It goes without saying that 2020 was an unprecedented year, during which Covid-19 affected all aspects of our lives, personally and professionally. A month into 2021, two of our leaders—Georgia Harper, Director of Recruitment and Dave Banns, VP Strategic Partnerships—reflect on how the pandemic has impacted recruitment and hiring. Read on to find out what we learned this past year and what we might expect in recruitment and talent acquisition in the year ahead.
Note: The pandemic has impacted industries and businesses in a variety of ways, and there are many factors that cannot be controlled. The following discussion highlights some of the ways we have seen businesses find success this past year, in particular as it relates to hiring and talent management. We acknowledge that there are many other creative ways that businesses have been successful, and that what works for one business or industry will not necessarily work the same for another.
How did recruitment change or stay the same in 2020?
Georgia Harper, Director of Recruitment:
There are a lot of moving parts that go along with recruitment, but the core of what we do is simple: find the best candidate for the job. This did not change in 2020, and it will not change in the future. Even when unemployment is high and there are more candidates applying for jobs, finding the right person will always be the most important part of recruiting. The pandemic has not changed what we do, but it has brought new parameters to how we do it: how candidates are screened and interviewed, how onboarding is handled in a remote workplace, and how we support companies whose talent needs are rapidly evolving.
Dave Banns, VP Strategic Partnerships:
This past year has really forced everyone to rethink how they assess for ‘fit.’ A lot of employers have been still relying on the “gut” feeling of meeting a candidate in person—shaking their hand and getting a feel for who they are. Likewise, many candidates are used to having the opportunity to get the ‘vibe’ of the workplace when they go in for an in-person interview, often paired with a site tour or the chance to meet other team members. The game has really changed with so much shifting to remote.
How have you seen companies address these changes and continue to thrive?
Even when hiring remotely, there are a lot of ways to ensure you find the right ‘fit.’ Since our founding, The Headhunters has used our Workstyle & Performance Profile (WPP) to bring a more scientific approach to finding fit. The value of this assessment tool was even more apparent this past year. When you have the right people in the right jobs, you reduce turnover, increase productivity and create a healthier workplace culture—which are always key to success, but especially now, with the new challenges Covid-19 has presented.
I’ve also coached companies on how to be more creative in their hiring process. For example, if you’re hiring a candidate for an on-site position in a manufacturing facility, it’s important for them to have the chance to see the facility with their own eyes. If this can’t be done safely in person, then walk through the facility with your phone and show the candidate over FaceTime! Solutions like this are simple, but many organizations aren’t used to thinking outside of their regular hiring process, and have needed some guidance to adapt their approach.
Companies who have done well recognize that even when unemployment is high, you can’t let off the gas on employer branding—you need to be able to sell why your business is a desirable place to work if you want to attract the best-and-brightest to your team. Top candidates will always have choice, so you still need to woo them.
Savvy hiring managers will also:
- meet the salary expectations of the market. A candidate might be willing to temporarily take lower pay during the pandemic, but if you undercut them on compensation, they’re likely to leave your organization at the first opportunity when the market rebounds.
- be able to clearly define what skills and abilities are crucial to the role itself, and not be distracted by capabilities that only matter during the hiring process. For example, if a candidate struggles with Zoom during their interview, but the role itself won’t require them to ever use Zoom, then don’t factor that into your hiring decision. Define your key criteria and always come back to that.
The shift to virtual interviews definitely has pros and cons. On the plus side, candidates now have much more flexibility and availability for scheduling, since they don’t have to duck out of work or drive across the city. The downside, as Georgia mentioned, is that it can be easy to misjudge a candidate based on how they come across on camera. There’s a risk of missing out on someone who truly is the best match for the job—and may have presented well in an in-person interview—but fumbled over video. An experienced recruiter can help manage this process; they can provide guidance and always bring the hiring manager back to that key criteria.
Lastly, I would say that companies who thrived this year were often those who focused on their people. Flexibility has been extremely important—accounting for the new demands on employees working from home, the mental health pressure we’ve all been under, and not insisting on the normal “9-5.”
So many companies have shown their true colours in these stressful times, for better or for worse. Post-pandemic, people will remember whether their employer’s decisions and policies demonstrated care and empathy for their team. If they did, people will stick around in the long run. If they did not, people may look to leave once the economy stabilizes.
Any advice to hiring managers and business owners in 2021?
- Be prepared to be more transparent about your organization. Astute job seekers are now asking more questions about the longevity and stability of prospective employers, and you need to be prepared to answer those questions.
- Take care of your people. You want to attract exceptional talent, to keep them happy and healthy, and for them to stick around in the long run. Your reputation as an employer is important, and people will talk about their experience with your company and with your hiring process.
- There’s no “Black Friday Sale” on hiring. If at all possible, find other cost savings in your business rather than undercutting salaries. Your employees are human beings, people who are going to add value to your organization, ideally long term.
- We have gone through a major global human crisis— people are worried about their personal lives and finances, so their tolerance for work-related stress is going to be lower. Check in frequently, make active coaching and mentorship a priority, and ensure your team feels taken care of.
- Remember that a skilled recruiter can be invaluable to helping grow your employer brand in the market. Build a solid and transparent partnership with a recruiter you trust and give them the information they need to showcase why top candidates should want to work for you!
Overall, it has been inspiring to see how willing the business community has been to adapt. People have become more comfortable with adjusting their business model to our new conditions, and organizations who were traditionally slower to make changes have learned how to be more nimble and flexible.
The scope of responsibilities has changed drastically for many business owners, hiring managers and HR professionals. If you are feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate, let us save you time and effort by finding you top quality candidates who fit the job and your culture. We can focus on the hiring while you focus on the operations of your business and the health and safety of your team.