The world of work is changing rapidly, thanks to historically low unemployment claims mixed with unprecedented quit rates and millions of baby boomers suddenly retiring. It’s something that is all too familiar to any business leader who has tried to hire new employees in the past few months. Kimberly Waldon, who manages recruiting for National Pawn in North Carolina, believes that this era, known as The Great Resignation, is here to stay.
The 23-store company, headquartered in Raleigh-Durham, entered into its busiest season during the fourth quarter of 2021, when the national unemployment rate was 4.6%. 4.4 million people had just quit their jobs in September, up from 4.3 million in August and far above the pre-pandemic level of 3.6 million. There were over 10 million job openings nationwide.
“We explored the reasons behind this imbalance in the workforce and found that people were leaving their jobs for a variety of reasons including higher-paying roles or a better lifestyle fit,” Waldon shared, adding, “incomes are rising but so is inflation.”
“In the third quarter of 2021, there were more job openings than the number of people employed nationwide,” adds Jeff Wilhelm, Director of Store Operations. He says their team noticed a smaller talent pool with fewer quality applicants and increased competition from other employers who have ramped up hiring to keep pace. They knew that it was time to take action and become proactive in their approach.
“We shifted our focus from ‘The Great Resignation’ to ‘The Great Attraction,’ Waldon adds, “as a result, the company reduced employee turnover and increased its retention rate, in stark contrast to the prevailing trends.
“National Pawn has always had a work culture that’s focused on helping our team members maintain a work-life balance and give them the autonomy to build their own success,” shares CEO Bob Moulton, who founded the award-winning company in 1987, “we are known to say ‘life is short, work at a job that you love.’”
National Pawn offers the following six tips for businesses dealing with the challenges of the shifting employment landscape:
- Focus on the candidate experience: National Pawn’s leaders and the hiring team shifted their mindset to be even more open-minded and embrace different ways to attract talent and move them through the pipeline. They focus on a speedy and transparent process that often includes coaching and teaching the candidates interview skills, “We’re comfortable working with them to prep for their interview with the hiring manager, reminding them of things that they may not consider,” shares Waldon. She notes that candidates will eventually be doing jobs that require strong in-person communication and customer service skills that don’t always come across in online interviews or zoom hiring events.
- Sell the benefits and culture: National Pawn has historically offered competitive compensation and benefits to its employees. Now, they showcase their benefits more boldly and have doubled down on messaging that clarifies what the candidate can expect early in the application process. Other messaging, including marketing and social media, has shifted towards a deliberate emphasis on the reasons a candidate would love working at the company. “Having fun at work has always been a part of our culture,” Waldon shares. “Now, we make sure that this is clear in our external communications.”
- Lean in to retention and rehire: The company heavily invests in employee training and uses every opportunity to remind their existing employees how much they are valued and appreciated. “Our Director of Training, Don Hahn, does a great job of reminding them that we trust them to do what’s right for their customers and one another and that we’re glad they are here,” says Wilhelm. Their leadership team is laser-focused on retaining employees by ensuring they are supported and given all the tools and autonomy necessary for long-term success. When employees leave, we let them know that there are opportunities for them again in the future if their situation changes.
- Foster employee referrals: National Pawn capitalizes on the fact that most people enjoy working with people they like and feel comfortable with, so they encourage their employees to refer people they know would be a good fit for their culture. When the candidate is hired and stays for a year, the referring employee gets a financial incentive to show the company’s appreciation.
- Be proactive in your approach: Waldon recommends focusing on hiring, even when there are few or no existing openings in the company. This approach helps avoid the consequences of a bad hire, including lower team productivity, lost customers, or harm to the company’s brand or reputation for quality service.
- Spread the word: Waldon and her teamwork maximize the capabilities of online tools like Indeed.com and post their online recruiting events on local calendars and job sites. The invitations are fun and inviting and build a sense of excitement for job seekers and others who see the post, even if they don’t sign in to that particular event.
Moulton sums it up, “In the end, success comes from consistency, and our leadership team is phenomenal at consistently focusing on helping grow our team with talented professionals who become a part of our National Pawn family.”