By Janice Nesamani
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
If you’ve walked through your neighborhood recently, you’ve probably noticed “Now Hiring” signs in shop windows. And while they may not have signs in their windows, large and mid-sized companies seem to be on the lookout for talent, too.
While job growth seems to have slowed in May, according to the monthly job report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are still 11.3 million open jobs at the end of May. That is almost two jobs for every unemployed individual. The report also tracked the unemployment rate for Asians that declined to 2.4% in May. With unemployment rates this low, organizations of all sizes are scrambling to find the right people and if they already have them, they are doing their best to keep them.
Take Microsoft for example. In mid-May, the company announced that it planned to “nearly double” its budget for employee salary increases and boost the range of stock compensation it gives some workers by at least 25%. The move is an effort to retain staff and help people cope with inflation, but also prevent the loss of its early and mid-level employees to competitors such as Amazon, Google, and Meta.
In an internal memo that was obtained by the press, CEO Satya Nadella said, “Time and time again, we see that our talent is in high demand because of the amazing work that you do.”
Luckily, John Chen who heads Geoteaming, a company that uses technology and adventure to conduct team building exercises for teams that foster human change and become the top 1% in the world, hasn’t seen any significant employee loss over the past year or had to take special measures to retain talent. His lean business model is working well.
“I have over 12 contract virtual producers that I could put to work, if necessary,” Chen said, adding that he hasn’t had to take any steps to hire or retain talent. However, some clients he works with have had to do that.
“I just did a program for Georgia Healthcare. They are paying for tuition, signing bonuses, and more,” Chen said.
While Chen is concerned about the cooling economy, he is still busy.
“I decided last year to continue investing into virtual and hybrid experiences and that is paying off. I am seeing more hybrid engagements over the past year. So, I bought more equipment and have a full traveling studio in addition to my home studio,” he said.
Stephanie Zhu of Best in Class Education Center says that since January 2022, the organization has actually experienced very little turnover.
“However, as we transition to summer, we do have teachers who are only available in the summer months so we know that we will have some turnover in the fall,” Zhu said.
Best In Class has been quite successful in hiring instructors for its online classes, because they can expand their search to other areas of Washington where they previously couldn’t for their in-person programs.
“On the flip side, recruiting for our in-person classes has been very challenging,” Zhu said. “As our customers are looking to return to in-person learning, we’ve had to put in a lot of focus to recruit not only the right candidates, but those who want and are able to teach on site,” she added.
The company has job openings for online and in-person classes.
“We do try and offer that flexibility to candidates,” Zhu said. “We also offer higher wages for our in-person teams. Since we offer our classes in afternoon or evening and weekend times, there’s schedule flexibility if staff have changes to their availability,” she said.
“Even in a cooling economy, Zhu says the company remains focused on hiring the right team members. “We recognize that the success of our students comes from our stellar teachers,” she said.
Like many institutions and businesses, Bellevue College has seen a higher employee turnover since the beginning of this year.
“The low unemployment rate has created a much more competitive environment for the recruitment and retention of employees,” said Nicole Beattie, the associate director of Communications at Bellevue College.
For some positions, it has become more difficult for the institute to hire.
“We don’t see the same kind of turnover for example with tenured faculty. However, it’s harder to retain some of our frontline service employees due to there being so much opportunity at the moment,” Beattie said.
“In terms of services, the quality hasn’t been impacted but during peak enrollment periods, students might find it takes a bit longer to get a response. We recognize that we need to find more efficiencies to keep workloads manageable,” she added.
As a state employer, Bellevue College is limited in terms of the perks it can offer.
“However, we do have hybrid/work-from-home positions and have adjusted our salary scale for our exempt positions,” Beattie said.
“We also offer great benefits with more vacation and sick days than most businesses, paid holidays, excellent medical coverage, and reduced tuition,” she added.
The organization is evaluating its approach to hiring by developing a variety of recruiting and outreach practices, including community partner engagement, in its effort to adapt their approach to building its talent pipelines based on changing market pressures.
Bellevue College has a Center for Career Connections that not only connects employers with current students and alumni, but also Bellevue residents who are actively seeking work.
“So, if you’re a local business looking to hire, make sure you reach out to colleges,” Beattie said.
More employers are reaching out to Bellevue College’s Center for Career Connections to recruit its students, and Beattie is also seeing an increase in flexible/hybrid opportunities.
“With regards to internships, small to mid-sized companies are proactively reaching out to us to recruit interns, particularly accounting firms,” Beattie said. “Employers who are out of state are even making their internships fully remote to attract more applicants. This is good news for our students as it creates more options for them.”
Another trend the Center for Career Connections has noticed is that players in the life sciences industry, such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and Nanostring, are intentional about attracting diverse talent to the industry.
“They have internship programs with a focus to recruit minority, underserved, and students of color,” Beattie said.
While the life sciences industry is growing, the tech sector has been driving growth in and around Seattle for a while now. Recently, Amazon doubled its workforce in Bellevue to overtake T-Mobile, becoming Bellevue’s second largest employer. The company expects to have more than 10,000 employees working in Bellevue by the end of summer.
Guy Palumbo, Amazon’s director of public policy for HQ1, said the Eastside is going to be where the majority of the company’s growth is in the future.
“Amazon is expanding outside of Seattle city limits to tap into tech talent already on the Eastside, meet workers where they want to live, and grow in a “business-friendly” regulatory environment,” Palumbo told the Seattle Times.
Bailey Sargent, a spokesperson for the company, said, “People join Amazon for the opportunity to build and innovate in a variety of ways for our customers, communities, and employees. With tens of thousands of corporate and tech roles currently available, we continue to look for talented individuals to help us build the future of retail, robotics, health care, devices, cloud computing, and more.”
“We have roles for all kinds of backgrounds and remain committed to providing competitive compensation, top tier benefits, and career advancement opportunities as we hire and develop the best,” she said.
While tech companies have always had to compete with each other to find the best talent in Seattle and the Eastside, the competition has definitely gotten more fierce. In the healthcare space, the pandemic brought hiring challenges of its own.
MultiCare is a not-for-profit health care organization based in Tacoma that offers healthcare to the Puget Sound region. The healthcare provider has seen turnover rates getting lower since January 2022.
“The hiring markets where we provide care are intensely competitive. We continue to invest in seeking and attracting new talent and paying competitive wages,” said Lori Meyers, a spokesperson for Multicare.
MultiCare is committed to strengthening and supporting its employees.
“We recently invested $53.5 million in compensation and support for team members. We provide competitive compensation and offer retention bonuses to employees in many frontline and clinical positions,” Meyers said.
In addition to wage and bonus programs, MultiCare offers many subsidized benefits and other benefits for employees including generous paid time off and sick leave, tuition assistance, wellness programs, free mental health support, and emergency funding to assist employees in crisis.
Meyers added that while the company is concerned about inflation, they still see a high need for qualified healthcare professionals in our markets.
With high inflation and fears of a cooling economy, financial experts hope to see the job market cool which could mean that we could see a flattening of job demand, higher salaries, and raises in the coming months.
LinkedIn reported its hiring rate fell 5.4% month over month in June on a seasonally adjusted basis. However, LinkedIn principal economist Guy Berger called the labor market still quite hot. He commented that hiring for the overall economy was 1.4% above pre-COVID levels and hiring for the tech industry was still 8.6% higher than pre-COVID levels.
The job market is still booming for those who are looking to solve interesting problems, better their financial positions, get that promotion, or simply find a better work-life balance.
Janice can be reached at email@example.com.