In the Spring of 2020, as we entered lockdown for the first time, many organisations stopped hiring whilst they re-evaluated the impact of the virus on their operations and finances.
Some industries began a period of significant layoffs, and the media published depressing predictions about the long recovery time needed for the arts, hospitality, aviation, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries. But despite the gloomy outlook, by Autumn 2020 some organisations had begun to search for talent once again, and have been doing so slowly but steadily since.
Throughout 2020, I spoke with clients, colleagues and candidates about whether and how their processes of attracting and hiring candidates had changed due to widespread home working, and what these processes might look like in 2021. I’ve noticed three interesting things that I’d like to share with you – do these match your experience?
1. Employee retention and the candidate pool
Home working has caused many people to fundamentally re-evaluate their work-life balance, priorities and relationship with their employer. Given the layoffs in some industries, some employees still feel it is a risky time to search for a new job. But many more are feeling apathy and decreased loyalty to their employer and they are starting to check out the possibility of a new job or even a new career.
The story from employees across a wide range of industries is the same – the lack of daily face-to-face contact makes them feel less supported, less engaged, less energetic and less happy at work. A worrying number of my contacts are working very long hours and feel unable to switch off, exhausted and dissatisfied. So it would not surprise me to see a glut of interesting candidates coming into the jobs market in 2021, looking for a change to a more manageable and satisfying job.
2. Candidates’ expectations and the hiring process
A year ago, many organisations dismissed the idea of significant numbers of their employees home working as impractical and/or bad for productivity. Yet since the virus arrived, many employers are radically rethinking the new ‘normal’ working pattern, accepting that remote working is here to stay and downsizing their office space accordingly.
This is sensible, since most candidates now expect to be offered some degree of home working and for this arrangement to continue ‘after virus’ – if that day ever comes. Employers should expect candidates at interview to ask pointed questions about the employer’s ways of working now and in future, so be ready to answer those.
In terms of the selection process, due to lockdown and travel restrictions, employers have been unable to meet most candidates face to face. As a result, many have added extra stages or interviews, to be sure they are choosing the right person. The trouble is, candidates don’t understand the reason for the more onerous process, finding it off-putting and worrying that the organisation is slow-moving or process-heavy. So be wary of those extra selection layers, as you could inadvertently filter out some of the more talented candidates.
3. Skill requirements
Surprisingly, many employers don’t seem to have given much thought to whether home working requires a different skill set, and they are still using the exact same adverts and job descriptions as they were before COVID-19.
Some of these home working skills are obvious, such as the ability to use technology and communicate effectively. But what about these vital skills?
- creativity – to suggest and implement new ways of working
- organisation and time management – to juggle work and home, and still deliver efficiently
- remote collaboration – to keep you and your team motivated and focused, when you never see them
- independent decision making – because you’re no longer getting the informal reassurance and checks with your colleague or boss
- accountability – owning your actions and behaviours, as well as the task, especially when no-one is watching you closely
To attract suitably-skilled candidates, hiring managers and HR need to work together to review whether roles that are now delivered from home still have the same requirements as when they were office-based. This needs to happen before adverts and job descriptions are finalised, to make sure you’re drawing in the right people for your shortlist.