Commentary

Marketing's Role In The Labor Market

Americans are not having any problems finding jobs. Unemployment numbers are low, and the job reports continue to be healthy; these added jobs continue to be bright spots for the economy. As of the April Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs report, job growth was widespread, with the largest growth in leisure and hospitality.

For months, the employed consumer’s spending power has held steady despite higher prices.

Despite these signals, marketers aren’t looking at labor purely through the lens of consumer spending power. They’ve been cognizant of their own brand's attributes to ensure they attract talent and remain prestigious places to work.  Unfortunately for brands that employ large numbers of hourly workers, staffing shortages have started to bleed into every aspect of their own brand experience.

Carving out budget for recruitment campaigns

In today’s tight labor market, even the smallest brands, from QSR to healthcare, must consider recruitment as part of their marketing efforts. Media budgets are carved out for separate campaigns, or creative ends up doing double duty for recruitment.  Two of the top AM/FM radio advertisers in the U.S. (by spot count per Inside Radio, Indeed and Ziprecruiter) are using audio to catch job seekers during their commute for hiring.

But what are fair marketing KPIs for talent recruitment? And how should they be adjusted for today’s tight labor market? 

In a less strained labor market, a campaign could be judged by the number of applicants as compared with their competitors in the industry.  However, in today’s labor market, some industries are losing interested applicants who are hopping to a totally new field as people reconsider their employment options.  As one example, healthcare employment rose by 34,000 in April, but employment in healthcare was already down by 250,000 since February of 2020.

Competitive wages, even if your competition is across industries

Most importantly for talent recruitment in 2022, the price has to be right if a little unprecedented. Average hourly wages are rising every month, up 10 cents an hour across the board (an increase of 0.3% over March).

Marketers may be nervous about consumer spending slowdown seeing the disappointing Target and Walmart earnings in Q1. However, both retailers cited rising employee costs as a contributing factor. Economists might see this and get nervous for different reasons, as a wage-price spiral will lead to more inflation.

Finally, marketers have to work to retain and fill their own departments. As any recruiter will tell you, professional services are scrambling, lowering criteria to fill open roles and tolerating employees with performance issues to simply keep staff.  While employees across industries are finding it hard to get fired right now, executive management is still as eager as ever to fire a tried and true scapegoat: the CMO. 

So, what does this all mean for the short and long term?  Marketers need to hang in there.  This means riding out this storm, awaiting inflation to cool off and people to continue to return to work post-pandemic, and working with agencies to offer effective media plans for the inevitable consumer spending slowdown.

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