needed aren’t found. Across the board, it makes sense for both job seekers and those hiring to be aware of the various factors at play.

The national data points to a fluid job market – and with it, the need for employers to hire well in an effort to reduce turnover.

“In 2018, the war for talent will continue to grow,” says Karyn H. Rhodes, VP/Director Complete HR Solutions, a new division of Complete Payroll Solutions. “The average tenure for employees, regardless of age, is a mere 4.6 years in the United States, and based on numerous studies we’ve conducted, millennials leave after two short years. Employers have finally recognized that there is no longer a lifetime employment contract and are deploying strategies to retain employees. Through hardware, including smartphones, wearables, and social networking sites, talent is more freely available and talent has more opportunities than ever before.

“In fact, studies have shown that 76 percent of full-time workers are either actively looking for a new job or open to new opportunities,” adds Rhodes. “And 48 percent of employers say that they are unable to fill their job vacancies because of the skills gap and high attrition rates. With the competition for talent, 90 percent of employers anticipate more competition from emerging markets in India, North America and Asia. Greater emphasis will be placed on the employee experience as companies are forced to focus on corporate culture and values more than pay.”

“HR departments are faced with one critical issue, difficulty sourcing workers with needed skills, and I’m not referring just to technical skills. Employers are hiring individuals without basic skills needed to operate effectively in the work environment. We refer to these as soft skills — the ability to show up on time, know that you have to let your supervisor know if you are going to be late or out due to illness, the ability to read and interpret directions. These basic skills can’t be taken for granted anymore. Today more and more individuals applying for jobs are deficient in some of these areas, and it is a huge concern for HR professionals.” David Augustinho, Executive Director, Cape & Islands WDB

The regional view

Closer to home, similar statistics play out for employers.

“The current hiring market in our region favors the jobseeker,” says David Augustinho, Executive Director, Cape & Islands Workforce Development Board. “Right now, we are experiencing labor shortages in every sector of our economy. From construction to hospitality employers are finding it hard to source workers. For November, our employment numbers show that Barnstable County is at 4.3 percent unemployment, Dukes County is at 5.4 percent, and Nantucket is only 4.1 percent. These are very low numbers for us making it difficult for employers.”

A number of factors contribute to these statistics, including the overall economy, available workers, and more. This impacts the need for employers to adapt as needed.

“The key is retaining your staff once they are in the door. If you have voluntary turnover that is higher than 20 percent, you need to investigate the source of the turnover. You may have an ineffective manager or supervisor, lagging the market in regard to compensation or benefits, etc.” Karyn H. Rhodes, VP/Director of Complete HR Solutions

“A healthy economy and low unemployment create a challenging hiring environment, especially for employers on Cape Cod which already has a limited labor pool,” notes Lee Ann Hesse, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod. “To be successful, employers need to engage with job-seekers online and communicate an employment brand that speaks not only to the job but to the culture of the organization and future career opportunities. Recruitment needs to be more forward-looking, not just something we do when there is an open position. We need to be developing a talent network and working that network like any other sales person. We’re looking to build a relationship so when opportunity arises, we have a slate of qualified people to reach out to.”

Laura E. Newstead, SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, reports a similar experience.

“It is an applicant market,” notes Newstead. “There are many positions and fewer qualified candidates to fill them. Overall, the flow of interested applicants is at a low point. The current applicant pool in the Cape and Islands region is very shallow, resulting in positions being open longer.”

Employers will need to continually adjust in order to compete in this tight job market.

“The economy is strong and unemployment is low, so it’s an employee driven market right now in our region,” adds Allison McEachern, Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources at Rogers & Gray Insurance. “Attracting qualified new candidates is challenging and companies who need to hire to grow should be aggressively talking about topics such as culture, benefits and recruiting strategies.”

In addition, there are great infrastructure challenges, such as housing and child care, that will continue to affect the depth and breadth of the candidate pool.

“The Cape and Islands continue to struggle with affordable housing,” says Rhodes. “This has had and will continue to have a direct impact on hiring talented staff in our area. The majority of the towns in this area understand the issue and are working diligently to address it.”

Challenges and opportunities

While the current job market and smaller candidate pool can be challenging for employers, it also presents opportunities for some.

“Employers are being challenged in a couple of ways,” notes Augustinho. “First, it is difficult to find bodies to fill jobs. Secondly, and just as important, it is difficult to find workers with the skills needed for positions above entry level. For local companies like Hydroid, Teledyne-Benthos, Convention Data Services, Onset Computer, or Sencorp White, finding employees with the technical skills necessary to be productive is difficult. Of course, many opportunities exist on the jobseeker side. Potential workers who might have a spotty work history will get a second look now. There are also opportunities for non-traditional labor pools such as individuals with disabilities or individuals exiting the corrections system.”

Many of the challenges relate directly to the unique demographic makeup of Cape Cod and the South Shore.

