It’s A Worker’s Market Now

And if you want to attract and retain talent, you’ve got to adapt

Perspective Open

As we wind down after a whirlwind year and a half, employers of all sizes are trying to keep their employees engaged and active while attracting and retaining new talent. The question still remains…what do employees really want from their employers, and do employers understand that the tables have turned?

The Law of Supply and Demand
Across industries, hourly and salaried workers find themselves in an unfamiliar position because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and it is one of increasing power. As with many things in business, it comes down to simple supply and demand: There are just not enough workers to fill all of the available positions. Therefore, workers can now be more selective in their place of employment and demand better treatment from their employers as their perceived value rises.

In today’s labor market, stiff competition is pushing employers to pay much higher than hourly wages, as well as offer fringe benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off and sign-on bonuses. Employers are even offering a few extra hundred dollars to entice candidates to offset the new state programs that have made it easier for employees to stay off the job market.

But is that enough?

Today employees want it all. Employee expectations extend well beyond compensation. Regardles of industry, statistics show that only 29% of Gen. Z indicated competitive salary and benefits were key to their engagement, compared to nearly half (49%) of those over 55.

Employers need to know their audience.
Looking to the future, employee demands appear to be as diverse as the individuals themselves. When asked what employers should offer to engage employees, workers placed work-life balance and career advancement opportunities at the top of their list of priorities, followed by compensation and benefits with employer ethics and values following close behind. Another priority for workers was the availability of continuous learning opportunities and organizational stability.

Work location flexibility has become the top reason people have changed jobs, with a desire to find more purposeful and meaningful work following close behind. About one in four applicants desire better benefits and support for their wellbeing. Importance was placed on childcare benefits, mental health programs and health classes.

Here’s the Key
I truly believe that the key to successfully hiring in 2021 comes down to communication. I suggest building a dialogue and offering transparency into the decision-making process. By doing so, companies will have a stronger chance to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their employees. Ask questions like: Why are you considering working here? What is important to you? And then really listen. This will allow you to invest more in the initiatives your employees really want, as well as boost employee engagement and loyalty for the long term. I always encourage our candidates to be their own advocate during an interview. I advise them that they cannot expect an employer to know what is important to them if you do not tell them, so they need to be transparent and communicate their career goals clearly.

A couple of suggestions for employers:

  1. Proactively engage with employees to better understand what is really important to them and their careers. Employees are more likely to be their authentic selves and open up when employers have created a culture of belonging. Employees have options, and as such they will gravitate toward employers who are listening and acting upon them. Make them feel they are a part of the process.
  2. Foster a culture of perpetual learning that rewards continual skills growth. Most employees want to succeed and grow. Employers can either create learning cultures to nurture the skills and talents of their people or wait for the exit interview to find out which of their competitors are. Be proactive in your approach. They are now your employees — do not give them a chance to continue their search for employment. Keep in mind that other employers are looking at your employees as well.
  3. Do not take people for granted. COVID-19 reminded us how fragile life is. Everyone has been through a lot in the past year. Employers must demonstrate empathy and care for their employees holistically by considering their physical, mental and financial well-being. Focus on providing employees with a psychologically safe environment in which they will thrive and bring a broad perspective, and unique ideas, into a safe place where they feel respected and heard.


Perspective Guest Teresalawrence

Teresa Lawrence is the owner and president of Delta Personnel. Founded in 1968, Delta Personnel is the largest staffing company in New Orleans. Lawrence also currently serves on WBEC South’s board of directors as regional director for New Orleans, as well as on the Jefferson Economic Development Board, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Jefferson Parish Workforce Development Council.