Money & Business

How Job Market Changes Could Affect Association Hiring

By / Nov 20, 2019 (tadamichi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

After years of a tight job market, with record unemployment, a new report indicates subtle shifts are occurring. While the market looks good for most sectors, nonprofits plan to hire fewer people, and a certain skill set is highly sought.

To compete for talent and retain staff in recent years, associations have focused on everything from being more inclusive to improving training. Even still, a robust job market means more turnover and more time spent training new employees.

So, will this slow down any time soon? A new report from Michigan State University, Recruiting Trends 2019-2020, offers some clues about how the job market will change.

Nonprofit Hiring Slowing

“The economic signals out there continue to say that things are slowing down, and you would expect that employers would be more cautious,” said Phil Gardner, director of the MSU Collegiate Employment Research Institute, which publishes Recruiting Trends. “What’s surprising is, right now, regardless of the size, employers are moving forward with some confidence about hiring.”

While the overall job market will continue to hum along, the report did find that the nonprofit sector is slowing, a change from recent years.

“If you look back through this recovery, you can see that nonprofits have been an important part of this recovery, for the four-year grads in particular,” Gardner said.

Unfortunately, nonprofits are viewing the future with more uncertainty. “A lot of them are having to be more than cautious,” Gardner said, noting that many nonprofits are grappling with how changes in tax laws have affected and will affect their bottom line. “They are just clamping down and not hiring or being very selective in hiring, because they don’t have the resources, or the confidence that they will continue to have resources that they had.”

This slowdown in hiring means there may be less movement within the association space by employees who want to stay in the nonprofit sector. However, with other sector employment still going strong, associations could still face tough competition for employees who aren’t wed to working in the nonprofit space.

Bachelors Are Boss

The employment outlook for those getting advanced degrees, including master’s degrees, is poor compared to those getting bachelor’s degrees, the report found. While employers aren’t cutting back on hiring, they don’t want to splurge on salaries.

“Employers, instead of investing in a very expensive master’s degree, they say, ‘Well, we can do that with a BA degree,” Gardner said. “There is some degree substitution going on as employers anticipate what may go on in the next year as far as the economy. They just don’t want to get caught committed to some high-priced labor that they won’t be able to continue to employ if things got tight. They’re much more comfortable hiring a degree that doesn’t cost them as much.”

This bodes well for new grads, but not necessarily for employees with a high price tag hoping to make moves. That is, unless those employees have T-shaped skills.

T-Shaped Skills Are Everything

T-shaped skills, according to Gardner, are what employers are really looking for employees to have. These skills allow employees to deftly move across disciplines and work efficiently across the organization.

“[Employers] want these broader skills that allow this person to adapt to changing situations, to be able interact across functional units in the organization,” Gardner said. “They are going to put a premium on that regardless of whether the economy is going like gangbusters or it’s going through a recession. Those skills are going to stand regardless. So, they’re really important in hiring, period.”

Employees with T-shaped skills will continue to be in demand, regardless of their degree. Higher-degree candidates may edge out bachelor’s degree candidates, if they have T-shaped skills. Gardner added that in college and university settings, “it’s been a real struggle to get students to be aware of the necessity for some of these skills.”

How is the changing job market affecting your recruiting and retention strategy for 2020? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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