Unemployment dropped dramatically over the past few years, holding steady at 5 percent through the first quarter of 2016. While this is good news for the economy as a whole, it makes the job more difficult for staffing professionals. In this bullish job market, recruiters find themselves battling significant obstacles when it comes to attracting and retaining highly qualified candidates.

This issue is even more challenging when it comes to attracting and retaining front-line workers in the retail and service industries. Data from 2015 show that retail and service turnover is on the rise, averaging about 5 percent per month. By the end of the year, companies in this industry will have to recruit and train replacements for 60 percent of their workforce. Some researchers put that figure even higher, showing retail and service industries  to be 100 percent turnover occupations, in which the average employer must replace the equivalent of its entire staff every year.

Traditional Recruiting Methods Ineffective with Today's Workforce

Today's applicants have many more options than they did just five years ago, and traditional approaches to wooing candidates are no longer effective. Pay and benefits are not the primary motivators for today's workers, and employers attempting to compete on compensation alone are struggling.

Top talent is focused on potential employers' talent brands, company cultures and employee development opportunities when deciding whether to accept a position. For example, candidates expect a firm commitment to individual development from prospective employers. Forward thinking HR strategists are eyeing 2016's top recruiting trends and making significant changes to their recruiting methods in order to compete.

Trend 1: Increased Use of Big Data

Online job applications have made it easier than ever to collect and store data in a form that can be easily analyzed, and talent analytics is changing the face of staffing strategy. Recruiters that want to stay current must update their data mining and data analysis skills to make the most of all the information now available.

Trend 2: Increased Focus on Employer Brand

Before they ever look at job postings, most potential applicants have done extensive research on prospective employers. From studying your community partnerships to learning about your Employee Resource Groups, job seekers make it their business to know what working for your business is like.

Your employer brand boils down to the overall impression of your company in the talent pool, which comes from a variety of online sources. These can range from your social media presence to reviews posted by past and present employees, and posts can touch on every topic from management styles to learning and development opportunities. For example, a quick look at feedback on top retail and service organizations shows that company-sponsored programs offering assistance with obtaining a high school diploma or tuition reimbursement are highly sought after benefits. Employers must work to ensure that the online conversation about their company culture is a positive one, and that the full employee value proposition is a main topic of conversation.

Trend 3: Increased In-House Training

With highly qualified candidates growing scarce, employers are getting more creative about who they hire. Instead of focusing on specific knowledge and skills, HR professionals are redesigning training and development opportunities for new hires. Staffing professionals choose candidates based on the position's soft-skills requirements, such as collaboration, customer service and aptitude for learning. These critical and hard-to-teach qualities lead to an improved customer experience and better sales.

Once on board, the otherwise-qualified new employees are trained in job-related functions. Partnering with mentors on-the-job is a common method of teaching required skills. Current technology has also made it easier for businesses to offer a variety of individualized programs to improve employees' technical skills through distance learning. For example, online certificate and degree programs include Gourmet Cooking and Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Trend 4: Improved Technology

HR-related applications are developing at a steady rate, and integrated platforms are becoming the industry standard. As technology continues to improve, more of the sourcing and staffing process will be handled through these applications, freeing staffing professionals for personal communication with candidates.

Trend 5: Improved Candidate Experience

Nearly every person who has applied for a job online can speak to the broken candidate experience offered by most organizations. From long, complicated and buggy online applications to a complete lack of communication from the prospective employer, the experience is often frustrating " a real turn-off for job seekers. Companies who wish to compete in the 2016 job market must make repairing the candidate experience a top priority, as top talent will no longer wait weeks and months for your call.

It promises to be a challenging year for those staffing professionals who stick closely to traditional recruiting methods. Innovation is key to attracting and retaining talent in today's job market. Incorporating the top recruiting trends into your staffing strategy is the best way to ensure you stay competitive when it comes to filling open positions, as well as retaining employees.

Recommended for You: The Keys to Restaurant Employee Retention, Part 1: Recognition

Resources: Photo credit.