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8 Ways to Attract Hourly Workers During a Talent Shortage

Retailers, restaurants and other industries heavily reliant on hourly workers are finding themselves in a pickle. Despite positive indicators that these industries are growing and businesses are ready to hire, talent to fill these roles is hard to come by.

The worker shortage is being felt across industries, but is especially dire for restaurants where competition for talent is extremely high.

There are a variety of reasons that attracting hourly workers to these industries in 2021 is so difficult. Some point the finger at federal unemployment benefits, particularly the extra weekly boost provided due to COVID. Other causes include the reduced tolerance for face-to-face contact with others, burnout, as well as low pay and poor benefits that persist in certain industries. 

On the flip side, where there are challenges, there are solutions. Although the future remains uncertain with the possibility of future shutdowns, economic shifts and changes to the labor force, there are ways that companies can improve their talent attraction efforts to stand out from other organizations and snag the best talent. 

Before we look at possible recruitment strategies, let’s dive into what these challenges look like for recruiters and talent leaders. 

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Volume hiring challenges in the post-Covid reality

Recruiters are bearing the brunt of the burden from this labor shortage. A lack of talent means more sourcing, more interviewing, more scheduling, and more tasks to field to keep operations running smoothly. Not only that, but between hiring for growth and recovery, they must also back-fill from workers who attrit. 

Commonly in restaurants and retail stores, a lack of talent also means being short staffed. As we mentioned, this can contribute to burnout and even attrition, creating only more openings and therefore more recruitment for your talent teams. This vicious cycle causes stress, but it also commonly slows down the hiring process as recruiters must then handle more manual tasks like scheduling and resume screening. 

Before COVID-19, many companies with large hourly-workforces saw manual recruitment tasks and a certain level of high attrition as par for the course. They were comfortable consistently backfilling, and because talent was plentiful, this was no problem. In addition, a slow process wasn’t as detrimental when lots of applicants were looking for work.

Now, as competition for workers tightens, attrition figures and slow, manual recruitment processes are under scrutiny. With talent scarce, turning over employees is no longer acceptable. And, with fewer applicants on the market, recruiters need to move quickly to attract, select and hire the best talent before they receive other offers.

This means that traditional recruitment, with its bottlenecks and manual workload, can no longer meet the new challenges of volume recruiting for hourly workers. 

What it boils down to is a need to consistently attract talent, and select the best candidates quickly and accurately. With that done, you’ll be able to reduce unwanted turnover and avoid dropout from your funnel. Sounds great, right? But, how does it work in practice? Let’s dive in. 

Tried and true ways to overcome these challenges 

Recruitment is too often thought of only from the perspective of the organization. These are the roles that need to be filled, this is who we’re looking for and here is the timeline we’re doing it on.

What this fails to consider is the perspective of the candidate, and what their goals are when going through your recruitment process. They are looking for job security and a paycheck (and quickly), but as we know — a lot of places are looking to hire. 

To attract hourly workers, you’ll need to be able to communicate the non-monetary benefits and what you offer as an employer. And, your organization needs to be able to do it at scale. 

Let’s dive into some tried and true ways that organizations around the globe have been able to attract and hire more hourly workers. 

1. Sell the job

Often, recruitment processes focus so much on getting the information needed about the candidate that giving the candidate the information they need is left by the wayside.

You need to be able to show your organization, and sell the job in a realistic way so they know what they’re really signing on for. Not only will this help you attract and engage candidates more, but it’ll also improve your odds of hiring the right candidates who are a good fit for the job. 

However, you don’t want to task your recruiters with sharing these details manually, especially if you’re fielding thousands of applicants.

A great way to share your organizational culture is through videos and realistic job previews that show candidates the reality of the day-to-day. Not only do realistic job previews improve your ability to share details about the role at scale, they are extremely powerful tools that can identify candidates who are a strong fit with the right DNA to succeed. 

Here’s, for example, the candidate experience at Albert Heijn. Candidates receive enough information about the job, are exposed to realistic scenarios that shows them what it would be like to work for the retailer, and can apply to multiple locations at once.

The experience is short, fun, enjoyable, and fair. If they fit the profile needed for the open roles, as well as the company culture, candidates progress automatically to the next stage of the recruitment process.

2. Route candidates between locations

The need to hire across locations also poses a challenge, especially for restaurants and retailers. A highly-visible location in a shopping center or off an exit might have plenty of applicants, even more than needed, while a location tucked further away struggles to source talent.

Even locations within a 15 minute drive of one another can have vastly different talent pools. But, it’s often too complex to ask managers to share their overflow. And, rerouting candidates manually can be extremely time consuming for recruiters.

To combat this and make the process more efficient, industry leaders are investing in automated multi-location routing. Not only can this improve your fill rates and the effectiveness of your talent pool, it also helps you capture more talent.

