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Staffing Agencies Say Desire For Remote Work Among Hiring Trends

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jun 21, 2021
Local staffing companies are working with many employers and employees to fill open positions as businesses continue to emerge from the pandemic.

“I have been doing this for 20 years on a national level and it’s the Wild West right now. I think it’s a little more chaotic than I think I have ever seen it,” Robert Hawthorne, president of Wilmington-based Hawthorne Search, said of recent hiring trends among its clients.

There are several major hiring themes Hawthorne said he is seeing at his staffing agency, one being a large number of employers looking to hire.

Employers in the white collar industries that Hawthorne’s company works with have tremendous hiring needs, he said.

“That’s across all disciplines from sales, marketing, operations, finance, you name it. Our phones are ringing off the hook with companies looking to hire,” Hawthorne added.

Many companies are looking to grow their sales and service teams, including customer service, client service and accounts management.

Industries Hawthorne’s firm is working with include software, SAAS and e-commerce, he said.

“They are all hiring like crazy,” Hawthorne said. “Your white collar-type of employers are hiring … I would say that year to date we are up 50% over last year,” he said.

Employers are also chasing candidates, who are being selective of their employers and now come with different types of expectations, he said.

One COVID-driven change in employees' expectations, he said, is the option to work remotely.

“I think the No. 1 driver for a lot of employees – and not every company is going to be able to handle this – but they want the work-from-home option,” he said. “During COVID, a lot of companies were forced to let their employees work from home, obviously, and a lot of people don't want to go back into an office.

"Some are willing to do it part-time, some are willing to do flex time, but most white-collar professionals who we are talking to don't want to go back into an office setting, 9 a.m.  to 5 p.m., every day.”

Companies that are able to still support a team working virtually or partially from home are going to do better at attracting potential employees, typically the younger professionals, he said.

“Your millennials and GenZ [workers] are not apt to go back into a cube and sit there for eight hours or nine hours a day,” Hawthorne said.

“What employees want is flex. They want to be able to go in office when they want to, one, two days a week – have some community, get that face time to see their boss, see their fellow coworkers – but they want that flexibility still to work from home, at least two to three days a week if not more. So employers that are open to doing that will probably be at a strong competitive advantage," he added.

Wilmington-based nonprofit StepUp Wilmington has placed 66 candidates into jobs this year, said Tessa Zak, business partnership manager with the organization.

The nonprofit recently announced it was launching its new brand, Beyond Talent, a division of StepUp Wilmington and an initiative that will help place people in jobs, support regional business growth and help the nonprofit sustain itself.

"Right now in hiring, there are three major trends, one being a focus on diversity and equitable practices, another one being remote work, and lastly, finding ways to fill entry-level roles or upskilling hard-to-hire positions," said Zak.

Employers are seeking a strong work ethic and self-management skills as many positions now operate remotely and independently. The labor shortage is also forcing employees to "operate at max capacity," she said.

A worker that is comfortable with technology, "whether it be Google Suite, POS systems, or CRMs, is also very sought-out," she said.

A number of people are looking for work and submitting applications, she said. There is, however, a "varying level of severity from candidates looking for work," she added. 

Many candidates face issues such as lack of childcare, which is affecting people's ability to look for work.

"These candidates, she said, "have to be selective about the jobs they pursue to offset these barriers, looking for either higher-wage jobs or remote working capabilities."
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