“We are challenged by lack of diversity in the region, managing through retirements, housing for those entering the workforce from college, attracting local talent that wants to stay on the Cape, and commuting from off Cape or to the Islands,” says Newstead. “These all lend to great opportunities for our bank. Our college intern program is an opportunity for the bank to build the talent pool from the inside, over multiple years. This pool of candidates will be critical to build knowledge, skills and abilities in the areas of future needs. Another opportunity is looking at other strategies, outside of the norm, to attract candidates to the bank.”

It’s important for employers to not only match skills with open positions but also ensure that hires are in line with the overall company culture.

“Finding experienced candidates that are aligned with, and can enhance, your company culture remains a challenge,” notes McEachern. “We have a number of positions that we are looking to fill with the right person and most of our positions, if not all at this point, require an experienced candidate. The good news is that companies who have identified the right fit for their culture will have less churn and more engaged employees.”

As with anything, perspective matters. While there are clearly struggles when it comes to hiring, employers that work to see those as opportunities for growth will likely see the best results.

“I always see more opportunities than challenges,” says Hesse. “Recently we’ve seen an uptick of young, educated early-career applicants who have been working in Boston and are looking to settle down or just return to their Cape Cod roots. They often struggle to adjust to our market with a lower pay scale but when quality of life is a driver, it can ease the transition.”

Plans for 2018

As we enter the new year, many employers are looking to hire – and are using new and innovative methods to do so.

“Cape Cod Five will continue with its growth plans, both organically by developing and promoting from within, but also through geo expansion,” says Newstead. “Both strategies require acquiring new talent to the bank.”

Hesse notes that The Coop will be utilizing various social media channels to enhance its recruiting efforts.

“Online job seekers want to see and hear about your company, not simply read a boring job posting,” says Hesse. “We plan to continue to develop and deploy engaging and interesting socal media content that helps us stand out from the competition. We’ve also expanded our recruitment team and added a young professional focused on building a millennial network in our market. She has the energy, passion and personality that will help us reach the right candidates.”

It’s crucial for companies to be flexible and adaptive when addressing staffing, especially when it comes to businesses that are experiencing rapid growth.

“Our hiring needs are demanding due to our growth – so we continue to shape our recruitment strategy to meet those needs,” explains McEachern. “Our strategy incorporates highlighting our employer brand, ‘Best Places to Work’ awards (which is a generous nod from our employees), and continued community involvement. That being said, we have adopted a model of ‘hire slow,’ which is a very deliberate decision. While nothing is foolproof, we do have candidates participate in a multi-interview process paired with testing, so we try to ensure our hires are the right ones.”

 

Cash vs. Benefits

The results of a survey recently conducted by the American Benefits Council symposium indicated that employees value generous benefits to a greater degree than increased compensation. The questions facing benefits professionals – and the companies they represent – is whether it still makes sense to sponsor employee benefit plans rather than simply offer the value of those plans as cash compensation.

The survey asked people to look ahead 10 years and think about what they would want in a compensation package: more take-home pay or more generous, higher quality benefits (assuming equivalent value).

By a nearly two-to-one margin – 60 to 34 percent – people prefer the generous benefits package to a larger paycheck. There is little difference by age, education and income among employed Americans, although women were noticeably more likely to prefer the more generous benefits package (69 percent) compared to men (51 percent).

 

Top HR issues facing businesses in 2018

According to Karyn H. Rhodes, VP/Director of Complete HR Solutions (a new division of Complete Payroll Solutions), here are some of the top human resources issues that will be facing businesses in 2018:

  1. The focus on improving employee and candidate experiences
  2. Dealing with a blended workforce
  3. Annual performance reviews changing to continuous reviews
  4. Millennials meet Gen Z in the workplace
  5. Augmented and virtual reality enter the workplace
  6. The war for talent
  7. The focus on team over individual performance
  8. Focus on workplace wellness and wellbeing
  9. Creative employee benefits and perks
  10. Office attire becoming more casual

 

Skills to succeed

We asked the experts about the specific skills they see as being most in demand in 2018.

David Augustinho, Cape & Islands Workforce Development Board: “In-demand skills cross all sectors — carpenters, HVAC workers, technical/computer skills, landscapers, health care, banking skills are all currently in demand. Just about any skilled occupation that you can think of is currently seeking workers to fill entry- and higher-level positions.”

Lee Ann Hesse, The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod: “Communication skills, client relationship and service skills, an aptitude for mastering new technology, attention to detail, eagerness to work hard, and a teachable spirit!”

Laura Newstead, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank: “Being tech-savvy is critical to being a successful banker today. Complex decision-making and critical thinking skills are also in high demand.”

Allison McEachern, Rogers & Gray Insurance Agency: “We are looking for candidates that demonstrate strong critical thinking skills and can easily share experiences of providing proactive servicing to their clients. While not generally thought of as a skill, trust is one of our Core Values. We are always looking for Consultants who embody trust and build relationships with our clients – becoming essential business and personal advisors.”