Allowing candidates to apply to multiple locations at once gives them an opportunity to maximize their hiring chances. After all, they’re looking for job security. Knowing they’ll be considered for multiple locations of interest lets them know they have a higher chance of finding work within your organization. 

If you’d like to see what this solution looks like in practice, you can book a demo below.

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3. Target underemployed groups

Not all potential candidates search for jobs online. And, the groups who do – younger people and entry-level talent -are often the most recognized talent profiles, raising the competition to hire them. Expanding your talent pool by targeting other groups, such as older age groups, veterans, or those who have been unemployed for a longer time allows you to open up all new sourcing pipelines.

According to NCBI, older workers are not only underemployed but are also more likely to be hit by COVID-related layoffs than younger employees. Expanding your search to talent pools such as this means you can find applicants with the right skillset and oftentimes more experience and even higher productivity

4. Offer growth and career paths

Being able to better attract talent sometimes means taking a hard look at your opportunities and career path. More applicants are thinking long term, looking for growth, benefits and opportunities to secure more than just a paycheck.

To address this, you may want to:

  • Offer training and licensing options. For example, truck drivers, logistics workers or manufacturing employees may be looking to complete a new certification or receive a new license. In restaurants, you may want to consider offering entry-level employees leadership training opportunities or creating career tracks where they can grow into management roles. 
  • Offer language courses or accommodations to attract international talent, immigrants or expats. Often, those who speak a different language or come from a different culture could be overlooked, especially in customer facing roles. Offering the opportunity to take language courses or work towards other certifications can help you gain the loyalty of your employees while boosting their skillset. 
  • Offer personal development and training programs for graduates or long-term unemployed people. Whether or not someone is just getting their start, or has been out of the game for a while, investing in employee growth improves the quality of your workforce while helping boost employee loyalty. Providing the opportunity to train and grow into a leadership role can help you stand out from other organizations. 

5. Ask for referrals

You’re looking for talent who are similar to your best employees. Where is better to find that talent than through your employees’ networks. They might even be able to give you access to highly sought after passive candidates.

You can request referrals from candidates at the end of the application process, or offer referral bonuses to your employees. In some cases, you can even offer referral bonuses to non-employees in the form of gift cards!

6. Look in unlikely places

Just because someone has been rejected from another role doesn’t mean they aren’t a good fit for your role or organization. In areas with lots of hiring organizations, it can be highly effective to team up with companies in similar or adjacent industries to refer talent who are still on the market.

For example, a retailer could team up with a local warehouse employer to share candidates who weren’t the right fit for their stores. Or, a restaurant group could share their rejected candidates with local supermarkets. 

This might even be one instance where you could collaborate with your competition. Maybe another local employer has a slightly varied definition of the ideal employee, and their rejected applicants could be a perfect fit at a different organization. 

7. Offer non-monetary benefits 

First and foremost, candidates are looking for a paycheck. But, every employer is offering that. Beyond extra money, there are other benefits you can offer to stand out and attract the best workers on the market. PTO, benefits, daycare, leadership opportunities, and productivity bonuses are just some of the items that can boost your employer value proposition. 

Although it falls in the realm of monetary, some companies are even exploring sign-on bonuses and interview payments to get talent in the door. But, keep in mind, once a candidate has received their one-time payment to join that incentive quickly fades away. Making substantial investments in other benefits, like education credits or PTO, that improve your employees day-to-day are needed to ensure that you can retain employees that joined for the bonus.

8. Offer incremental hiring bonuses

That being said, sign-on bonuses can still be highly effective if they have the right caveats because they make you stand out immediately from a crowded landscape of organizations looking for talent. According to Business Insider, some supermarkets are offering bonuses up to $2K. And, a fast food chain is even shelling out a $10,000 bonus for a new assistant manager. That would surely perk up the ears of both active and passive candidates in the area. 

In tandem with offering other benefits that we mentioned above, you can improve the effectiveness of these bonuses by tying them to milestones. For example, you may want to break down the payment over a series of 2-6 months, or only pay it out after the employee has stayed for a certain duration of time. 

Next steps 

What we are seeing today is fierce competition for hourly-workers. As top talent becomes few and far between in certain industries, it’s imperative that hiring organizations do everything they can to stand out from the crowd.

It’s a delicate balance between attracting more candidates while still hiring the right people, so tackling this challenge requires a holistic approach. It isn’t enough to toss out sign-on bonuses or perks, nor is it enough to focus on sourcing alone.

The most successful organizations have the right candidate profile in mind, source from multiple angles, and have a process and employer value proposition that aligns with what those candidates are looking for. 

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Olivia is a Project Manager at Harver who supports the global marketing team. She covers topics including recruitment, digital transformation and DEI.
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