Unlike office-based industries, hiring for frontline work has not normalized since the pandemic, according to research from Fountain. The company’s State of Frontline Hiring study found that frontline industries offered 25% more job openings in July 2023 than they did in July 2019. Meantime, quit rates have risen to their highest levels since the pandemic.
The months between early 2021 and August 2022 saw an elevated level of frontline hiring, Fountain’s data showed. During those nearly two years, frontline employers increased their percentage of applicants hired from just over 10% to nearly 25%.
This year, peak hiring began in February, when the percentage of total applicants hired reached 15%. By August, that had declined to below 10%. What had been a 10-month window of elevated hiring before the pandemic was shortened by three months, Fountain observed, indicating employers may be scaling back labor costs because of recession fears and inflation’s impact on consumer spending.
“Frontline employers were forced to lay off and then rehire their workers in a short span of time following lockdowns and government stipends, combined with rapid business closings and reopenings,” said Fountain CEO Sean Behr. “The speed to hire and the rate at which this changes has only recently begun to reset.”
The dynamics of the frontline workforce have also changed, Behr observed. Workers now have more options, more flexibility and receive generally better treatment. As a result, “they have more power and ability to effect change at their current companies, which we are seeing playing out across industries,” he said.
Attracting and Retaining Talent
The survey’s other key findings include:
- Call centers, warehouse operations and logistics show the highest application rates.
- Warehouse operations and logistics are showing particular strength. However, hiring there has slowed after a boom year in 2022, indicating employers will likely have fewer openings this holiday season.
- Delivery services applications and hires are at their lowest point since 2021.
- Video interviews are proving more successful than in-person and phone interviews for call centers, food services and restaurants. Companies that offered candidates the option of recording video interviews saw conversion rates of more than 60%, compared to roughly 45% for phone and in-person interview formats.
To address hiring challenges, Fountain said employers must balance their understanding of market factors with internal performance and applicant behavior.
Gracie Wirick is a writer and editor at RecruitingDaily and the HCM Technology report. A Purdue graduate with degrees in Professional Writing and Communication. She is a lover of classics and literature with an unfortunate penchant for the Oxford comma.
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