'Effective communication' is key to recruiting employees

Mar. 8—"Help wanted" was the mantra during a spring job fair held at Wallace State Community College this week, giving representatives from industries across Alabama a platform to recruit new employees in the face of the state's current worker shortage.

Industries in nearly every business sector have faced challenges finding and maintaining a workforce in the years since the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have made changes such as offering more flexible schedules and increasing employee benefits as a way to decrease turnover rates — and many have turned to job fairs such as the one at WSCC on Tuesday to recruit new workers.

Walmart Distribution Center Human Resource Office Manager Jaimie Atkinson joined the group of more than 70 businesses set up in the Tom Drake Colosseum on Tuesday, March 7. She said that during the last year, the distribution center have been able to lower its turnover rate by 33%, partly due to available benefits and by being more selective about those they hire.

"We've lowered the amount of people we bring in at a time and focusing more on training," Atkinson said.

Previously new hires would receive two weeks worth of training with a supervisor, but now under the company's New Hire Care Plan, new recruits are trained between six and eight weeks. Still, Atkinson said it has been difficult to bring in dependable workers.

"It is still hard to retain great associates that come in everyday and are on time, but it's nothing like it was during Covid or right after," Atkinson said.

To attract the students attending the job fair, Atkinson said she is pitching the company as a type of springboard they can use either as a means to make a decent amount of money while working only a few days out of the week, or to give them an entrance to a company at which they can find a job that fits their degree after graduating.

Sarah Collins and Kaye Gary with Adtran — a telecommunications company in Huntsville — also said that the trouble their company is facing is not with retention, but with recruitment.

"Retention isn't an issue, it's that recruiting this younger generation to work in more of the technology manufacturing field is the hard thing to recruit for right now," Collins said.

Gary — who works as the company's Recruiter/Sourcing Specialist — said the tried-and-true approach of offering higher pay isn't as effective when recruiting a younger generation more concerned with a healthy work/life balance, including being able to spend time with friends and families.

"This generation, they don't care too much about the money. They care about the time they can spend with their family and their friends, so having a set schedule is really important," Gary said.

She said the key to recruitment in such a competitive market is "effective communication" and determining what is important to each individual recruit and then highlighting the benefits which best address those concerns.

"What I've been doing is getting to know them on a personal level and figuring out what they're looking for. Then I will explain the opportunity that Adtran presents for them," Gary said.

Later this week, WSCC will also host a separate job fair scheduled for Thursday, March 9. That event is specifically for jobseekers and companies in the healthcare industry.

For more information about the career fair or about the Center for Career and Workforce Development, call 256-352-8356.