Reality Check for Employers: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
When you strut into a car dealership set on a low-mileage Porsche 911 S for less than $40,000, dream on.
You might want that, but you’re not going to get it.
“What you want doesn’t really matter,” said Eric Kean, Principal at The Lee Group who leads the executive search arm of the business, Lee Group Search. “What matters is what you can get.”
Kean isn’t just talking cars. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” is not only a Rolling Stones classic, it’s logic that applies to employers with pie-in-the-sky expectations on hiring in today’s candidate-driven market. As a hiring manager, you might want skilled, loyal, motivated applicants ready to work on the cheap.
“You’re not going to get it,” Kean said. “Employers need to focus on what they can get.”
Kean refers to the basic principles of supply and demand dominating today’s economy. It wasn’t that long ago that employees needed employers more than the reverse. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for 100 qualified applicants to apply for one opening — an embarrassment of riches for companies looking to fill vacancies. That’s no longer where we are in today’s employment market.
Today’s job applicants have ample choices. That’s a reality that’s even hit staffing and executive search firms, including The Lee Group. “Whether we work with candidates or employers, we have to convince people that we’re going to take care of them,” Kean said. “Our market has become competitive, too.”
Today’s employer should be looking around to see what the competition is offering. Especially on the staffing side, Kean stressed, “Pay rate is everything.” While culture plays a role, particularly in retaining talent, what you’re willing to pay per hour matters the most.
“Today’s hourly worker knows if they can go somewhere else and make $2 more an hour for the same kind of job,” Kean said. “That adds up to $4,000 a year, and that’s pretty impactful for someone making $14 an hour.”
If you’re a business owner who can’t get anyone to apply for your openings, you likely aren’t paying a competitive wage. Employers have to adjust, Kean said, noting, “Those that are continue to win.”
Companies that don’t adjust aren’t just in danger of production slowing due to unfilled vacancies. They’re at risk for the staff they already have abandoning ship for greener pastures. Yet Kean has become accustomed to hiring managers reluctant to up their pay rates due to budget concerns.
He reminds them, “If you don’t have a business, you don’t have a budget to worry about.”
Nowhere to cut? Kean is blunt with hiring managers who give that response. “Sometimes it’s a matter of the owner taking a little bit less and instead of buying that 100-foot yacht, considering an 80-foot yacht.”
Ultimately, Kean wants employers to understand this: “You’ve got a choice. If you have a budget, that’s cool. Everybody can respect a budget. And if you have a pay range for certain positions, that’s fine, too. Your expectations need to align with your pay rate.”
Some employers recognize they’re not going to get top-of-the-line candidates with what they’re paying. They struggle with turnover. But that isn’t going to change unless something changes.
Raise your pay rate. Or lower your expectations. It’s that simple.