Despite the ups and downs of the past 18 months, one bright spot to come from COVID-19 for the realm of talent acquisition (TA) is the increased ease of working with remote candidates. The shift to remote interviews streamlined hiring processes while allowing companies to recruit from a larger, more diverse talent pool.
The big questions facing TA professionals now are – How many of the policies and procedures adopted during the pandemic will remain in place as companies transition back to in-person work? And what the ramifications will be on hiring and recruiting moving forward?
Let’s take a look at some of the changes we saw in 2020 and what the landscape might look like in the rest of 2021 and beyond.
According to a 2020 benchmarking report from pre-employment testing firm Criteria, 58% of companies reported utilizing video interviews as part of the hiring process — a 159% increase from 2019. Additionally, the use of hiring software increased by 29% from 2019 to 2020.
These changes led to a shift in attitudes about remote work and how video conferencing and other tools could impact the hiring process. Criteria’s survey found that 54% of respondents had a more positive outlook about remote work since the start of COVID-19, while only 4% reported having a more negative view.
The benchmarking report also found that organizations generally find talent acquisition and talent management to be less challenging now than they were before the pandemic. In 2019, 87% of HR professionals surveyed said finding high-quality candidates was their biggest challenge, while just 68% reported feeling that way in 2020.
The report found a similar decrease in the number of organizations that say making the hiring process more efficient was their biggest challenge, from 64% in 2019 to 47% in 2020. Overall, 42% of respondents said they feel “very confident” in their hiring process, an increase of 26% since 2019.
What felt like a rough, abrupt transition to remote work in spring 2020 quickly smoothed out as people adjusted to working remotely, and both HR professionals and candidates became more confident in the fact that successful hires could be made without ever meeting a candidate in person.
Ryan Healy, president and co-founder of the virtual hiring platform Brazen, told SHRM that virtual recruiting in 2020 helped organizations streamline recruiting processes, improve diversity hiring and hire better talent by reaching across geographic barriers.
"These gains mean virtual recruiting has earned its place in the ongoing talent acquisition strategies of nearly every industry across the country, and employers will continue to use virtual recruiting alongside more traditional in-person recruiting and interviewing once it's safe to meet with candidates face to face again," Healy said.
While remote work made finding and hiring candidates easier in 2020, what remains to be seen is how easy it will be to retain those candidates as the job market becomes more competitive and offices begin to reopen. The job market is still very much skewed toward job seekers, especially in sectors like hospitality and transportation.
Additionally, employees are hesitant about going back to the office after 18 months of demonstrating that they can work efficiently at home while achieving a healthier work-life balance. A May 2021 survey from Morning Consult and Bloomberg News found that 39% of employees would consider quitting their jobs if employers were not flexible about allowing remote work. That number increased to 49% for Millennials and Gen Z.
Around the world, business leaders are rethinking their assumptions about what their workforce can and should look like moving forward —and hopefully working with TA and TM professionals to turn that vision into policies that allow the organization to remain competitive and maintain the efficiencies realized during the pandemic.
Derek Avery, an industrial/organizational psychology professor at the University of Houston, summarized these changes in an interview with CNBC earlier this year.
“Leaders assumed everyone really enjoyed coming into an office and extensive human interaction,” Avery said. “We’ve learned through the pandemic that, yes, there’s some truth to that. But it’s possible people don’t want as much of that as they had before.”
It appears that at least some of these messages are getting through to leaders. An August 2020 McKinsey survey found that executives planned to reduce office space by 30% — just one of many changes the firm reported seeing from the top down at companies.
"Most companies are reimagining themselves right now. They are embracing speed and flexibility and agility, and the flattening of hierarchies in an effort to make decisions faster and better,” said McKinsey partner Susan Lund. “For workers, this can be an opportunity to move onto career pathways that offer greater upward mobility. And for the economy, we could see higher productivity growth if we help workers make those transitions.”
For TA professionals, now is the time to advocate for how to take the best of the efficiencies realized during the pandemic and make them permanent parts of your organization’s talent acquisition and talent management processes. The companies who can do this will be well-positioned to thrive in their recruitment efforts no matter what changes the world might bring.
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