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Nov 6, 2020

Given the upheaval of recent months, it should come as no surprise that job and industry shifts are proliferating. The coronavirus crisis (and associated economic impact) is causing the biggest labor shifts we’ve seen in the modern-day. In the United Kingdom, 52.5% of new starters have come from another industry. Meanwhile, a third of U.S. jobs are at risk. 

But there’s a bigger story behind the numbers. As workers switch their roles, careers, and sectors in massive numbers, the question becomes: Is this a short-term trend or a longer-term evolution in how people view their careers and prospects?

The Impact of Demand for Roles

It’s common sense for people to find new roles when demand for their current ones has decreased — particularly when those same people are laid off. When a sector like travel suffers huge losses (currently predicted at $910 billion), you cannot deny that a big part of attrition will be because of money and job stability. 

Meanwhile, in booming sectors that are hiring, it’s vital to look at the different expectations of candidates entering fields that are new to them. This can potentially impact your retention, internal mobility, and hiring in the future. There’s a risk that some candidates may only temporarily join an organization while their original sector is down. After all, if someone’s purpose is simply to be employed and provide for their family, they may not care as much about aligning their experience, values, and interests with a prospective employer.

And sure enough, the importance of salary and benefits has shot to the top of the priority list for many jobseekers because of Covid-19. A quarter of candidates now look at salary and benefits as the most important factor in choosing an employer, followed by job security. 

Adapting Workforce Strategies

How does all this influence hiring and retention strategies? Although driven by remuneration and security at this time, people will still want to do a good job while at their employer. And therein lies your competitive edge. By helping people do their best work while at your company — whether that’s for one year or 10 — you can find a middle ground. Employees will be satisfied with a task well-done and your business can make the most of their skills during their “tour of duty.”  

The reality is that every employee will one day leave you. It’s a matter of when and which benefits you can both get from the employment relationship. This requires more transparent communication to understand people’s career goals and how your company can support them. And vice versa. It demands gauging what your company needs from each employee.

Now, this might be difficult to discuss, especially when people are dead-set on returning to their old industry. But many people won’t be as long as you provide them with stimulating, challenging career growth and effective skills utilization. Indeed, Half of workers report feeling mismatched in their roles, and over-skilled workers are nearly twice as likely to quit. 

The Importance of Internal Mobility

Some companies, like Mars Inc., have taken internal mobility to new levels by rotating employees around tours of duty to keep them constantly engaged with new tasks. Taking such an approach can keep people with you for longer and have the added benefit of building cross-functional skills and communication. 

You can also nurture internal mobility by building talent exchanges that improve the transparency of internal opportunities. If someone is looking to leave their role, instead of automatically looking externally, they may be drawn to the talent exchange. This could even extend beyond your company to include other organizations inside and outside your industry. For example, Hilton has partnered with CVS and Amazon to meet the sudden demand for 350,000 jobs. Similarly, a group of companies in the U.S. food sector created a talent exchange within six days in April 2020.

As we move towards recovery, collaboration across sectors will be especially critical to foster agile workforces that respond to market fluctuations. 

A Reflection of the Times

We’re in a time of uncertainty, and that’s reflected in people’s motivations for getting a job and staying with an employer. For now, the focus must be on helping people remain productive in a challenging time. Workers’ priorities today might be their salaries and security, but by ensuring that people can fully use their skills and keep them up-to-date, you can give employees a reason to remain beyond the immediate crisis. 

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