The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is led by a Board of Directors with expertise that represents a broad cross-section of the regional economy. LVEDC Director and Allied Personnel Services Vice President Susan Larkin, who has more than two decades of experience in the staffing industry, recently shared her insights about the employment challenges businesses face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Please tell us about Allied Personnel Services and your role there.
A: Since 1984 Allied has been providing staffing and employment solutions to Lehigh Valley employers. We develop long-term partnerships with our clients, and many of the area’s most successful companies have been clients for 30+ years. A key to Allied’s success is our ability to deliver ti
mely and effective talent solutions that are flexible to quickly adjust to changing market conditions.
My role as Vice President is to oversee operations and to consult with our clients, developing strategic staffing programs and sharing critical labor market information based on the diverse insight and experience I’ve gained over my 25 years as an executive in the staffing industry.
Q: Before the pandemic, when unemployment was at record low levels, attracting and retaining talent was the biggest issue facing employers. How has the pandemic changed employer perspectives on the importance of talent supply?
A: The pandemic has elevated employers’ awareness of how fragile the talent supply is and how a high rate of unemployment doesn’t always equate to a robust talent supply. Because of the strong distribution and biotech sectors in our area, layoffs in those areas were not as significant. Add to that the challenges families face finding child care, the fears surrounding a return to work in the face of COVID, and the financial incentives offered through FCCRA [Families First Coronavirus Response Act] and unemployment, and the supply of available talent hasn’t significantly increased. Retaining talent has really become an even bigger focus. Keeping the hardworking, reliable, skilled employees on staff is critical to success when industries see a return to prior levels of workload.
Q: What types of jobs do employers need to fill during the quarantine economy and how do you expect that to change as restrictions are eased?
A: There continues to be a demand for skilled manufacturing roles, logistics staff, and scientific roles like quality control and lab work. As restrictions ease, we expect to see the offices and smaller businesses rebound with a corresponding increase in demand across all skill levels.
Q: What role did school closures and the availability of child care play on employment during the pandemic and how will that affect the local economy as the economy opens back up?
A: It is an extremely difficult hurdle for families. Some people were forced to leave the workforce completely to stay home with small children. Others that had the luxury of moving to a work from home arrangement were forced to figure out how to both educate their own children and keep up with their own work. If daycares and schools do not reopen in the fall, this will have a long-term negative impact on the talent supply and productivity of at home workers. Workers will require increased flexibility for child and family care and employers should be prepared to adapt to accommodate these new employee needs.
Q: Explain why enhanced employment benefits may be a challenge for some employers to find workers?
A: Enhanced employment benefits were intended to provide workers affected by the pandemic with immediate, significant financial assistance to allow them to remain home during the stay-at-home order. Unfortunately for essential businesses that have continued to operate, these enhanced benefits have had the unintended consequence of incentivizing people not to work. Many are able to make significantly more money each week with unemployment than they could earn with the jobs available to them. This has made recruiting for all types and levels of employees a challenge.
Q: How does social distancing and more rigorous disinfecting impact the number of workers an employer can hire even if there is demand for the product or service?
A: Complying with the ever-evolving CDC and OSHA guidelines has forced companies to rapidly adjust their operations. Hiring, training, scheduling and workflows have all been adapted, and in some cases the number of workers able to work in certain areas has been reduced in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. There have been some opportunities created with increased needs for sanitation and medical screening workers. We’ve seen our clients reacting well to these new challenges, and certainly those who are able to pivot to a new normal quickly will see a quicker recovery.
Q: How does the Lehigh Valley talent supply initiative position the region coming out of the COVID-19?
A: The LVEDC Talent Supply Initiative recognized the need to prioritize building a strong workforce before COVID-19, and the work around developing and retaining talent will easily be able to be applied to the post-COVID labor market. Areas such as career pathways, internships, and apprenticeships will all be vital in reshaping the workforce as we move forward, and the work that has been done in these areas already has prepared the Lehigh Valley to respond to the new challenges that employers will face.
It is never easy to talk when having your teeth cleaned, but recently I chatted with my dental hygienist while she cleaned my teeth. I always ask about her kids – particularly her son, Joe.
A few years ago, Joe was searching for a job and came to Allied. We placed him in a warehouse position at a great company – a company that ended up hiring him. Today, my hygienist told me he is interviewing for a position in that same company’s sales and marketing department, something he was always interested in. If he gets the position, he’ll train in Europe for a few weeks. She also told me the company is paying for him to complete his degree, something else he always hoped to do. I heard the pride in her voice as she talked about him; she was so happy he got into this company because so many new opportunities were now opening for him.
