This article was originally published by LHH here.
The pandemic has wrought profound change on the business world. But even with all the seismic disruption, employers are still—encouragingly—recruiting and hiring good people for important jobs.
In a recent LHH Conversations Series webinar, a pulse poll showed that 75% of organizations are currently hiring and another 10% plan to hire before the end of 2020. Only eight percent of respondent organizations said they had no immediate plans to hire.
Current trends—many accelerated by pandemic forces beyond their control—have changed the rules of recruiting and hiring, requiring organizations to adapt and embrace new practices to compete and triumph in the future war for talent.
The current environment: despite pandemic companies are still hiring
One of the most profound realities of the pandemic is how differently organizations were impacted. Some, like airlines and hotel chains, saw the very foundations of their business plans disintegrate. Others, like online retailers and information technology platforms, saw huge, urgent growth well beyond anything they could have anticipated.
This has forced some organizations to restructure and cut costs, while others are expanding. That contrast has created some significant divides in talent strategies.
Some employers that have had to lay off or furlough employees still need to hire for existing and new essential positions. But concern about the future has made these employers incredibly cautious in their hiring decisions. This has resulted in increasing levels of approval before offers are made or the indefinite deferral of hiring decisions altogether.
On the other side of the talent equation, you have organizations facing huge increases in demand for their goods and services, which is in turn triggering a need for more talent. The demands are growing so quickly, these employers are finding that recruitment and hiring processes that used to take months need to be completed in weeks.
Then, we have the organizations who fall somewhere in between: there is just enough uncertainty that full-time hires are risky, but enough positive signals and confidence to justify some hiring. These organizations are increasingly relying on contract workers to plug urgent gaps while they watch to see how pandemic conditions evolve.
Competition for top talent and the best jobs remains fierce
It’s become clear that the dynamic employment market that exists has done nothing to change some of the basic rules of the talent management game. In fact, top talent and good jobs remain in high demand.
Although not unprecedented, the top candidates who are on the open talent market will likely have to sort through multiple job offers. This is going to put pressure on employers to quickly identify preferred candidates and get them offers. Employers who hesitate will find they are too late to land the best candidates.
The sheer number of people looking for work right now has put enormous pressure on employers in the form of unprecedented responses to job postings. Before the pandemic, it was not unusual to see an average of 100 resumés per posting; now, many employers are seeing 300 or even 400 applications for the same posting.
This flood of applicants, many of them unqualified, is frustrating for both employers and the best candidates. For employers, it’s the burden of sorting through mountains of resumés; for candidates, it’s the aggravation of having to wait longer than normal to receive an acknowledgement that the application has been received, let alone a job offer.
Re-inventing recruitment and hiring in the age of COVID-19
By now, most organizations have had to adjust to performing essential business practices in a virtual environment. And while video conferencing and cloud file sharing have been a challenge to adopt, they are not the only tests of our capacity to operate virtually. Even though the easing of restrictions in some jurisdictions is allowing for face-to-face interactions, there is a deep impact on talent acquisition as recruitment, hiring and onboarding are now largely being done in virtually.
The whole idea of recruiting, assessing, and hiring someone without meeting them in person is challenging for many hiring managers. But that’s the reality in a world where offices are still largely unpopulated and business travel is still discouraged.
The companies finding success in this new virtual talent market fall into two categories: those that had very strong hiring and onboarding practices before the pandemic; and those forced to quickly adapt and enhance their pre-pandemic processes.
Recently, LHH profiled Numeris, a Canadian company that had created a mature virtual onboarding process before the pandemic hit. Moving their comprehensive and award-winning 100-day onboarding journey into a completely virtual environment was easier because the program and onboarding materials were already evolved.
Companies that relied on less-structured programs—where a stroll around the office to meet key personnel was the core of the onboarding experience—are finding that it’s been a frantic struggle to develop the platform and programming needed to support onboarding in a virtual environment.
How the pandemic has exposed weak or non-existent succession planning
Just as is the case with onboarding, organizations that largely failed to do any comprehensive succession planning before COVID-19 are finding they are really at a disadvantage now, when early retirements and churn in the C-suite is at an all-time high.
The pandemic has convinced many senior leaders to rethink their careers and many are opting to stand down and expedite retirement plans. That has led to a spike in executive recruitment while also putting pressure on organizations to put planning in place for the replacement of key leaders or run the risk of vulnerable gaps in the leadership team and a significant loss of knowledge from departing employees.
As companies look to transform their business in order to keep up with the ever-changing world, the demand for leaders who possess the capabilities to lead that transformation will be critical.
New emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion has employers scrambling
Organizations are not just facing the need for urgent, transformative change on the pandemic front. At the same time, there are increasing demands for employers to become more inclusive and diverse in their hiring and business practices.
In some ways, this is just an extension—albeit at a more rapid pace—of a trend established before the pandemic. More than half of S&P 500 companies already have a chief D&I officer in place. And 60% of those companies hired into or created these positions within the last three years.
The D&I hiring trend we see now can be divided into two streams. There are organizations that did not have a senior D&I leader in place that are scrambling to fill a new position. And then there are those that previously had a chief D&I leader in place but are now looking for a new perspective and approach to show greater progress. Either way, it’s a good time for D&I specialists to be looking for new and exciting job opportunities.
The pandemic has caused a profound shake-up in how businesses operate, their workforces, the skills they need, and their approach to recruitment and hiring. And while organizations continue to evolve in response to the “new normal” and reimagine their future, recruiting and hiring remain a constant, top-of-mind concern for companies of all sizes and industries. It’s imperative that their approach to recruiting and hiring evolve as well.
The pandemic has driven unexpected and radical changes, but organizations that leverage this opportunity to tap into a rich talent market will be better prepared for what is to come.