Employee recruitment and retention in the time of COVID-19

Anyone involved in workplace recruitment has had plenty to think about over the past couple of years.

Time to read: 5 mins

The effects of international border closures on the local jobs market, the Great Resignation and finding suitable employees are just a few issues you might have been wrestling with. Let’s look at them individually…

What impact will new immigration rules and the opening of international borders have on the local jobs market?

Immigration rules are tightening up so that we get the right skills to cover labour shortages and to address exploitation of temporary migrant workers. Employers bringing in overseas workers will need to go through a new accreditation process that shows they meet minimum requirements and commitments. There are two levels of accreditation and each carries a fee. “Standard” is for those who want to employ up to five workers and “High-volume” is for six or more. Accreditation will streamline the visa process for employers by reducing red tape in the future, but could bring initial delays and a lot of stress due to the processing backlog and likely flood of people who have been waiting for borders to open. It will even out in time.

Conversely, New Zealanders will leave for overseas work. The UK labour market has tightened, so they could be drawn to Australia, which is closer to family and friends, and potentially easier to return home from. It also offers much higher salaries particularly with trade roles.

Are we seeing the Great Resignation?

Not exactly, although the landscape has shifted dramatically since pre-Covid. Lockdowns gave people a sense of what’s important to them. They have been switching to jobs that reflect their values and desire for a better work-life balance, even if that means pay cuts and roles beneath their capabilities. But interest rate hikes are likely to stop that as they become more nervous and the need for security replaces emotion.

To encourage employees to stick with your company, check in regularly to ask about their aspirations and job satisfaction. Performance appraisals are an ideal time for these discussions. Staff are often happy to stay if there are opportunities to advance their career or learn skills that increase their worth and relevance, and keep their role fresh and interesting.

Recruiting versus upskilling – why employers need to take more of a risk

Smaller employers now seem more selective when hiring, requiring exact skills matches and sometimes trying to combine two roles with disparate skillsets.

Sometimes it’s worth the risk of promoting current staff, then filling the role they were in. That might require training, but it gives you a better chance of retaining your best employees – and you’ll ultimately benefit from their broad knowledge of your company and processes. If hiring externally is your best option, it can be worth employing someone you’d have previously thought “too senior”. Your job might be ideal for their circumstances, especially if you offer a good culture and environment.

Alternatively you could separate the job into part-time positions to get people who are better suited to each role.

What’s the best way to attract good employees?

If you don’t have a Human Resources department, it’s worth hiring an external HR professional as your HR and recruiting arm. This is cheaper than long-term risks like personal grievances and poor team fit, which can result from simple recruitment errors or panic-hiring in times of pressure. However, if you want to conduct your own search, there are things to consider.

  • Presently, it’s a candidate market and the quality is down so it’s worth advertising in multiple regions, especially if your area is less populated and it’s hard to attract good applicants. This is where you can market the selling points of your region.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the job ad. It must be written in a way that talks to jobseekers and avoids getting bogged down in detail. Most people do not fully read job ads. They want to know what the company does, what it will offer and why they should apply − they want the focus of the role.
  • Are you really looking for a "superstar" or "rock star"? New Zealanders are modest and can be put off by adverts for the perfect employee. Be realistic about your needs and use simple, creative terms that talk to them as human beings − things like, “able to connect with our customers” etc rather than generic phrases like “excellent communications skills” or “must be organised”.

While writing the ad and later, during interviews, consider what’s vital and what can be learned on the job. Skills are trainable, attitude and fit are not. A candidate who’s a great fit will be the embodiment of your organisation’s values and mesh well with the team. Also consider what makes the role and company appealing, including flexibility around hours and working from home; your culture, and the likes of salary, insurance, wellness programmes, a vehicle and a laptop.

During interviews, you’re more likely to see candidates at their best if you make them feel comfortable. That might mean reducing your interview panel to two at most, so that your candidate feels less nervous. Ask questions that are specific to the role and what the candidate offers. You’re trying to ascertain how they’d fit. Also consider how you come across − why do a difficult interview if you promote yourselves as a friendly workplace? It’s also worth introducing them to your team in a less formal situation. Remember:

  • Interviews are not just about you assessing a candidate. They are also deciding whether your job and company are right for them
  • Once you’ve decided who you want, you’ll need to move quickly so that they’re not snapped up elsewhere in the current market.
  • Don’t forget to thank the unsuccessful applicants. It shows respect and puts your company in a better light.

DISCLAIMER: No liability is assumed by Baker Tilly Staples Rodway for any losses suffered by any person relying directly or indirectly upon any article within this website. It is recommended that you consult your advisor before acting on this information.

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Tags COVID-19 HR