SHRM Live Explores Recruiting in Tight Labor Market

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 29, 2018
SHRM Live Explores Recruiting in Tight Labor Market

​Employers will have to get creative in sourcing talent this year: Nearly 6 million jobs are currently unfilled, and the labor market is at full employment.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) dealt with this pressing HR issue during SHRM Live 18, a virtual event held Jan. 23.

Thousands of viewers tuned in to the program, which included presentations on how to attract and retain military veterans, rethink the value of older candidates, and partner with community organizations to offer job seekers with criminal histories a second chance.

"We have to find ways to value talent—different types of talent," said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, kicking off the event. "The organizations that win will have the best talent and those who lose, won't. It really is that simple."

Bias among employers, recruiters and hiring managers creates a disadvantage for the company. HR should fight against it, Taylor said. "So ask yourself, are there hidden gems of talent like veterans, older workers and people with criminal histories? Absolutely. But the better question is, 'Do we have the courage as a profession and as individual HR professionals to explore talent from nontraditional sources to help our organizations thrive?' The answer has to be 'Yes.' "

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Dig Deeper to Find Out About Veterans' Work Experience

Gloria Sinclair Miller, SHRM-SCP, director of HR for the USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, said that if recruiters and hiring managers want to initiate veteran hiring, they should take some time to understand what it's like to serve in the military and find out what the veterans sitting across from them at job interviews actually did in the service. "Be willing to learn during the course of the interview," she said.

Medal of Honor recipient Florent "Flo" Groberg, director of veterans' outreach for Boeing and a U.S. Army veteran, added, "We're not the best at writing resumes and expressing our skillsets or our military experience and leadership on paper. It is important for HR to understand what our military occupational specialty [a service member's job] stands for."

"Just peel back the onion," said Justin Constantine, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps and CEO of The Constantine Group, a consulting firm focused on leadership and veteran hiring. If a veteran tells you during a job interview about driving a truck while in the Marines, you should dig deeper and ask about the experience and about typical day-to-day duties, he said. "You may find out that he or she was responsible for 10 other people and was entrusted with their lives. I hope that HR pros will take the opportunity to ask questions if they don't completely understand the candidate's military experience."

The panel of experts listed several channels for sourcing veterans, including veteran service organizations, educational institutions, and advocates like SHRM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Groberg said one of the best places to find veterans is through the USO Pathfinder program for transitioning service members.

Another important channel is the military itself.

"The military is often looking for employers to talk to service members during transition programs a year before they leave the service, to acquaint them with what it will be like to go out and network and interview for jobs," Miller said.

Constantine reminded employers not to forget about the veterans already in their ranks. "Tap into your own workforce," he said. "Whether you have a formal veterans ERG [employee resource group] or not, it would be a disservice if you didn't turn to your veteran employees and ask them about other veterans they may know."

Take a Chance on People with Criminal Histories

Recent estimates show that one-third of the U.S. adult working-age population has some kind of criminal record, making hiring from this pool of often-stigmatized people something for HR to at least consider.

Arte Nathan, president and COO of HR consulting firm Strategic Development Worldwide, made the case for hiring people with criminal histories. He has become a leading advocate for the practice, beginning with a referral in 1990 that led him to hire a former gang member who had recently been released from prison and wanted to get his life back on track. That trial run turned into the creation of a re-entry program for former prisoners. Nathan hired over 400 people through the program, of which only 7 percent went back to prison, compared to the general recidivism rate of 75 percent. And turnover was no more or less that of the rest of his workforce.

The original hire Nathan took a chance on was later promoted to team lead, became a supervisor and ultimately a department head.

"It proved that if you give somebody a job who wants it and that they like, they can be successful in spite of the things that you think will make them not successful," Nathan said.

He advised employers to begin with the Department of Labor's One-Stop Centers and to partner with community organizations like the Las Vegas-based nonprofit Hope for Prisoners, which trains and helps place former convicts in jobs. "Legal and workforce development experts will help you learn about ex-offenders before you start interviewing and instruct you on how to set up a program to guide and mentor these people to re-enter society and work," he said.

"You'll learn what I learned. If somebody makes a mistake, goes to jail and pays their debt to society, earns and wants a second chance, the real crime is not giving it to them."

SHRM Live 18 is available on-demand.

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