By Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller
With much of the east coast facing a tight job market and low unemployment numbers, employers face multiple decisions on how to hire and retain employees in 2023.
It means, explained Nina Nardone, companies need to be flexible or add additional funds to salary packages, in order to attract and retain talent.
“Despite the talk of a recession, we are pretty much at full employment,” Nardone said. “Meaning most people are employed. So competitive people have multiple opportunities. Even candidates who don’t normally get jobs, are getting jobs.”
As an executive client advisor for the global staffing firm LHH, Nardone sees clients looking for jobs in New Jersey, as well as around the world.
Some changes on the immediate horizon Nardone expects to continue include maintaining a hybrid work environment rather than a 100% in-office setting. Other perks include starting with three weeks of vacation instead of two as well an increase in benefits — all things to get job candidates in the door.
In October, one of Nardone’s clients returned to 100% in office rather than allow people to continue to work from home. Of the company’s 1,000 employees, 100 resigned.
She said company officials went back to the employees and offered a hybrid work setting, because replacing 100 employees would have been astronomical.
“While they would have liked everybody on site, the cost of the turnover was too much,” Nardone said.
Other strategies or changes include developing a flexible work schedule; increasing salaries by adding bonuses for existing employees or additional starting pay for new hires; as well as taking other proactive measures in the hiring process.
Jobs that once started at $50,000 now begin at $65,000, for the same kind of discipline. For example, Nardone said a number of years ago an accounts payable position would start at $45,000 to $50,000. Now the beginning salary is $65,000.
Because of the tight market, Nardone said if an employer sees a candidate they want to hire, they need to act quickly.
Nardone said in one instance, a company wanted to hire for a management position. Because of delays in the process, two of the candidates accepted other positions before a decision could be made.
“If an employer sees somebody they like, they need to move sooner than later,” Nardone said. “Some employers take weeks, if not months. They don’t have the luxury of time to consider. They must hire quickly.”
Nardone cautions younger workers from taking a 100% work-from-home view. She said the value gained by having in-office mentors and immediate access to people is invaluable.
Nardone also suggests candidates research the company, and if the first interview is conducted virtually, makie sure they are prepared with a neat, organized background.
“Have questions prepared, act professional, it’s all the same concepts, but in today’s environment, the first contact may be done virtually,” she said.
She also encourages people to consider a temporary position in order to get in the door of a preferred employer. Because it gives the candidate a good view of the company’s climate and culture.
Of those she’s placed in a temporary position, up to 60% have converted to full-time employment. Temporary positions can also open the door for someone who does not interview well, but has the skill set to come in and be a rockstar employee.
Dolores Ross, vice president of people and culture at American Dream, said she strives to attract prospective job candidates not only by posting open positions on the company’s website, but also with face-to-face contact at job fairs and on-the-spot meet and greets.
Ross said American Dream has an edge, because it offers some total rewards which set them apart from other organizations. This includes group interviews over one-on-one for many hourly positions, most conducted virtually to accommodate student applicants.
“We have the hiring leaders on the calls too, so we can weed through volume very quickly,” Ross said.
With higher level jobs, Ross utilizes LinkedIn as a tool, including reaching out to people on the platform who may seem happily employed but could be ready for the next step in their career.
“We’re always looking for a good cultural fit at higher level positions – looking for a good marriage for both the company and the new hire,” Ross said. “We want people to fulfill their own goals by coming to work for American Dream.”
Ultimately, Ross said, the entire process revolves around retention of employees.
“On the professional level, it’s a value proposition – a career path, we want to retain them, not just get them in the door,” she said.
If the retention rate is not where it needs to be, Ross encourages employers to take a hard look at what may be the issue.
Bergen New Bridge Medical Center is a clinical affiliate of Rutgers. As a 1,070-bed hospital located at 230 East Ridgewood Avenue in Paramus, NJ., the Medical Center is both the largest hospital and licensed nursing home in NJ and the fourth largest, publicly-owned hospital in the nation.
The Medical Center experienced a workforce game changer during the pandemic — one that continues to affect not only the healthcare industry, but other entities for years to come.
