The Great Resignation remains upon us. Countless workers are leaving their jobs — and in some cases, fleeing industries — in search of better opportunities that meet their needs. Workers, like no other time in our history, have the upper hand. And as former president and chief executive officer of the Boston Foundation, Paul S. Grogan, says, “A tight labor market is a terrible thing to waste.”

Finding the Right Talent

In this volatile labor market, finding and retaining the best talent is a challenge for employers across sectors and requires strategic and key partnerships. Job seekers are in search of the very best job, and some are even ghosting employers when something better comes along.

Employers must look beyond successful pre-pandemic recruitment and engagement techniques and focus on what candidates are seeking that goes far beyond a paycheck. To capitalize on the fluidity of talent, focusing on key job quality elements and partnering with workforce development organizations and career centers is the answer.

Focus on Job Quality by Partnering with Job Seekers

At a time when recruitment and retention seems like a herculean task, nimble and creative employers who can pivot come out on top. Improving the quality of jobs doesn’t always mean raising wages. Wages do turn heads and attract candidates, but workers stay with employers who offer great benefits, career ladders and growth opportunities, convenient schedules and supportive work environments.

When JVS Boston, the largest workforce development organization in the Greater Boston region, surveyed their talent pool on elements of job quality, the following highlights emerged:

  • “I want a job where I can be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.” (supportive environment)
  • “I’m looking for a job where I have opportunities to learn and grow.” (career ladder)
  • “Now, I look for flexibility so I can balance my work and personal life.” (work-life balance)
  • “If an employer helped me with quality and affordable care for my child, I would be able to get back to work.” (benefits)

Using critical client intel, JVS created a tool called the job quality benchmarking index that gives employers an easy-to-read summary report that compares their jobs on five pillars to other players in the space, allowing companies to make job redesigns that attract and retain employees. Business intelligence like this is critical in today’s labor market. The Good Jobs Institute, another Boston based workforce leader, helps companies thrive by creating good, attractive jobs through deep data analytics and concrete, real-world consulting.

Partner Up – Connect to the Right Talent

Organizations like these exist to match talent pools, particularly in marginalized communities, to employers. These organizations sit at the intersection of a dual constituency: companies and job seekers. Career coaches at job centers sit down regularly with job seekers to help them navigate their futures. The needs of a young parent, a head of household, a recent graduate, an individual living at the poverty line or a worker at the sunset of their career all have varying requirements in a job but also are highly valuable assets to the labor market, particularly now. Staff at workforce development organizations know these job seekers and are a conduit to recruitment – so use them!

Employers who partner with workforce development organizations can receive invaluable insights on the challenges that candidates face and the levers that employers can pull to make their jobs more attractive. These organizations, which exist in every state and municipality, are embedded within local communities and are a pipeline resource that can be leveraged. They can help connect employers to diverse candidate pools by posting company openings, pushing them out to talent pools through marketing and communication channels and coordinating hiring and recruiting events.

Many organizations also provide companies with customized pre-placement skills training, post-placement success coaching services and incumbent worker training services. Workforce development organizations can also help companies apply for public and private funding to stand-up professional development opportunities, such as “English at Work” and leadership trainings.

But most importantly, workforce development organizations can provide an additional resource – insights into how companies are stacking up compared to one another. This data, often shrouded in mystery, is critical for companies to know how they compare in order to make job quality improvements across the board and attract talent. Some organizations have a specific tool like the job quality benchmarking index, to provide that information. Others have access to anecdotal data that is illustrative and helpful for companies trying to move beyond just raising wages.

Partnering Equals Better Outcomes For Dual Constituencies

To illustrate the efficacy of partnership, let’s look at an example from the early child care space. Nearly all employers in that sector who engaged in job quality coaching with JVS have not only increased wages due to intel on competitors (resulting in a 23% wage increase or in employees’ pockets) but also added benefits such as 75% discounts on slots for employees’ children, creation of career ladders and improving typical supervisory feedback models. These employers have seen increased recruitment as well as increased retention.

Additionally, workforce development organizations and career centers can be helpful in identifying barriers to employment and lobbying with their employer partners to affect real changes. According to internal JVS research, this was exemplified in Lowell, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio where employers, workforce development organizations and city officials partnered to create new bus routes to connect workers to busy, previously inaccessible commercial warehousing centers — a solution both parties had sought but never independently attained.

In summary, to get a read on your potential talent pool, tap into the local workforce development system in your area. These public-private partnerships can be the solution to filling critical vacancies, connecting to untapped talent, creating better jobs and making economic mobility accessible to all.