Right now, January seems as though it was a lifetime ago. The major concern business had was Brexit, something now seemingly forgotten in the face of a bigger challenge; one reaching much further than the workplace.
The coronavirus pandemic has turned our lives upside down. For the last four months, the impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and the country’s healthcare services, has been devastating.
For the business community, it has been catastrophic in a host of industries who continue to run scenario planning, protect their cash flow, reduce costs, access tax reliefs and grants, battle cyber-security threats, assess supply chains, and make critical decisions about how this will affect their employees.
Amongst so much uncertainty, one clear thing is that an outbreak of this magnitude will leave a lasting impression on us all. For business, the question is, will it change the way we work for the better, or will we ultimately revert to the old status quo?
Back in January, I predicted five trends to shape recruitment in 2020. It’s safe to say COVID-19 wasn’t one of these but, given our new challenges, I wanted to revisit and explore how the changing circumstances will influence recruitment, staff retention and the job market.
This is going to be needed more than ever. Amid all the fear, isolation, and uncertainty, many businesses have been forced to adapt their model and we have seen how profound and positive change is possible. The trend for home-working and contracts allowing people to integrate their work and personal life will be in high-demand long after the end of the year.
2. Hiring for soft skills
Whilst still important to future proof your business, in the short-term, this may not be the main priority. More pressing issues around staff retention, improving internal communications, and making changes to technological capability will come to the fore.
3. Improving the candidate experience
The battle to attract skilled people with the right attitude will become fiercer in the face of this crisis, but the way this is done will be quite different. With an increase in remote interviews, less personal interaction with colleagues, infrequent visits to the office, and potentially starting a new job from home, the experience will extend past a personalised and engaging recruitment strategy and incorporate staff retention.
4. Employer branding
Simple and clearly defined goals will always be focal when selling your organisation but, even before this epidemic, employers that prioritise mental wellbeing, work-life balance and flexible working were the number one priority for 16-24-year-olds. Having lost count of the CEO emails declaring people’s health and wellbeing as their number one priority, how you have behaved throughout this period and whether you remain true to your word afterwards is how your employer brand will be defined.
With changes in technology and the realisation that in certain professions people really can work from anywhere, the recruitment market could become a lot more open, making the long-term benefits of employing a diverse team even more attainable.
Things have undoubtedly changed and, while these trends remain important, perhaps the most vital is flexibility, from both businesses and employees.
For the foreseeable future, we need to concentrate on reopening businesses, supporting remote workers and helping people balance home-school and personal health challenges, as well as the influence anxiety, lockdown, and the furlough scheme will have on people’s mental health.
It is said that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. If we have learned anything it must be that we are all in this together and I hope when businesses finally get to choose their path once again, they take that step in the direction of people.
It will certainly be interesting to see if that is the case, and how that impacts the way they recruit.