I love to hear stories like this. They confirm what we in the staffing industry know: temporary work can open doors you may have never known existed nor been able to open yourself. Joe didn’t do well when he went to college straight out of high school so he dropped out. If he had applied for the same sales and marketing job then, he never would have gotten the interview. But now, he’s had the chance to prove himself to a company that recognized his potential and is giving him the chance to move from the warehouse to a job he’d merely dreamed of a few years ago. Plus, he is with a company that will finance the completion of his degree.
When we talk to people about jobs, we encourage them to consider the big picture. Maybe we don’t have your dream job available. We dare you to look at more than that. Is the company part of an industry that appeals to you? Does the company have a variety of departments and positions? Will the experience improve your resume? Will the job help you pay your bills while you continue to look for your dream job?
During a job search, it is important to take a step back and look at things differently. I’m sure Joe was frustrated before he came to us and I’m sure he complained to someone about having to take a warehouse job to get by, but I bet he’s happy with the big picture unfolding in front of him right now.
Have you ever heard of a wordle? Self-described as a “toy for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide”, they offer an interesting way to visually represent text. Words that appear more frequently in the source text are displayed larger than other words. It’s an interesting exercise to create a wordle of your blog feed to see if the resulting image accurately represents the message you are hoping to deliver with your posts.
The wordle created from our blog feed is below, and it perfectly captures the goals and message of this blog. (Click to enlarge.)
Wordles aren’t just for blogs. You can cut and paste any text and create an image. Try creating a word cloud from your resume. Are the words that represent your strengths, skills and experience that you want to highlight the largest? If you have multiple resumes that you use for different positions, creating a wordle for each is an easy way to see if they are emphasizing the correct things. And what about your cover letters? A wordle can help you see if the keywords and important points of the job description or posting that you are responding to are prominent enough in your letter.
Wordles are a fun “toy”, but also have some possibilities to help you with your job search, even if only to help you look at it a bit differently. Sometimes being able to take a different perspective can be a big help, especially with something like your resume that you may have looked at over and over. And that new perspective might be the spark your job search needs.
2019 marks Allied’s 35th year serving the Lehigh Valley, and we are humbled by another Reader’s Choice win. The commitment and hard work of our staff and temporary employees continues to set Allied apart as the top staffing service in the Lehigh Valley.
Thank you to everyone that voted for us!
Allied Personnel Services is a proud member of the American Staffing Association.
Allied is more than just temporary staffing! We are also a leader in the staffing of Office & Professional roles for companies across a diverse set of industries within the Lehigh Valley. And working with a professional recruiter can transform your job search!
Here are just a few of the roles we currently have available:
These full-time positions are all located in the Lehigh Valley and offer the chance to work with some of the best companies in the area. If you are interested in one of these openings, please email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org for immediate consideration. (Haven’t updated your resume recently? Check out our tips for giving it a refresh!)
The Top 4 Ways to Avoid Cold and Flu This SeasonCold and Flu Season is officially here, and, unfortunately, cold and flu viruses are extremely contagious. BUT, if you are careful and consistent with your preventative care, you definitely have a good shot at avoiding these illnesses.
- Wash Your Hands and Use Hand Sanitizer — a lot. No matter what line of work you’re in, if you come in contact with people who are contagious, or even objects they may have touched, you have to wash your hands over and over throughout the day. ESPECIALLY if you know you were near someone who is sick. To completely get rid of viruses from your skin, you need to scrub hard for 20 seconds or more. A good way to time yourself is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing the backs of your hands, your palms, between your fingers, and under your nails.When you are not near a sink, rub an alcohol-based hand sanitizer onto your hands.
- Don’t Touch Your Face. Cold and flu viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching your face is a major way children AND adults catch colds. Many people have a habit of touching their hands to their face throughout the day – resting your hand on your chin, rubbing your eyes, or even biting your nails– be very conscious where your hands are and if you have washed them.
- Sanitize your environment. If you’re in an environment where germs could be lurking, which you most likely are, sanitize things that may have been touched already- doorknobs, light switches, faucets, refrigerator handles, keyboards, etc. Some people may think it is hyper-vigilant, but if you really don’t want to catch it – better safe than sorry!
- Keep Up A Healthy Lifestyle To Boost Your Immune System. Get adequate rest, exercise on a regular basis, eat foods that give you energy and make you feel well – especially vegetables and fruits. Watch your alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol use suppresses the immune system in a variety of ways and dehydrates the body.
Cold & flu season creating staffing challenges for your business? Let Allied help! Contact us today.
It is the outstanding performance of all of our staff and temporary employees that earned this award. Their hard work and dedication continue to set Allied apart as the premier staffing service in the Lehigh Valley.
As we prepare to enter our 35th year of serving the Lehigh Valley, we are grateful for all of our past, present and future clients and employees that voted for us. Thank you!