Actually you need both to recruit the right employees for the right jobs. This three-part feature first looks at the problem of recruiting in a low-unemployment economy, then focuses on traditional – and still crucial – recruiting tactics, and then at innovative recruitment strategies adapted to Hawaii’s unique job market.
Every year, Hawaii’s Department of Education hires about 1,200 new public school teachers – nearly 11 percent of its 11,000 teaching positions – to replace those who have resigned or retired.
The DOE takes a multifaceted approach: attend and host job fairs, recruit on the Mainland, post on social media and encourage residents to go into the profession. Recruiting has been a significant challenge for the department, and in today’s economy almost every industry shares that reality.
Hawaii doesn’t have the critical mass of job candidates that businesses can choose from, says Meli James, co-founder of Mana Up and a member of the Oahu Workforce Development Board. In October, Hawaii’s unemployment rate hit an all-time low of 2.1 percent; on Oahu, the rate was just 1.8 percent and has hovered around the level ever since. In addition, many jobs go begging because the salaries are too low to cover the cost of living in the Islands.
This has forced local companies and organizations to scrutinize their recruitment strategies to find new or improved ways of attracting the candidates they want. Many have found that emphasizing company culture is essential. For others, overcoming the conundrum of recruiting means looking at solving some of Hawaii’s bigger problems.
“We are in unprecedented employment recruiting times … companies that I haven’t seen at job fairs, I’m starting to see for the first time. Companies that never offered incentives for pay, for onboarding or sign-on bonuses, I’m seeing that at huge dollar amounts. And I think that’s just the condition of where we are on our staffing,” says Stevette Santiago, chief administrative officer at Y. Hata & Co.
A limited unemployment pool means everyone is competing for the same candidates. For instance, Y. Hata & Co., a foodservice distributor with locations in Honolulu, Hilo and Lihue, competes with the construction industry for its warehouse workers and commercial drivers, Santiago says. But within that challenge lies another: finding a person who is a good fit for the company.
Over the years, Eden in Love, a 10-year-old boutique with two locations on Oahu and one in Las Vegas, has seen interest in its positions decline, making it harder to find compatible candidates. Creative director Alyssa Nakao says a single recruitment campaign, such as an email blast or a social media post informing recipients and followers of open positions, used to yield 60 applicants compared to the dozen or so that they receive now.
“Make a good effort in networking. People often forget that networking is very important and don’t really prioritize that.”
– Lisa Truong Kracher, President, Staffing Solutions of Hawaii
She thinks it could be because the people receiving the emails and following the boutique on social media have changed. Before, they would be at stages of their lives where they were deciding what they wanted to do; but today, that group already has careers, so it’s now about targeting the next group of young people who may align with the boutique.
Co-owner Tanna Dang says retail in general is not a challenging industry to recruit for but Eden in Love is, because the people the boutique seeks “have to really be able to find meaning and purpose and joy and their ‘why’ at Eden in Love. … Probably our biggest job is recruiting and retaining good people.”
The challenge of finding the right people is exacerbated for an organization like Mental Health Kokua, a nonprofit that provides housing, homeless outreach, case management and psychiatric and counseling services. CEO Greg Payton says the organization fits into a niche – one where people strive to make a difference in the world – but that niche becomes even smaller when the focus is on serving single adults with mental illnesses. “That takes a special group of people who want to work with (us) and meet our mission,” he says.
Overcoming the constant struggle of recruiting means a company always has to be on the lookout for candidates, says Lisa Truong Kracher, president of Staffing Solutions of Hawaii. The staffing firm serves 100 to 200 employer clients a year and places about 500 job seekers in that time.