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2023 was a strange year.  Coming out of COVID - arguably one of the most disruptive events to the world of work since World War II - companies were faced with predictions of a recession, falling but still high inflation, and tight labor markets.  The combination of higher wages and economic uncertainty made staffing decisions – either for direct hire or contingent labor – more challenging.  Many companies either held back on hiring hoping wages would fall or resigned themselves to higher turnovers and less efficiency hoping that the wave would pass.  

But if 2023 was a year of uncertainty, 2024 will be a year of a predictable, if not altered workforce landscape.  Many of the big changes seen in the first part of the decade are not temporary; they are here to stay.   And these new challenges need to be met with a more strategic approach to staffing.  By pivoting to a smarter model of staffing in 2024 and beyond, workforce leaders can adapt, become more efficient, and beat the competition.  

Strategic approaches to staffing will become the major differentiators in 2024. Here are some of the staffing pitfalls from 2023 and how to avoid them in the coming year.

Pitfall #1: Assuming Labor Markets Will Loosen

Many leaders wrongly assumed that wages would subside and the labor market would loosen during a deep recession.  This didn’t happen in 2023 and is just as unlikely in 2024.  While some of the tightness in the labor market did come from people leaving the workforce during COVID, many experts attribute long-term tightness in the labor market to larger macro shifts in population such as Baby Boomers retiring earlier and in greater numbers.  There is also greater wage competition at the lower-end of the spectrum from the service industry edging closer to or even exceeding wages from traditionally higher paying manufacturing and professional jobs.   There are some predictions of recession in 2024, but it is expected to be short and shallow and rebounds from recession tend to drive wages higher.  The wage growth seen in 2021, 22 and 23 are likely to persist in 2024.  

This doesn’t mean that wages won’t fluctuate in the future or that there is nothing a business can do.  It just means that trends and assumptions that have been built over decades – entire careers in workforce recruitment – are less informative.  Accepting the reality of wage growth and adopting more efficient recruiting practices, reducing turnover, and optimizing efficiency are where workforce leaders should concentrate efforts.

Pitfall #2: Operating Inefficiency

With higher wages and a tight labor market, many operations responded in 2023 with inefficiency – either over- or under-hiring and using multiple staffing partners pulling from the same pool of talent.  This has left many operations with a tangle of staffing spend that is difficult to manage, lacks transparency, and is more than likely resulting in overspending.  

2024 is a chance to approach staffing more intelligently and efficiently.  There are workforce platforms like Eastridge’s Talient that can help manage contingent labor across an entire operation, ensuring that programs are cost effective and more efficient.  There are also approaches to staffing that help reduce turnover and improve productivity like onsite management programs.  Prime vendor or Staffing MSP programs are other ways of not only managing staffing, but ensuring that spend and quality are optimized. 

In previous years, inefficiency was a given because we were traveling in uncharted territory and some hoped that the landscape would change.  In 2024, implementing more efficient ways to operate staffing will truly determine the winners and losers in many industries.


Remaining Inflexible

Change can come slowly to an organization, particularly when it comes to building a workforce. From written requirements in job descriptions to scheduling shifts to where you’re looking for talent: what worked in the past probably didn’t work in 2023 and certainly won’t work in 2024.  

Being more flexible doesn’t mean lowering standards.  It just means that, as an organization, you are open to broadening what success looks like.  Flexibility is key to uncovering hidden pools of talent.  For example, Eastridge GATE has been successful in screening workers for more advanced manufacturing environments that might not have specific job experience but have an untapped skillset.  We’ve also worked with a number of clients on adjusting shifts to open up additional pools of talent.  Even consultation on job titles and descriptions can help broaden a pool of candidates.  

One of the unfortunate side effects of online searches is that they perpetuate the myth that a detailed job description alone will result in a targeted pool of candidates.  But this expectation often leads to a narrow and very expensive set of choices.  Eastridge has worked with clients from advanced manufacturing to law firms to determine what is essential to success in a role taking into account company culture, incentives beyond pay rates, geography, and other factors.  

Flexibility can not only help broaden the pool of talent you’re sourcing from; it can also help dramatically reduce turnover.  From scheduling changes to meet employee needs to giving a pathway to success for temporary workers, flexibility has been a key component of reducing turnover which, in turn, reduces recruiting and onboarding costs and leads to great efficiency.


Over Relying on A.I.

A.I. made headlines in 2023 and many industries began to immediately predict massive changes to the way they would hire and manage workers.  A.I. and technology in general certainly have a place both in sourcing and managing employees.  For example, Eastridge’s Talient is a workforce technology platform that helps organizations manage an extended workforce through technology.  However, Eastridge has found that companies relying on technology alone to uncover hidden pools of talent often fail.  In fact, we’ve worked with a number of clients recently on successful hiring events based on a hands-on, tailored approach that combines technology with the expertise of seasoned professional recruiters.  The results have truly been stellar with one client seeing more than double the number of registered job fair attendees to open positions.  

The challenges of recruiting today are significant and technology can be a significant part of meeting those challenges.  However, relying solely on technology wasn’t a path to success in 2023 and won’t be in 2024. 

A Year of New Normal

In the past, workforce challenges were cyclical depending largely on employment rates rising and falling with the overall economy.  Today, there is a new normal that requires new strategies.  Thankfully there are ways to meet these challenges with more creative ways of approaching finding, recruiting, and retaining talent. Predictions are always hard to make, but it seems safe to say that successful staffing in 2024 will be smarter staffing.

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