The pandemic caused huge shifts across all sectors and drastically changed employment and hiring. We are currently in what Vox calls “one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression”, and are seeing some sectors thrive while others are barely holding on.

With in-person and face-to-face communication largely unavailable, hiring and recruiting has become virtual as everyone struggles to adjust to the new norm. During the pandemic up to 51% of the US made the switch to working from home. This change is likely to extend beyond the pandemic making geography no longer a significant barrier to employment. 

So how has this changed hiring?

Hiring in a Pandemic

90% of staffing professionals have made changes to their process during the pandemic.

Hiring and onboarding is largely being done virtually. It’s safer than in-person recruiting, and when employees are still expected to come into the workplace it allows time for them to quarantine and learn company health procedures beforehand. Employers are in some cases providing masks as part of onboarding and have had to come up with procedures for what to do when an employee does not want to follow health and safety protocols. 

Interviews are being done remotely with video calls taking the place of phone screenings and in-person sessions. Video calls have the advantage over phone screenings as they allow more information to be gleaned through body-language, improve overall communication, and reduce the costs and risks of the traditional interview process. This is likely to be a lasting change.

32% of companies are replacing full-time employment with part-time, and hiring more freelancers and temp workers in an attempt to save money. Some are offering reduced hours with compensation for those who agree to it.

Attracting Talent

With more labour pools opening up and experienced workers suddenly becoming available, star talent is in high demand. Top candidates have their choice of jobs and employers will have to move fast to identify and buff up offers before top talent is snatched up elsewhere. This may be a good time to look into improving swag, compensation, and salaries to attract star talent and get ahead. 

In an attempt to be as appealing as possible, companies are reworking the recruiting process to make it a more positive, even enjoyable experience. In some cases this is the ‘gamification’ of the virtual assessment. More weight is being placed on candidate experience and attempts are being made to make candidates feel valued, and as if they are having a mutual conversation instead of a highly stressful interrogation.  

Unfortunately it’s a different story for new grads. A Michigan study of 2408 employers found 25% have stopped recruiting students or have rescinded on full-time offers. There’s also been a decline in entry-level developer jobs as companies are focused on survival and don’t want to spend expenses training new grads. With everyone competing for star talent, grads and junior developers are being left behind. 

More recruiting is being done through social media as the internet is becoming a more central medium of communication. Companies are building their brand presence, opening up conversations, and engaging in community discussions in an attempt to attract the right sort of people they want to apply - and to grow their customer base. 

What Employers are Hiring For

Employers are asking for creativity, flexibility and new ideas. ‘Disruptors’ are ideal, someone who can offer a fresh new perspective to see a way forward in these unprecedented times. More importance is being given to adaptability and resilience to better protect companies from future risk.

Companies are looking for remote workers, candidates familiar with virtual technologies and with an ability to collaborate online. They’re looking for self-starters who can stay motivated at home, have strong communication skills, and can time-manage in a remote environment. Also important is a willingness to learn new technologies and independent thinking. Soft skills like problem solving and team management are more in demand as employers are looking for widely transferable skills instead of focusing on the perfect fit for one specific role.

There’s also been an increase in upskilling, reskilling and certifying existing employees as a way to avoid the risk of hiring and training someone new. Employers are more likely to hire someone with certification than they have been. Businesses are implementing new technologies and bringing automation into their processes, meaning their workforces must also learn new and adjacent skills to adjust to the change. More employees are asking for assistance in their continued learning and looking for employer approval in attaining open source learning and certification. 

Technologies in Demand

With recruitment and work now becoming remote processes, you can expect the technologies and skills needed to make this transition a smooth one are in high demand. 

More businesses are relying on AI and automation for all recruiting. The hope is that data-driven recruiting can help avoid biases in hiring and increase diversity. Companies must make sure the recruiting technology is sound and add in whatever human touches they can.

AI is being used across all sectors, and it along with Automation and Machine Learning are becoming rapidly growing areas. These skills are in high demand and jobs in these areas come with hefty salaries. Robot Processing Automation is being implemented across sectors, threatening 230 million jobs and 9% of the global workforce. Very few jobs can be fully automated but many will be altered in the process.

DevOps employees are in greater demand than even developers, signifying perhaps a new norm of open source led business development. However much in demand it may be, 93% of hiring managers are having trouble finding open source talent. More organizations are supporting open source software and projects with the hope of recruiting candidates with the needed skills. Businesses are also offering more opportunities for existing staff to learn new skills and offering to pay for certifications.

With most business being done remotely, virtual customer experience and UX design is becoming more important. There’s more need for front-end development as the website and online experience is what will attract and retain in the new circumstances. Expect more emphasis on mobile responsive design and less on desktop design. 

Diversity and Inequality in Remote Hiring

The pandemic has affected everyone though some groups were hit harder than others. 

Minorities, women and youth are having a worse time as is typical of economic downturns. Hispanic women had the highest unemployment rate at 19.5%, and youth between 16-25 had a rate of 25.3%, as they tend to work in the hard hit retail and hospitality sectors. 

