Everything you need to know about Hiring during (and After) the Pandemic
To say that the year 2020 has changed the way business is conducted would be an understatement. The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdowns, stay at home orders, and social distancing norms have affected almost every aspect of conducting business, across various industries.
One of the areas that saw the most significant ups and downs has been recruitment. With mass layoffs taking place in some industries and mass hiring in the others, the current state of corporate recruitments is truly new and unique, something that has never been seen since the dawn of capitalism.
Sure, the business world has experienced economic downturns and slowdowns in the past. However, the way recruitment has been affected by the same is entirely different from ever before.
For instance, the unemployment rate in the USA went from 3.5% in February 2020 to over 14% in April 2020. This rise in the unemployment rate that we witnessed over the span of roughly two months is greater than the two year rise in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession.
Similarly, the last time the unemployment rate jumped the 9% mark (back in 2009), it took over two years to bring it below 9%. In 2020, this feat was achieved in just a matter of four months.
This is happening because while some industries are facing a difficult struggle, there are others that have thrived, or have bounced back quickly, during the pandemic. The businesses that are doing well in the current situation are experiencing an amplified demand for their products or services.
As a result, while unemployment rates are at an all-time high, there are also thousands of employment opportunities that are going unfulfilled.
While this means that the recruitment strategies that helped businesses grow out of the past economic downturns are no good in 2020.
With that said, it’s not all bad news for recruiters. The current economic downturn, and the subsequent condition of the way recruitments are happening, has given rise to an unexpected opportunity for many businesses.
Hiring Amid the Pandemic: A Hidden Opportunity
A Harvard analysis of over 4700 companies over the last three recessions, revealed that 9% of the surveyed companies were able to come out of the economic downturns in a better shape than how they were when the slowdown began.
These companies surely owed their success to a number of factors but, one that weighed in on their success more than others was a “progressive” approach to handling their human capital.
During an economic downturn, cost-cutting is one of the most natural reactions of most companies, and rightfully so. After all, an economic downturn is symbolized by a dwindling demand.
Of all the effects of this reaction, one is often overlooked by many businesses: the short window of time when some of the best talent in the market becomes available.
Think about it, when mass layoffs take place, everyone faces the heat, right from freshers with no experience to seasoned veterans with awe-inspiring resumes.
When considered strategically, the current situation has created an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to hire top talent. This is where the previously discussed “progressive” approach to handling human capital becomes relevant.
The progressive approach is quite simple- identify the roles and skills that will enable your business to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment and selectively hire new talent. While this may seem like a pretty straightforward solution, many business leaders approach recruitment with an “and/or” mindset. What they don’t realize is that their cost cutting endeavors can provide long term benefits to their organization, if they are performed with a pinch of strategy.
During a crisis, being selective with downsizing, and simultaneously hiring the resources that will make your business future ready is one of the easiest ways to leave your competition behind in the recruitment race.
It’s 2020 and business leaders cannot afford to be short sighted with their strategies. Even during a crisis, leaders must relentlessly strategize to bring their organizations out of survival mode and push them into growth mode. As one would expect, doing this has its fair share of challenges, especially when there is a pandemic threatening our lives.
So what are the most pressing challenges associated with recruitment during the pandemic? Let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
Challenges Pertaining To Recruitment during (And After) the Pandemic
The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, some in a way that was completely unimaginable until a few months ago.
Recruitment processes have also experienced drastic change because of the need for social distancing and the ongoing global lockdowns. These changes may be temporary, but there is a good chance that working remotely will be huge in the near future, even after humanity has overcome the COVID-19 situation.
Thanks to this, recruitment managers and businesses have new, unique challenges to deal with:
Working with remote resources opens up a brand new world of opportunities for almost any organization. However, conducting the hiring process remotely can be a daunting task, especially for those that have no prior experience with the same.
While there are tons of resources available for interviewees appearing for the first time for an online interview, there is much less help available for interviewers.
It is also important for organizations to make sure that their hiring managers remain productive and connected even when they are working from home. In fact, remaining connected, in this case, is more important than remaining productive.
This is because the sudden absence of casual social interactions can have a negative effect on the productivity of any employee, and (most) recruitment managers thrive when they are being social. That may even be one of the reasons they got into recruitment.
In short, hiring in a virtual environment poses two problems. The first one relates to building the ability to efficiently make use of technology and digital tools to conduct online interviews and onboarding processes. The second is making sure hiring managers are connected and are provided the kind of environment they need to be excellent at their jobs.
Thankfully, ensuring your employees (not just recruitment managers) don’t feel lonely and are always connected with their team is pretty easy, thanks to technologies like instant messengers and video conferencing.
It is important for organization leaders to understand that it is only when such social needs of your employees are addressed, can you truly expect them to adapt to the current situation and bring their best foot forward even when they are working in isolation, from their homes.
To overcome the first problem, the simplest solution is employee training. This training will need to be conducted on a number of topics. For starters, hiring managers will need to be trained to efficiently make use of the technology you make available to them. Ideally, they should be so proficient with the tools they use that they can assist the candidates when and if they are struggling with one of the tools.
Similarly, they will need to be trained to be able to effectively conduct virtual interviews and ask the right questions (more on this in a bit).
