Post-COVID-19 Recruiting Trends: What’s Changing About How We Hire

A lot is changing about how we work as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, but what about how companies hire? COVID-19 has shifted priorities for many workers who had to juggle them this last year or who had a taste of a different lifestyle. This means how companies recruit has to change to keep up with an anticipated exodus of workers from traditional jobs. Also, companies are discovering that recruiting only from traditional tech hubs or elite universities has limited their access to talent that might have evolving, necessary skills for jobs that are evolving as well.

Navigating a quickly changing hiring market can be challenging. How do you curate new talent pools, hire a diverse staff and offer the right benefits to attract top talent?

Lauren Smith, vice president at Gartner Research, recently told Harvard Business Review podcast “HBR IdeaCast” the pandemic has accelerated three key trends:

  1. New candidate expectations
  2. Dispersion of skills beyond the traditional talent pool
  3. Evolution of skills

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Let’s break down these complex changes and what they mean for companies adapting new recruiting strategies:

Changing candidate expectations

Employee benefits

Who has the best employee benefits? Post-COVID-19, this question is an essential part of how recruiters are drawing in from their talent pool. Building a talent pool means cultivating a process and a community by which hiring managers can find the right people for the right job. But ever since the pandemic hit, what employees are looking for in a job has changed dramatically. Pingpong tables and free snacks were great, but they’re not really employee perks anymore.

The best employee benefits that attract top tech talent this year include:

  1. Work from home flexibility
  2. Flexible schedule
  3. Wellness and mental health benefits to help with stressful times
  4. Autonomy over career track

Top Money Moves lists financial, health and wellness benefits as three of the top five employee priorities for 2021, rounded out by paid time off and health insurance. Professional development opportunities and social responsibility benefits also make the top 10.

This is far different from the traditional appeal of 401(k) match, health care and growth opportunities, though those are still valid. Understanding these new priorities for talent and incorporating these benefits will not only help you build a better tech talent pipeline, but it will also be essential to your new employee retention strategy.

In that HBR podcast, Smith said: “Candidates increasingly expect companies to offer them not only competitive compensation and benefits but also a compelling employee experience, and that was happening of course pre-pandemic. As people have gotten used to designing their own work experience, fitting their job into their life, candidates are just less likely to want to give up this new autonomy, even if they do eventually return to an in-person work environment.”

Wellness programs

So, candidates are looking for wellness programs at work, but what does that look like? This varies but, generally, hiring managers and heads of people in tech companies and tech startups are pushing employee fitness programs these days alongside communication and internal accountability programs for a healthier, happier work culture.

Also, paid time off for mental health days is a big draw for employers this year, as the majority of workers has had to juggle family, a public health crisis, work from home and financial insecurity.

According to SHRM, great examples of wellness programs include:

  1. Stress reduction programs
  2. Weight loss programs
  3. Smoking cessation and health risk assessment programs
  4. Health screenings
  5. Exercise programs and activities
  6. Nutrition education
  7. Vaccination clinics

It might just mean giving your employees extra mental health days and flexible time off to deal with the complexities this year has brought to every household.

Supportive workplace cultures

Why should cash-flush workers who managed to lower expenses working from home last year return to the office at all? A recent New York Times article on talent and shifting priorities says millennials who have more savings and more options are even ditching work altogether as COVID-19 awakened them to how short life is and how much emotional energy and time they were spending on jobs that gave them little sense of purpose.

Workplaces are responding by creating programs to transform their work culture into a more supportive environment that focuses on employee goals for finding meaning at work. This is a welcome change to many employees, as younger workers with more experience with mental health education generally expect more from employers regarding healthy working conditions.

Related: WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: The Importance of Offering Health Care to Employees

Access to new talent pools

Remote work and competition for talent

For many companies, location has become irrelevant during the pandemic, and more and more companies are choosing to stay remote. During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have moved all over the U.S., including “boomerangs,” who returned to the Midwest for affordable cost of living and a more workable lifestyle to raise kids than in expensive coastal cities. Recruiting managers are now posting remote jobs by the thousands. Since most people in white-collar jobs have worked remote this last year anyway, it makes sense to open up the job listings to candidates from other locations with relevant skill sets.

This has led to large and small tech companies competing for talent across the U.S. or even the world. It’s a competitive job market — and one fraught with complications regarding how much to pay for a position that used to be partially dependent on the cost of living in the employer’s local region.

“We know that candidates today expect flexibility,” Smith said on the “HBR IdeaCast.” “They expect a feeling of autonomy. Now, of course, depending on the job, that’s going to look very different. For some roles with knowledge work, this may mean enabling candidates to continue to design their work around life.”

What we’re seeing in this space is a shift from expecting things to return to the “old normal” and a new push for hybrid working conditions. Engineering jobs are particularly easy to do remotely, so tech talent rises once again to the top of the pile to be considered for work from home jobs. If you’re recruiting and hiring remotely, this presents an opportunity and a challenge. You can hire anywhere in the U.S., so where do you start? Tapping into strong talent pools, like the one in the Midwest, is key.

New opportunity for diversity

Where can you find all this great tech talent? It used to be San Francisco, New York, anywhere that attracted tech workers and startups in droves. But the Midwest is now home to a growing number of startups and a quickly shifting entrepreneurial scene.

San Francisco has seen a major exodus of tech workers to more affordable cities in 2020 while many people were working from home or hit their limit dealing with climate disasters such as wildfires. Companies are increasingly aware that if they only hire out of universities or a region where they traditionally recruited, they’re missing out on talent that isn’t in their direct network. This is a talent issue as well as a diversity issue.

Ann Arbor software company Dynamo Metrics is typical of the new trend of hiring remote workers not only to open up roles to remote talent but to encourage diverse hiring. Co-founder Nigel Griswold told Purpose Jobs that “Diversity matters, and it’s something that’s really important to us. Being more remote, and more flexible about how we work, definitely opens those doors to diverse talent.”

Does this mean the traditional office is dead? Traditional HR policies as well? Not exactly, but things are shifting to a hybrid model both in terms of how workers interact with the office and in how companies are recruiting. HR is taking on the responsibility of diversifying where they find talent and which applicants they consider outside traditional skill or educational sets.

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Evolution of skills

As jobs evolve, companies are looking for new skill sets: not what was needed in the past but what’s needed in the future. As you are recruiting for new jobs, consider if changes in the scope of the position, work from home, deliverables or the skills required to do a job that might have changed may require a different skill set in the job listing — maybe even a different job description. How has the job changed since you last hired for that role? Has a changing job market actually changed the jobs you’re hiring for and required an evolution of skills? There may be some real opportunities there in shifting how you go about recruiting and what types of hires you bring onboard.

TopResume lists the top seven skill sets sought out by employers in 2021 as the following:

  1. Continuous learning
  2. Time management
  3. Decision-making
  4. Collaboration
  5. Emotional intelligence
  6. Creativity and resilience
  7. Adaptability

As you hire new employees in 2021 and beyond, consider which technical skills and soft skills might be required to navigate shifting job roles as well as shifting office setups in a quickly changing business environment.

If you’re looking for tech talent across the U.S., you can post unlimited jobs to the Purpose job boards to tap into the amazing talent pool in the Midwest.

Explore the Community: Purpose Jobs is the Midwest’s largest startup and tech community. Discover startups, stay up to date on Midwest tech news, and learn about jobs at hiring companies. 

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