The year 2020 changed many work environments and how jobs get done. Human resources teams weren’t alone in scrambling to make a pandemic pivot. However, the widespread, rapid adoption of a work-anywhere approach continues to have reverberations for recruiting and hiring.
Around the world, work environments are again opening their doors to employees. But those months of working remotely have already taken root. Looking into the Future of Remote Work, McKinsey in November 2020 reported, “Hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic.”
The idea of working from home pre-pandemic was met with resistance, either from the employer or employee (or both). Then, quarantine forced millions of individuals to work from home. The expectation was it would be short-term. But the months of isolation continued and people began to adapt to working remotely. Work processes and attitudes around remote work activities shifted.
Especially among the highly skilled, highly educated workers, it has become clear that they could work just as effectively if they stayed away from the office three to five days a week. McKinsey reported, “The virus has broken through cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work in the past, setting in motion a structural shift in where work takes place.”
What does all of this mean for recruiting and hiring? During the pandemic these efforts had to move online. Employers were interviewing people via Zoom, running remote onboarding, and bringing new hires into a fully virtual work environment to start. Yet, as business re-opens, HR too is moving to a more hybrid approach to recruiting and hiring.
Recruiting and hiring in the remote work environment
The remote work environment moved recruiting and hiring processes online. From now on, digital strategies are no longer a “nice to have.” They are essential. Especially when it comes to appealing to the future workforce of digital natives. Online recruiting can lead to a more inclusive workforce. As Kristina McDougall, founder of executive recruiting firm Artemis Canada stated, “When contained to a local talent pool, even when it is a high-quality talent pool, employees will have similar education, work experience, and even socio-economic backgrounds.” But opening up job opportunities to the remote worker can lead to richer and differentiated education, experience, and professional networks.
This broader talent pool can also dramatically increase the number of qualified candidates available. That’s great. At the same time, it can be overwhelming. Finding the best talent for the right role requires recruiters to learn:
- How to target online job search advertising
- What digital channels are the best talent sources
- How to make the digital budget stretch further
In a Cielo survey, hiring managers planned to continue:
- Interviewing candidates by video (82 percent)
- Onboard starters virtually (41 percent)
- Make offers without first meeting face-to-face (32 percent)
This means those working in staffing also need to familiarize themselves with evolving technologies. Systems may need upgrading to support the top tools for talent acquisition. Plus, training hiring managers to adapt privacy and security considerations is also important.
How work-anywhere is shaping candidate expectations
In a Conference Board survey, 77 percent of respondents expected “an increase in employees working remotely (at least days a week) even 12 months after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.” After all, as McKinsey observed, more employers were seeing “somewhat better productivity from their remote workers” nine months into the pandemic. As long as there is a supporting connectivity infrastructure, the employees enjoyed greater productivity, less time wasted commuting, and the more flexible hours.
Why would they want to give that up? Many don’t. A late 2020 PwC survey found both executives and office workers support a permanent flexible work week. While in June 2020, 73 percent of employers labeled the shift to remote work a success, six months later that number had reached 83 percent.
That changes the game for recruiting and hiring. Those looking for work have new priorities. One recruiter suggested, “Workers will classify employers into one of four categories: (1) employers that are remote-first; (2) employers that are remote-friendly; (3) employers that can’t accommodate remote workers (but might offer a flexible schedule); (4) employers that don’t get it.”
There is now a segment of job candidates seeking a career with a business in one of the first two categories. They are looking for the flexibility and freedom associated with work-anywhere. This is pushing recruiters to reposition how they talk about work/life balance; it needs to be a differentiator.
The work-anywhere candidate is ready to do more research before taking on a new role. They ask more questions, check sources, verify answers, and dig deeper into company culture before making their decisions.
The office is here to stay
All of this doesn’t sound a death knell for the office, though. Employees do want to return to the office to some degree. Some 87 percent of the employees surveyed by PwC said “the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships.”
The office is also where employees see themselves accessing equipment, training, or documents. Meanwhile, employers want employees in the office to meet with clients and enable corporate culture.
The office environment is also critical for least experienced workers, according to PwC. Respondents with less than five years of experience were more likely to want to be in the office more often:
- 30 percent prefer being remote no more than one day a week vs. just 20 percent of all respondents
- 34 percent are more likely to feel less productive while working remotely (compared to 23 percent)
This group is also “more likely to value meeting with managers or company training programs than their more experienced colleagues.”
Employees at all experience levels also acknowledge some activities are better done face-to-face. Coaching and providing support and feedback are more likely to be successful in person (literally IRL and not via web chat).
Ready your business for the hybrid workforce
The work-anywhere environment has its advantages for both employers and employees. Yet this transition will change how recruiting and hiring is done and what candidates prioritize in their job searches. Continuous, consistent efforts to encourage employee engagement and communicate business culture will be important, even though the office isn’t going away entirely.
In this digital world that drives increased personalization, HR will need to take the same approach to be successful. Customizing which employee groups work from home and how often, with different expectations for in-office time, can offer competitive advantage.