- Training of recruitment managers to assimilate them to hiring in a virtual environment
- Enabling recruitment managers to adapt to the “new normal” by helping them stay connected with their team and colleagues
As mentioned earlier, while some industries are on the verge of collapse, there are others that are dealing with an unprecedented demand for their products or services. Some examples are the shipping and delivery industry, the grocery industry, online learning companies, and technology companies that offer remote communication and collaboration solutions.
If you are a recruitment manager working in an industry that is experiencing high demand, there is a good chance that you are currently facing the challenge of mass hiring for a handful of roles.
For instance, Walmart has announced that they will need to hire an additional 150,000 resources to keep up with the surging demand of everyday goods that they are selling. Similarly, Amazon has also announced that they are going to open 100,000 new positions to strengthen their delivery network for the COVID-19 storm.
However, when you cannot meet people, cannot even go to the office, mass hiring may seem like an impossible undertaking. Truth be told, without the right help, it actually is impossible to “mass hire” in the current situation.
In other words, to overcome the challenge of bulk hiring during a pandemic, recruitment managers will need all the technological and human help that they can get.
- This of course means that organizations must start thinking about how and which technological solutions (such as specialized recruitment software) can help them hire the most talented resources.
- Hiring more recruitment managers to provide the existing resources with the additional human help they need is another effective way to tackle this challenge.
When there are challenges pertaining to hiring new employees, relevant onboarding challenges automatically sprout. In this case, the broad challenge is fairly obvious, that is, conducting virtual onboarding.
However, a closer look reveals a series of mini-challenges that organizations must overcome. For starters, the most obvious challenge is perfecting the technological aspect of virtual onboarding. Not only do organizations need to find the right tools that fit their requirement, there is also the subsequent need of providing training to the resources that will be utilizing said tools.
The most surefire way to overcome this challenge is to seek expert help in the matter. If you cannot find this expertise within your organization, relying on external consultation is an excellent alternative. Also remember that finding the right tools is only half of the battle. The implementation of these tools, including providing the necessary training to the right employees, is a challenge that your organization will have to systematically overcome.
This part is so important because your recruitment managers and HR representatives will be utilizing these tools to connect with the new hires. They will be responsible for guiding the new joinees through the features of these virtual onboarding tools that will be used during their onboarding.
If your organization has an in-house learning and development team, this might be a challenge that they can help you overcome.
Once you have the right tools and are equipped with the knowledge needed to operate them, the next challenge is to create a systematic onboarding process, just like the one you may have had before the pandemic. Only this time, the entire thing will be virtual.
Another mini-challenge associated with virtual onboarding is assimilating new remote resources with the company culture.
This is especially difficult because these employees are not showing up to your office, and they aren’t working alongside the other employees that are aware about and (hopefully!) love the company culture that you have worked hard to build over the years.
While you cannot continue to rely on in-office activities, you can still keep your company culture alive in the virtual environment. All you have to do is perform the same tasks over video calls. Make sure your HR employees are reserving special time slots, only dedicated to performing onboarding tasks.
Low Application Rates
The widespread uncertainty brought about by the pandemic hasn’t just confined people to their homes. These days, even professionals are very cautious about moving from one job to another.
This isn’t speculation. A study revealed that the number of job applications submitted across industries in February 2020 was 47% lower than the number of applications submitted during the same month in 2019.
This means, filling up positions, despite the high unemployment rate, will be difficult. For those difficult to fill positions, the challenge will be even greater.
One effective way of overcoming this challenge of low number of applicants is by using a two pronged approach.
Firstly, consider this time as an opportunity. While candidates are reluctant about switching jobs, they are also anxious and probably also have more time on their hands than they did before the pandemic happened.
There is also a good chance that they spend the better part of their day glued to one screen or another.
When you view this situation from the eyes of a recruitment manager, you will see an opportunity to reach candidates and easily grab their attention.
So, it is clear that becoming visible to top candidates is easier, but now what? How will you convince scared professionals to take a leap of faith in such uncertain times?
This is where the other part of your plan, that will be done in tandem with the first step, will come into action- employer branding.
A slower-than-usual recruitment market is the perfect time to carve out a distinct and desirable employer brand image for your company.
When done right, employer branding will provide long term benefits and will also be very beneficial in securing the trust of potential desirable candidates in the near future.
- Help your recruitment resources realize that now is the time when it is easiest to reach the perfect candidates.
- Utilize this time to forge an employer brand.
Recruitment during the pandemic may seem a little confusing, but taking a closer look will enable organization leaders to see the opportunity in this chaos. Viewing this crisis as an opportunity is what will set great businesses apart from the rest in the near future.
Back in the 1940’s, a struggling Hewlett-Packard hired several talented engineers that became unemployed because of the sudden closing of US’s military labs. Even after several years, Bill Hewlett and David Packard would cite their willingness to invest in human capital, in talent, regardless of the external economic circumstances, as the biggest driving force behind the success of HP.
As we inch closer to perfecting the COVID-19 vaccine, the end of the crisis is slowly becoming visible and businesses that are using this “downtime” as an opportunity will rise as the winners when the dust finally settles.