Emerging Trends in the Post-COVID Recruitment World (Part 1)

The pandemic is over!” is a phrase that most of us have picked up (or voiced ourselves, let’s be honest) on numerous occasions in the recent past. And to a large extent, the optimism is well-founded – as 2022 inches past its halfway mark (where’d the time fly, really?), COVID-19 restrictions and concerns are largely escaping common discourse. 

This, of course, could only mean one thing – the good old days are coming back. As the summer sun rises further in the sky, so does the festive tempo of our first season “back to normal” – universities are instituting fully in-person classes starting fall, concerts and tours are back in session, and masks are becoming more of an occasional afterthought and less of a daily necessity. Summer in Canada doesn’t last the longest, but we sure are making the most of it. 

However, although COVID-19 itself seems to be evanescing into a distant reality, its effects are still making their tangibility felt – so that the “back to normal” seems to be a little altered. No, very altered. 

A Whole New World

The imprints of the pandemic are so deeply ingrained in our daily lives that certain deeply-embedded structural processes have been completely reoriented. And that covers not only the social side of our post-COVID reality – the executive wing of our lives has undergone changes too, changes far more consequential than any we may have witnessed in decades.   

But although said alterations are numerous, the one of relevance to this article is recruitment, owing to the rapid adjustments HR managers are in need of instituting in order to acculturate to a shift from the “Great Resignation” discourse to that of the “Great Re-Hire”. While the former pertains to the rapid vacuum created in the market when workers across the globe started leaving their jobs following the rise of COVID-19 (and an issue still persistent today), the latter is a newer, 2022-and-onward phenomenon – a recovery of sorts – wherein there is massive re-hiring of talent to support the market growth we are currently witnessing in a multitude of industries.   

The Race is Coming Up, and the Training Starts Now 

Although the need to hire is undoubtedly becoming crucial for business recovery, it is rather unfortunately complemented by a difficult process to hire – one that is becoming increasingly more so as market activity trends upwards. As job openings for talented recruits are sprouting up globally, the competition amongst executives to fill positions within their firms is intensifying past even 2021 levels. According to President and CEO of Integrity Staffing Solutions, Todd Bavol, hiring “will be harder” in the coming months, for which recruiters need to brace well in advance. 

Recruitment is Key – But so is Retention 

It is not just acquiring new employees that should hold a high place on HR leaders’ to-do list – they should also be working towards retaining current employees. The Great Resignation is far from over, one key lasting effect of COVID-19 having been inter-firm (and even inter-industry) employee mobility. 

There is a high demand for labour, and candidates are aware of the same. The ball is completely in their court when it comes to career choices, and they hold a high degree of authority in deciding which firm to work at. This choice has allowed skilled workers, especially young ones, to change their place of employment several times in the past year – in a 2022 study conducted under the Microsoft Work Trend Index, 52% of Gen-Z and Millennial workers, “both globally and in Canada”, are willing to consider changing jobs in the next twelve months if the level of satisfaction they receive from it is sub-par. 

This could definitely seem daunting for recruiters, as the roles between job-seekers and job providers seem to have reversed when it comes to the hiring process. And this makes it crucial for HR leaders to understand, in depth, the top novel trends in the post-COVID recruitment world if they wish to strategise well in advance of their competition. 

Recruitment is Key – But so is Retention 

“The roles between job-seekers and job providers seem to have reversed when it comes to the hiring process”

1. The New American Dream Consists of a Life Outside of Work

If the most effective strategies to attract and retain employees are to be understood, it is primarily imperative that one studies – and avoids – the worst strategies to do just that. This directly sheds light on a leading factor that contributed to the Great Resignation in the first place – the overwhelmingly work-oriented American Dream.

Although the aforementioned concept has been portrayed as the pinnacle of work-life balance (wherein one dedicatedly adheres to their 9 to 5, is rewarded with a comfortable earning, and spends the same however one wishes to on weekends), the reality has been much more complicated – the previously sought-after “ideal worker” created under such pretense was at the beck-and-call of their employers, working overtime, prioritising their corporate climb over familial responsibilities, and engaged in a rat race that knew no end. 

But working from home under COVID-19 changed the face of what it means to succeed in one’s career. Workers of all ages started re-evaluating work-life balance as the lines between the two concepts increasingly blurred; personal time, family, passions, and mental health started being prioritised more than ever before. While several older workers retired early, younger workers (Gen-Z and Millennials) started engaging in rapid job mobility, wherein they left their place of employment if they felt respondent negative impacts on their personal life. In fact, work-life balance is the top area of examination for these generations when it comes to choosing a new job, making it a top strategic consideration for recruiters. 

However, the method to strategise on the same is also under evolution; although benefits in the form of material compensation have historically dominated as a toolset to attract workers, they need to be increasingly complemented by company culture and work-life balance promotion at the workplace. This becomes preeminent for small and medium-sized firms, allowing them to stand out as attractive candidates over massive corporates. 

2. Quality Over Quantity – The Demand for Flexibility and Rise of the Hybrid Workplace

From balanced work-life dynamic stems the conversation about the need for workplace flexibility; it is not that newer workers are “lazier”, or more “rebellious” in their outlook toward workplace culture. Rather, employees are focussing more on the quality of work, rather than logging in the quantity worked. In fact, 43% of respondents to a Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey reported being more productive when working this way. 

Having adapted to malleable work hours during COVID-19, employees now put more emphasis than ever on having access to the “hybrid” option; they want to be able to work both from home, as well as from the office. And so when they search for new jobs (or make the decision of retaining their current employment), more than half of the people working remotely are open to the possibility of quitting if their workplace does not institute a long-term remote-working option. 

Resultantly, workplaces are catching on. 74% of companies in the U.S. are either already using, or planning to use, a permanent hybrid option in the near future. This creates tough competition for those workplaces that do not, as employees simply have too many options at their disposal; by staying adamant about continuing traditional, in-person work, employers would vastly restrict the talent pool available to them. 

Quality Over Quantity – The Demand for Flexibility and Rise of the Hybrid Workplace

“By staying adamant about continuing traditional, in-person work, employers would vastly restrict the talent pool available to them”

3. Up-Skill Talent to Retain Talent

Change in the business world is inevitable, for it allows processes to refine, products and services to become more efficient, as well as novel ideas and solutions to emerge. However, this change is always accompanied by a level of uncertainty, which is quite a normal and well-accepted side-effect to any form of structural transformation; in unprecedented instances of change, however, this uncertainty is magnified to unprecedented levels as well, causing panic and market upsets. 

When COVID-19 hit the business world, the change was not only unprecedented but also monumental in its reach and impact; consequentially, workers across industries and skill levels started doubting the stability of their employment. They were concerned about whether their job role would be able to withstand COVID’s inter-industry shockwaves, resultantly feeling the need to up-skill in order to secure career advancement opportunities. 

This became especially fast-tracked following technological seepage into roles where it had held little relevance before; workers in those positions thus became aware of a need to upskill and/or reskill, several finding their place of employment to be a hindrance in achieving that end. In fact, of the workers who planned to leave their jobs following the pandemic, 72% cited the pandemic has caused them to “rethink their skill sets”. 

Therefore, a strategic method for employers to facilitate both recruitment and retention would be to invest in offering upskilling, reskilling, and career advancement opportunities to both existing and prospective employees. Moreover, combining said talent promotion with career pathing strategies (wherein the business supports employees in charting their “personal career development”) would build worker confidence, along with making the business as a whole more competitive. 

The article Continued in Part 2. 

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