MidlandsBiz: What’s the outlook for most Columbia based businesses going into peak season? Are most well positioned to handle the demand?
April Diehl: The outlook for Columbia appears to be good going into peak season. While unemployment is relatively low at 4.0% for the area, those rates are in line with the national averages so any tightness in the labor market is consistent with what other communities across the US are experiencing as well. Columbia has an annual college student population of around 60,000 to draw from each year so businesses have that additional workforce they are able to draw from during peak season each year.
MB: What industry sectors are most at risk of not being prepared? Why?
AD: I think most industries right now are well prepared, and are accustomed to accessing the additional labor pool that enters the market each August [college students such as at the University of SC]. While it’s not necessarily industry specific, jobs with a high skills threshold and on the job training time will typically present the most risk due to the time needed to find a qualified candidate then get them fully prepared for the position. Manufacturers are probably more at risk to this than others, but most already recognize the importance of these positions and work to keep a talent pipeline in place for them.
MB: What steps can businesses take now to position themselves for this busy season?
AD: To prepare for peak, businesses need to do 5 things:
- Streamline the Hiring Process
Employers need to keep it simple by asking for only what they need and letting talent complete the hiring process in one visit. If background checks take more than few days, top talent will be working elsewhere by the time they’re ready to hire them. Businesses should consider putting pending checks to work until their backgrounds are processed.
Businesses must ensure that their culture is attractive to quality clients. That starts with assessing their culture to understand why people enjoy working there. They need to plan to hire well by onboarding seasonal workers when they arrive and giving them the opportunity to establish a relationship with their immediate management.
- Stability and Length of Assignment
Communication is key. Talent must know what hours to expect. Overtime can be attractive for some talent while burning out employees. Businesses should consider part-time and/or weekend shifts. Adding team leads relieves supervisors whose teams can easily double or triple in size during peak while offering employees valuable leadership experience.
- Value Adds
Employers must look closely at what their organization can extend to talent to treat them as closely as possible to full- time employees from communication and coaching to cross-training and opportunities for additional shifts. They should be sure to include them in team social gatherings too.
- Offer Competitive Wages
It’s paramount that businesses set themselves up for success by paying what their closest competitors do or better. They cannot afford to be even fifty cents below in this competitive environment. They must know what the competition is offering and if they need to increase their rate, show that they are serious by increasing it by $1 or more.
MB: What can potential employees do now to position themselves for jobs?
AD: To position themselves for jobs, talent should download the Work4HD app from the App Store, Android or Google or go to app.Work4HD.com and register so that they can be ready to work when Hire Dynamics posts jobs. Once the process is complete, Hire Dynamics will push notifications for new job postings to candidates in real time. When their phone lights up, all they need to do is decide whether to apply! There is currently a high need for skilled trades such as welders, machinists and forklift operators. Therefore, taking advantage of technical training can pay dividends.
MB: How early should businesses start to make sure they fully staffed for peak season?
AD: While peak is defined as third and fourth quarters, businesses who want to thrive during it this year must plan to hire well. That begins in the first half with auditing their culture to determine why people like to work at their business and making adjustments if necessary. Before that, they must budget for peak. Once recruited, talent must be onboarded and trained for peak to go smoothly. That takes time and planning. In this tight labor market, many businesses decide to outsource recruiting for peak to a reputable staffing partner with expertise in their industry so that their HR professionals can concentrate on other things.