RALEIGH – With employers seeking to fill thousands of open jobs based in the Triangle, including technology and healthcare , businesses seeking guidance on how to recruit and retain employees in today’s labor market may wish to review the results of a new report from Monster.

The results of the study, which analyzed data from weekly surveys of job seekers who were using the Monster job board platform, indicate that employees and job seekers want flexibility, wage and skill growth, and support.

According to the report, only half of workers feel like they are being fairly compensated for the work that they do.

And workers and job seekers “weren’t willing to compromise their health and safety to find work,” the data found.

But 45% of workers also shared that they would be more likely to stay in their current role—with their current employer—if they were offered skills training.  Also, 29% of employees responded that they were quitting due to a lack of growth opportunities, and 77% of job candidates defined career growth as salary growth.

Nationwide, employers are actively seeking talent, Monster found. Yet millions of jobs remain unfilled.

So what’s going on?

The talent market has changed in the prior 18 months, said Scott Blumsack, the senior vice president of research and insights at Monster, who spoke with WRAL TechWire this week about the report.

“Especially given all the issues around the pandemic in the last 18 months, we’ve been constantly monitoring our candidates and our employers to understand what their perspectives are and what the trends have been,” said Scott Blumsack, the senior vice president of research and insights at Monster.

What workers are looking for, according to Blumsack, is flexibility, transparency regarding safety policies, and growth and development opportunities.  Employers can take note of these factors to adjust how they recruit, hire, and train workers, said Blumsack, in order to acquire the talent they’re seeking for their companies, because demand for talent is likely to remain strong.

“As we look at the data in NC, for instance, we see strong demand in technology and in healthcare, which in the Triangle area, is overindexed in,” said Blumsack.  “We would expect a continued strong demand in the near term.”

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The pandemic dramatically changed the labor market

“We deliberately put the economy, the labor market, on hold, and we took various steps to make people a little bit more financially resilient during the time it took to address the pandemic,” said John Quinterno, a professor at Duke University and the founder and principal of South by North Strategies Ltd., a research consultancy specializing in economic and social policy, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

“This spring, we relaxed all of the restrictions, all at once,” he added.  “So we went from shutting everything down to restarting the job market all at once.”

Duke University photo

John Quinterno

That’s atypical, noted Quinterno, and it came after 40 years of a relatively structured talent and labor market that favored employers in negotiating working conditions.

“When people talk about the labor market, they’re talking about it in a way that is very much like the last year and a half hadn’t happened,” said Quinterno.  “That they’re talking about these issues like it’s been any other economic downturn.”

The labor market that we’re entering may not be a return to the labor market that existed prior to the pandemic, cautioned Quinterno.  That’s because a year passed between shutting down portions of the economy and the labor market due to the onset of the coronavirus and the sudden reopening of the economy and labor market, he said.

“But a year had passed, and that’s enough time for a lot of changes to occur for people,” said Quinterno.  “An opportunity for people to assess priorities, and jobs, and careers, and prospects, and time to think about the conditions of work, and jobs that are appealing to them, and whether the work is worth it given the amount of salary and the quality of benefits offered to them.”

The factors impacting the labor market

The study notes that “persistent labor shortage, mass exodus of workers amid the so-called ‘Great Resignation,’ and increased employee burnout” are factors in the current labor and talent market, which has become even more challenging to predict due to increasing concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19.

It’s not that job seekers aren’t looking for work—Monster found that candidate job searches are on the rise.

“In June, job searches on Monster increased by 18% month-over-month, followed by another 18% increase in July,” the report reads.

But another metric that’s also on the rise?  Workers are leaving jobs.

“I don’t think there’s been anything material that has fundamentally changed the trajectory,” said Blumsack.  “Those who are leaving their jobs are leaving, the vast majority are leaving, of their own volition.”

And a lot of workers are leaving roles, the report notes, with tens of millions more may be considering leaving.

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 11 million people quit their jobs between April and July,” the report reads.  “Not only that, a recent Monster poll revealed that 95% of workers would consider changing jobs.”

“As the pandemic has progressed, we’ve seen a shift in terms of the supply and demand dynamics of the market where the number of job opportunities has outpaced the number of candidates, and that has resulted in candidates feeling very confident about their abilities to find other opportunities out in the market,” said Blumsack, responding to a question about the data point that 95% of workers would consider switching jobs.

“It doesn’t mean that they’re looking to move jobs immediately, but it does indicate they’re much more confident about the job market than they were 18 months ago,” said Blumsack.

That means employers may wish to rethink their hiring, training, and retention strategies, said Blumsack.

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“There’s a couple of key things that employers need to be focused on,” said Blumsack. “The first is that they really have to listen to what their workers are saying in terms of their priorities, in being very clear and transparent about the return to work and their policies to keep employees safe, being transparent about their willingness to be flexible about remote and hybrid roles as well as promoting some of the skills and development training.”

Employers need to respond to what is motivating job seekers—and their current employees—said Blumsack.

“The other thing that is key is to think really creatively about how they attract talent,” “Focus on building their employer brand and telling a really great story to potential candidates, as well as potentially being a little bit more creative about how they look for potential candidates.”

“Maybe looking for someone with similar skills in a different job industry than they maybe would have looked at prior,” added Blumsack.

Time to change jobs?

“Workers have felt really stalled in their career progression,” said Blumsack.  “And there are two ways for them to feel like they’re getting greater growth and development,” he noted.

“One is through salary and wage increases.  But also, a key driver is getting access to skills training and development opportunities.”

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“It’s been an environment for about 40 years where employers have really just had their way,” said Quinterno.

“Now we’re in an environment that is shifting back toward workers. Not in a major way, but enough of a way.”

“This is fundamentally different, because of how rapidly and broadly we shut everything down, how long we went before we then decided to and were able to rapidly and suddenly open everything back up,” he added.

“Gives us a very different set, an entirely different set of conditions that both employers and working people need to consider and deal with,” said Quinterno.  “And, of course, the pandemic is still out there.”

Which means that for industries like leisure, hospitality, transportation, warehousing, and more, the report advises, “employers need to seriously rethink salaries if they want to attract and retain more workers.”