Listening to the job seeker is the key to winning back the workforce

  By Dylan Buckley  |    Monday September 27, 2021

Category: Productivity, Recruiting



The end of lockdown signals a new lease of life for the American economy. In July, headlines picked up on spiralling inflation as supply tried to adjust to new demands. After eighteen months of saving, consumers will be keen to spend in newly opened shops, creating overnight demand for a fleet of workers willing to pick up the baton.

At the end of May, the Labour Department listed 9.2million new job openings across the country. And yet, workers are slow to take up the opportunity. The most recent figures show unemployment rose by 850,000 in June, up to 5.9%. This is worlds away from where it sat 12 months prior, but the sense of jobseeker apathy is palpable. 

Subsidising wage cuts, more and more businesses are turning to perks to lure jobseekers into work. Signing bonuses and free gym membership are among the varied incentives employers are experimenting with.

But our research suggests this may not be hitting the mark. Fewer than 1% of our sample pegged gym membership as their favoured perk and only 2.2% raised their hand for a signing bonus. 

Less surprisingly, on the back of a pandemic, 17.5% ask for health insurance as their top priority. Not far behind, dental insurance, a 401k and paid vacations top the list. Candidates may have saved their way through the pandemic, but stability is number one for those looking forward. 

Employers will also wish to consider the differing needs of men and women. Women, it seems, tend to prioritise working from home and flexible working while men look for equal standing on parental leave policy. This rings true for current jobholders as well; a recent survey of American adults found 42% would consider finding a new job if not offered a fair package on ‘WFH’.

In a nutshell, post-covid era job seekers are most attracted to jobs offering fundamental benefits, like healthcare. Even the differences between men and women is negligible compared to the importance of health and R&R.

This is big news for big business. Currently, Amazon is offering new hires a $1,000 bonus for joining, with top-ups for those who can prove vaccination. The e-commerce hub is looking to hire 75,000 new staff in fulfilment and logistics as demand for its services rises. But after months of receiving stimulus packages, workers seem far more keen to get a paid vacation than a one-off cash injection.

The scope of these findings isn’t just limited to Covid recovery plans. At the end of 2020, Amazon pledged $3,000 signing bonuses to new hires and $300 bonuses to full-time staff able to lend a hand over the holiday season. Even beyond this temporary market spike, employers would do well to ensure the perks they offer are aligned with the needs of their employees, as they ensure their services align with the needs of their customers.

These needs change. Only two weeks ago, franchisees of McDonalds announced they could offer emergency childcare to help entice staff back to work. But this historic roadblock for working parents has been somewhat offset in the last 18 months, with only 2.9% calling for such subsidies.

To attract quality, motivated staff, employers will need to turn their market research inwards, better understanding the incentives driving the decision-making of would-be staff. Our research is telling of the psychology of candidates as they react to market and social changes. Businesses large and small alike must learn to read the changing climate of the job market if they are to succeed in winning over the workforce.


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