Women faced 3% more unemployment than men, and were 1.8 times more likely to lose a job at the beginning of the pandemic. With more time spent at home by everyone, the demand for unpaid domestic work increased, the brunt of which tends to end up being done by women. Unpaid work acts as the largest barrier preventing women from employment and during the pandemic many women are finding their careers becoming compromised because of this. 

On the other hand, there’s a chance that long term remote work could improve gender equality in the workplace, as women would have an easier time balancing work and childcare from home. Additionally, with everyone working from home domestic responsibilities may be shared more equally between households.

The shift to virtual work deepens inequality between those with internet access and those without. As more employment and hiring is done online, those without reliable internet access are struggling to find work that isn’t in a high-risk zone. Reskilling and certification could help, but without affordable wifi and with public areas like libraries and internet cafes unavailable, for many this is impossible. Widespread internet and computer access is necessary to lessen inequality and provide safe working conditions for everyone going forward.

60% of workers cannot do remote work. Service, retail and hospitality jobs will suffer, especially those located in high density areas intended to be available for office workers, who will now not be coming into work and not patronizing these businesses as they have in the past. There are calls for security nets and ways to invest in training and education for those out of jobs. 

A side effect of companies shifting to remote and looking to lessen their real estate footprint could be the cost of company culture and an inclusive workplace. It’s more difficult to have an inclusive workplace when the workplace itself is virtual. It’s very easy to cut someone out of communications without them knowing. Employees can be excluded through simple errors as well, and lack of casual communication and information sharing can lead to greater feelings of isolation and less of a sense of purpose. There’s less belonging without the day-to-day interaction found in offices, and not seeing who all is working at the company may make it feel less diverse and less inclusive than the workforce may actually be. 

The World is Watching

In the wake of 2020 employers are expected to take a stronger stance on social justice. Businesses are marketing less on product and more on branding, spending more resources on public outreach and community engagement to attract and retain clientele and potential candidates. To earn the public’s trust they must show themselves to be empathetic and vulnerable and committed to holding themselves accountable. 

Candidates are looking for companies with a crisis response plan. How businesses reacted to the pandemic and how they treated their clientele and employees will have a lasting impact on their image in the public eye. People will remember how they were treated in a time of crisis. They will remember who helped them and who did not. Businesses need to care for furloughed employees, and are in some cases using a multi-sector HR outreach to provide temporary employment for furloughed employees.

This is a critical time for businesses to redefine how they wish to be seen by the public. It’s a chance to think about where they want to go, what they want their branding to be, and which values they will stand by. Systems are being reorganized and reevaluated. Employers are determining which roles need to be cut, reinvented, merged, or created. Remote work is now an expected option which employers must be able to provide, as well as ensure that in-person work environments are up to date with shifting health and safety regulations. Many are using this time to invest in new technologies and implementing it into their systems.

Companies without a diversity and inclusion department are struggling to get one together now, as the public are more aware and expect businesses to make an effort to be inclusive. Businesses with an existing diversity department will still likely need to invest more into it. The pandemic has hit minorities hardest, and this is a chance to back up talk of inclusion with meaningful action.

Hiring and Work in the Future

Many of the changes brought about by the pandemic will have long lasting impacts on hiring and recruiting. New technologies are being adopted into the workplace and AI and automation will be implemented across all sectors. Remote or partially remote recruiting will be normalized. 

Hiring and recruiting processes will be reworked to be more enjoyable experiences for candidates. We are already seeing the gamification of virtual assessments, especially in the tech sector, and more businesses will start to reevaluate their recruitment process. Health screenings may become commonplace in the hiring process requiring candidates to be tested and submit the results before being signed on. 

In-person work environments will have more health and safety precautions in place, and require new training to make sure guidelines are understood and followed. Temperature checks at the door are likely to become part of the standard morning commute for those working in-office. There may be a move away from open concept office plans as plexiglass is installed and distancing becomes a priority.

Flexibility in the workplace will be the norm. We’ll see remote or hybrid-remote work, more flexible hours, and more movement between roles. We are likely to see more freelance and project-based hiring over settled full-time roles in the future. There will be more talent sharing both internally and externally, and efforts to create a wider HR network between sectors to provide employment to those without.

Long term employee retention and reskilling will become more important. Hiring is expensive and time consuming and as companies are looking for ways to avoid risks, soft and transferable skills are more highly desirable. Expect less static roles, more flexibility, and more employee movement within businesses. Retention strategies and employee benefit packages may be reworked, as businesses with a good reputation of looking after their employees will be appealing for long-term hires. 

Workplaces will be more diverse in the future. With Baby Boomers retiring and Gen Z’s getting started there will be a wider diversity of generations within the workplace. Businesses will continue to be held accountable for their actions, will be required to show more transparency, and take steps towards diversifying their workplaces.

Even as we are seeing more and more reliance on technologies, the success or failure of a company hinges on the human capital of its employees. Those who are adaptable, creative, and ready to learn new skills are what will see businesses through these uncertain times, and having a hiring and recruiting process that can attract and retain these candidates is instrumental to that goal.