The coronavirus crisis has triggered the so-called “great resignation,” with workers ditching and shifting their jobs in record numbers. But as the war for top talent rages on, spare a thought for the recruiters, and human resources professionals tasked with attracting and retaining the best in the business — all remotely.
It’s been a transformative 20 months for everyone, and recruiters have had an arduous time matching employees’ newfound job expectations with the right employer, amid skills shortages.
In the U.K., recent research from HR tech firm Employment Hero revealed 77% of millennials are actively looking for fresh starts and predicts that 2.5 million executives and managers will quit within the next six months. Replacing them collectively cost businesses £34 billion ($47 billion), according to the same report.
Meanwhile, 63% of U.K. business leaders are struggling with recruitment as candidates lack specialist skills and experience, particularly in digital and tech, according to The Open University’s annual Business Barometer 2021 report, published in October. And 24% of employers said this skills shortage will be the biggest challenge facing businesses in the next five years.
“On the plus side, we are also seeing optimism around the potential for remote working to fill skills gaps and an appreciation of the role of apprenticeships to train tomorrow’s workers,” said Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, co-publishers of the study.
Dropbox’s director of international HR, Laura Ryan, also focuses on the positive changes sparked by the pandemic fallout. “A huge benefit of remote work is the ability to widen your talent pool by being able to recruit the right people regardless of their location,” she said. “The time delay of scheduling and completing our onsite interviews has reduced by 70% since running the processes virtually.”
On the eve of the pandemic, in December 2019, customer relationship management company HubSpot was crowned Glassdoor’s Best Place to Work in the U.S. However, the organization has not lounged on its laurels. In 2020 it was one of the first businesses to overhaul its approach and go fully remote and has committed to a long-term plan to improve staff well-being.
Benefits offered in the hope that employees stay happy, and avoid burnout, include three months working anywhere in the world HubSpot is based, unlimited vacation and financial contributions to continue education.
Becky McCullough, HubSpot’s vp of global recruiting, who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, notes the shift to remote working has significantly diversified the talent pool and urges recruiters to dive in — particularly those in the tech space.
“Candidate location played a huge part in the hiring process before the pandemic, with the technology industry being largely dominated by big cities globally,” she said, noting that just five urban areas accounted for 90% of all U.S. high-tech job growth between 2005 and 2017. “This not only contributed to income inequality, but it made opportunities for talent from smaller, more rural communities much harder to source.”
This insight chimes with Zoë Morris, president of Frank Recruitment Group, which operates in over 20 offices worldwide and snares talent for technology giants including Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon Web Services. “The most prominent way that recruitment has changed is that recruiters now have to focus on a number of new priorities to match their clients with the perfect role,” she said. “This makes recruitment much trickier as there are now a lot more boxes a role needs to tick, particularly in relation to flexible working and perks being offered.”
Granted, the balance of power has swung away from the employer and towards the employee, but various studies —including from management consultancy McKinsey—indicate the highest bidder no longer triumphs, with increasingly more workers favoring purpose and aligned values over a bump in cold, hard cash.
Therefore, those in charge of businesses have a pivotal role. “Empathy and authenticity are now essential characteristics for leaders who want to create true community and a more inclusive culture — and in doing so attract and retain talent,” said Nazir Ul-Ghani, head of Workplace from Facebook in EMEA. He points to his company’s research that shows 58% of U.K. employees would consider walking away from their jobs if they felt unsupported.
McCullough believes mobility alongside diversity, inclusion and belonging have become critical to attracting and retaining talent and enriching culture. The recruitment firms that can be adaptable and flexible will be the winners in this post-pandemic world, she believes.
“Whether it’s exploring hybrid work setups, sourcing into new talent pools, or overhauling the interview process, recruitment teams are truly challenging conventional thinking on what makes a great candidate experience and how to ensure the culture and the mission comes to life in the process,” she added.
This article was first published by Digiday as part of its Future of Work series in October 2021