June 25, 2019

Displaced Workers: 3 Ways to Attract and Retain This Unique Talent Pool


The 2018 “Displaced Workers Summary” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirms displacement has been a major issue for Americans in recent years.

The BLS defines “displaced workers” as “persons 20 years of age and over who lost or left jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work for them to do, or their position or shift was abolished.” According to the BLS report, 3 million US workers were displaced from January 2015 through December 2017. Thirty-seven percent of long-tenured workers were displaced due to a company closure or move, while another 37 percent were displaced after the company abolished their positions or shifts.

Unemployment has also remained steadily low in recent times, which means talent acquisition (TA) pros have had a harder time finding talent. As a result, more and more TA pros have had to consider and cater to the expectations of candidates they may have previously overlooked.

Displaced workers form a distinct segment of the active candidate pool, one that TA teams cannot afford to ignore in this tight talent market. Displacement causes many people to develop fears about losing their jobs again, and it’s important to keep that perspective in mind when recruiting displaced talent.

Here’s a look into how you can successfully attract displaced workers and motivate them to commit to a future with your company:

1. Show an Active Investment in Employees’ Futures

The future may be unknown, but when employed, most of us chart paths to long-term career success based on where we are working at the time. Unfortunately, the plans displaced workers set in place with their former companies are wiped clean when they are let go.

But displacement is not just a disruption of one’s career journey — it’s also a disruption of their financial security. Financial burdens are one of the chief concerns for displaced workers. According to Berke’s “The Displaced: How to Reach an Overlooked Talent Pool,” 51.6 percent of displaced workers are concerned about their personal finances immediately after losing their jobs.

This concern frequently compels displaced workers to accept the first job offered. In the Berke report, 61.4 percent of respondents said they would accept an offer to stop their declining financial situation —  even if the job on offer doesn’t completely fit their needs.

It is essential that TA pros help candidates see beyond roles that only satisfy their immediate needs. While displaced workers need to stabilize their finances, they also need employment with organizations where their futures will be secure.

Use your greatest advocates — your employees — to prove that your company invests in its people’s futures. Enable your employees to share on social media stories of how they have grown in their roles and learned new skills thanks to company support. Consider helping employees share these stories in the most engaging ways possible. For example, when an employee completes a sponsored training program, a member of the HR team could reach out to congratulate them and provide a few social assets — like badges, graphics, or other items — they can use to update their social profiles. If you actively infuse celebration of employee growth into your culture, employees will naturally want to share their success stories outside the company.

Most importantly, when you have engaged candidates in the pipeline, discuss with them what their career journeys would be like with your company. Determine candidates’ personal and professional goals up front, and then chart a prospective path together. Be fully transparent about whether their goals are obtainable within your organization and how you’re prepared to help them.

2. Emphasize Soft Skills Over Technical Skills

Displaced workers, by definition, aren’t at fault for their job loss — yet that doesn’t stop the experience from hurting their self-confidence. These candidates want assurance they’ll excel in a new role and as part of a new team.

That is why it is critical to emphasize the importance of soft skills during the recruitment process. Technical skills can be taught through on-the-job training, but soft skills and personality traits that contribute to successful work and relationships with coworkers are much harder to teach.

Assess candidates’ soft skills early in the recruitment process. To instill confidence in displaced workers, use the assessment results to show candidates how their traits align with the requirements of the job. This will help candidates more clearly visualize themselves in the role, and it will lead to more concrete conversations about a candidate’s future with the organization.

Nearly a quarter of respondents in the Berke report said taking a personality or skills test as part of the recruiting process would help them feel more confident about succeeding in the prospective role. When candidates see they are positioned for success, they will feel a greater sense of belonging within your company.

3. Focus on a Culture of Employee Well-Being

Displaced workers are searching for employers that care about them as people. They want to know your company is attentive to its employees’ well-being.

Berke found employee well-being is the No. 1 quality displaced workers considered when searching for a new employer, and roughly half of respondents said they wouldn’t accept a job offer if they didn’t like the culture.

Position well-being at the center of your company culture. Illustrate this core value by sharing with candidates examples of how leaders make well-being a daily priority for employees. For example, you could invest in programs like Count.It or the FitBit corporate wellness app to encourage wellness activities among employees. You could also ask employees to share their fitness challenge updates on your company’s social media pages.

If other things — like peer recognition or charitable events — are important to your company culture, be sure to emphasize how those values are factored into employee well-being initiatives. The key is to create an accurate picture of your corporate culture so displaced talent can assess how fulfilled they would feel if they joined the team.

You should also promote mental wellness and work/life balance initiatives. Again, you can use social media to share stories of how you do this. For example, you could set up a company travel Instagram account to show off how your team members use their paid time off, or you could simply share images of employees pursuing their passions outside of the office.

Displaced talent is often highly skilled and immediately available to fill your open roles. However, the unique circumstances and concerns of these candidates require specific attention in the recruitment process. Transparency about company values, cultural alignment, and employee growth are common recruiting practice today, but TA teams must pay careful attention to the individual needs of displaced candidates if they hope to tap this wrongly overlooked talent pool.

Kelly Land is the cofounder and CEO of Berke. Connect with Kelly and the Berke team on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Kelly Land is the cofounder and CEO of Berke, an assessment technology that helps companies know who to hire.