PressureCorporate recruiters probably do not see themselves anywhere near the front line of employee stress management within a business. Rather, we think of stress management as one of the HR department’s well-being functions. However, a recent study shows recruitment processes can materially impact organizational stress levels. Towers Watson’s Global Benefits Attitude Survey of 22,000 employees in 12 countries showed that inadequate staffing levels were cited as the main cause of stress by 53 percent of employees.

While it can be argued that poor resource requirements planning is a key cause of inadequate staffing levels, once staffing needs have been identified, longer than average recruitment times can also be a contributing factor to staff stress levels. This brings the issue right up to the front door of recruitment, especially if your organization is suffering particularly high stress levels and stress related absences and inefficiencies.

But is there really anything that recruitment can do?

Absolutely: there are several areas where recruiters can help to minimize employee stress. The starting point is probably educating and planning — sitting down with hiring managers and explaining to them the impact that empty desks and inadequate staffing levels can/are having on their team in terms of stress. The hiring manager might need persuading, as the survey shows that there seems to be some denial of the problem, with just 15 percent of employers believing that empty desks contribute to stress in other staff, compared to 53 percent of employees. Quite a disconnect.

One way to encourage hiring managers to listen is by informing them that highly stressed employees take on average 4.6 days a year sick, compared with 2.6 for low stressed employees, and you can bet that most of those sick days will occur when they are most under pressure, which is when they are most needed, ironically.

This should be a persuasive argument, which should help you to get hiring managers engaged in the issue, at which point you can work closely with each manager to create annual hiring plans — ideally updated on a regular basis — so you know what hires they are making in the next year and when. With a comprehensive monthly forecast of hiring needs, you can be far more proactive, allowing you time to match hiring efforts to hiring needs to minimize empty desk time.

You’ll probably want to have a more personal conversation with each manager to identify any specific “flight risks,” so you have a good idea of the kind of replacement headcount you will need to hire for in the following year. This means that you can size and resource your team well in advance so you are fully geared and able to deliver sufficient recruiting efforts to meet hiring needs and minimize empty desk time.

You may also want to encourage and assist the hiring manager in developing a network of reliable contingency workers who can be called upon to fill a staffing gap until a full-time, permanent replacement is hired. Build relationships with agencies and specific freelance networks or freelancer-sourcing sites. Freelancers, although more expensive — though, they often aren’t that much more expensive when you consider the hidden costs of hiring — are a major protections against empty desks and the stress that arises from inadequate staffing levels.

As you can see, inadequate staffing levels are a big contributor to employee stress at the moment, which suggests that recruiters may need to take more steps to ensure their ship is in order and to encourage hiring managers to make material changes to their hiring process to help minimize empty desks and employee stress.

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