Well, it was somewhat nice while it lasted, right?
For recruiters — at least the ones who kept their jobs and weren’t in the industries that were hit hardest by Covid-19 — a temporary hiring advantage in the wake of massive unemployment was a change of pace.
I’d say some employers got, dare I say, comfortable with it. I saw a few recruiters even lamenting the number of applications they were receiving for positions. Don’t worry, though. That seems unlikely to last until the end of the year.
Coming Soon: A Competitive Job Market
Early last month, Manpower released a report that showed more than half of employers were expecting to get back to pre-pandemic hiring levels by the end of the year. Driven by optimism about vaccination success in the U.S., hiring in the hardest-hit sectors like travel, hospitality, retail and restaurants seems slated for something reminiscent of normal for the latter part of 2021.
More good news came as the March jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that the economy added nearly a million jobs. After adjustments to January and February, the first quarter of 2021 brought nearly 1.5 million new jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see March’s numbers revised up in May.
That outlook is positive but doesn’t take into account the industries that weren’t as affected, like the tech industry, which still has talent acquisition leaders scrambling for talent. It also doesn’t take into account a potential avalanche of turnover that has been held back due to economic uncertainty. With the demand starting to really increase and the economy slowly reducing supply, the difficulty level is only going to increase.
New Hiring Challenges Coming to Recruiting
I wrote back in September that recruiting and the tech that supports hiring weren’t ready for a mass rehiring. I still don’t think that either the tech or the processes are ready for back-to-normal hiring on top of getting everyone back. Companies certainly aren’t ready to lose staff who would’ve likely already moved if it weren’t for the pandemic.
Of course, my crystal ball was a little cloudy. I missed a new set of challenges that are going to affect recruiting. Here are the newest hiring challenges talent leaders are facing and the tech that’s impacting them.
1. What to do about hybrid work recruiting
Companies have shifted their office strategy significantly since Covid. While the death of the office and commercial real estate in big cities is probably overexaggerated, there is a shift in attitudes from workers.
As organizations allow more people to work from home for all or part of their time, it’s easy to figure out how to accommodate current employees. You simply ask what they want, and then you look at the results in aggregate.
For a company planning on adding more staff, it’s a lot more difficult to plan how many seats you’ll need in a new location, for example. Would an organization pass on talent because their preferred working-in-the-office days are Tuesday and Thursday, but given the current amount of space, they can’t be accommodated?
Even for companies with sophisticated workforce planning technology, I’ve yet to see one that applies the complication of hybrid work schedules to inform recruiting. Talent acquisition leaders will be doing this one manually for a while.
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2. Making diversity and inclusion in hiring actually happen
We all know that in the wake of the events last summer surrounding racial injustice, many companies produced flashy press releases, one-off donations, and squishy commitments. We’re seeing echoes of the same response to Asian American and Pacific Islander violence.
That kind of response is worth a post in and of itself, but for organizations that actually want to commit to the generational hiring and development challenge of turning back centuries of injustice, the tech answers are far more problematic than helpful.
For one, many of the anti-bias and other AI tools out there are doing more harm because their solutions reflect the biases of their creators. Other top tools for increasing diversity, like Fairygodboss, POCIT, and Noirefy, are focused on increasing the number of diverse applicants.
Diversity can also be somewhat supported through techniques, like blind resume screening to cut out some unconscious bias. What’s probably more realistic and effective is a combination of technology, consulting, and training. Nonprofits like TransCanWork or Workforce Opportunity Services are doing some of this work already.
3. Failing the competitive test
Finally, companies with a high number of hourly employees are going to have a rough time in this coming boom. They won’t be the only ones, though. Employee and candidate expectations have changed, and a good job today might look a lot different to people than it did at the beginning of 2020.
Employees are hoping that the flexibility they received in the midst of the pandemic is here to stay. While employers are trying to march back to normal full steam, highly capable workers are telling employers that they want to keep parts of what they found they liked during the pandemic. One legal professional told me that she would seek out another job if forced to work in the office as she did in the pandemic. A sales professional told me that he hears from recruiters frequently and working from home is usually the first thing they mention because they’ve heard from candidates that this is their No. 1 question.
A more personal, competitive recruiting tech experience is going to be even more important. Technologies, like effective candidate relationship management and assessment tools, will be as important as processes that prioritize a responsive and flexible hiring process.
Like nearly all talent acquisition technology challenges, these three are all interconnected and are driven by both process and people. The silver bullet for navigating these challenges isn’t something you can buy on a three-year contract, it’s using your ears and that thing between them to be thoughtful about anticipating what’s next.