“From early retirement to career changes to remote and hybrid dynamics, the current recruitment environment is very competitive requiring flexibility and innovation to attract and retain talent,” explained Deborah Vasconi, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center’s CEO, summing up 2023’s efforts in one word — pivot.
“We are meeting people where they are, listening to what they need, and being as innovative as we can to keep the talent pipeline open and fluid,” Vascioni said. “We can’t be rigid, and we must embrace that today and tomorrow’s workforces are motivated differently, won’t settle, and will move on quickly if not engaged and included in decision making and in having a voice in their workplace that is heard and respected.”
This includes understanding what is driving the job market for both current and prospective staff. Some new benefits include a prescription benefit that decreases employee costs significantly, a subsidized gym membership program, dry cleaning services, mentorship programs and innovative internships. Childcare options are also being considered.
“I have a true open-door policy and offer a unique opportunity for staff to meet with me to discuss what is on their minds,” Vascioni said. “We have cultivated an environment of diversity, equity, inclusion, transparency and appreciation at the Medical Center that empowers staff and creates a place where they enjoy and are proud to work at.”
Vascioni said New Jersey’s tight job market, which comes with a low unemployment rate, means they face a high level of competition as they strive to fill openings.
“It also reminds companies to invest in, value and work aggressively to retain their current talent,” Vascioni said. “The hiring process has to be easy, efficient, and expedient or candidates will move on to their next offer. A company’s reputation and brand are more important than ever in a tight job market.”
To fill openings, the company has used CareRev, a technology platform which connects hospitals and health systems with local talent, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
“Bergen New Bridge has identified and hired local qualified nurses, certified nursing assistants, and technicians to accommodate fluctuating patient volumes and vacancies,” Vascioni said. “CareRev’s technology allows us to build relationships with talent in our own backyard, while adding additional support for our full-time staff. We are the first healthcare organization in New Jersey to launch this program.”
Ultimately, she hopes prospective talent looks to Bergen New Bridge for potential job opportunities.
“There has never been a better time to enter the workforce with innovations and community connections as a priority for employers, many of which are focused on providing employee friendly benefits and workplace scenarios,” Vascioni said. “Healthcare is a great career choice with so many diverse opportunities and…we are hiring.
A Challenging Year
The new year brings new challenges for companies when it comes to developing and retaining their workforce.
Jonathan Barnes, Integrity Staffing corporate communications director, said this is because the ability to engage talent through various mediums has become commonplace.
“Employees desire flexibility and opportunity when looking for a career,” Barnes said. “Technology and process innovations have created many new channels increasing the competition for labor and leveling the playing field.
“Finding the right channel and message are critical to a company’s ability to effectively identify and engage the best talent.”
Barnes said finding the right talent is not enough. A company must keep talent because the retention rate drives productivity, reduces costs, and improves a company’s growth.
“Many companies struggle with employee retention today, and keeping their staff engaged,” Barnes said. “It starts with an effective onboarding program that starts before the person starts working for your organization.”
As an industry-leading workforce solutions provider, Integrity Staffing specializes in temporary staffing, direct hire, recruitment process outsourcing and employee safety solutions, in locations throughout New Jersey.
“We are honest with our clients, we want to help them solve their challenges not only for today, but also partner with them for future success,” Barnes said. “Helping our clients find the best talent, whether it is for a day, or permanently, is our focus.
“By also taking into account what the associate is looking for, it will make the best match of the client’s objectives and the associate’s desires.”
“Effective communication of your company culture, the opportunity of the position, the benefits your organization provides, and having a true plan to help the associate get acclimated to the company to reduce the risk of attrition,” Barnes said. “Often companies focus on one or two things to retain employees, however allowing your employees to have a voice and make suggestions to respond to challenges can provide an opportunity to partner with them and identify what they deem to be important together.”
He suggests potential employees be prepared and do their homework on the company — looking at the company brand and reviews.
“Enhance your skill set through training and experience, network with current employees of the company you are interested in. They are best to inform you about the culture of the organization,” Barnes said. “Be flexible and target job requirements that you enjoy doing, but don’t be afraid to come out of your comfort zone.”