Most people can agree on one thing about last year — it was weird. And like most things in 2020, hiring was just not normal.
The way businesses recruit and hire fundamentally changed in the space of 30 days. From February to April 2020, the US unemployment rate went from 3.5% to 14.7%.
Typically, unemployment rates this high take years to correct but the 2020 market did it in 6 months (Note: we are still not below pre-COVID rates and are sitting at 6.7% as of January 1st according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
Recovery was just as sharp as the unemployment upsurge. Understandably, organizations of all shapes and sizes have experienced a bit of recruiting whiplash and HROs are left wondering where to go from here.
Contrasting Unemployment Trends
Here we sit, at the beginning of the year and many businesses are wondering how they should plan for and move forward with their hiring strategies.
It’s a complex question. Normally, you’d look to past trends to create hiring plans, but not this time. Nothing in former downturns has prepared organizations for the changes that will need to be implemented.
Some small businesses are in the tricky position of bringing back furloughed folks while trying to find replacements for employees who had moved on. Some are dealing with an onslaught of candidates while others are getting a trickle of applicants. On top of that, companies need to rethink interviewing, screening, and onboarding their candidates.
There’s a lot to think about, but here are two ways HROs can demonstrate value to clients:
1. Provide realistic guidance to your clients about the job market — and don’t let the unemployment rate fool you
It’s easy to think that because the unemployment rate has been high that candidates are going to be plentiful. An important point to consider, however, is that even though we’re in the midst of an economic downturn, job openings have remained surprisingly high.
Instead of looking at the macro trends of the market, it’s important that businesses look at their own micro industry to gauge how easy it will be to hire.
According to the Harvard Business Review, unemployment rates will vary vastly by industry and geography.
For example the construction industry is still booming and job openings remain historically high, whereas hospitality and restaurant workers are less in demand. It would be a mistake to infer that high unemployment is a sign that businesses won’t have to fight for talent — and many SMBs are finding that out the hard way.
Finding any employee can be costly; finding the right employee can pay off for both the HRO and its small business clients, both by reducing turnover and improving productivity.
2. Help to streamline recruiting and hiring practices
As a trusted advisor to your client, emphasize that a fast and efficient hiring process is more important than ever. Traditional practices such as in-person or panel interviews and job site tours are currently not only unrealistic, but they may actually deter potential employees.
Helping your clients revisit their hiring practices and processes to help streamline the hiring process increases client stickiness while helping them get the best hires on board quickly.
At a minimum, business should consider the following items with regards to hiring processes:
- Add Screening Questions to the Application Form. This allows the hiring manager to quickly rate candidates on important skills while disqualifying those who do not meet basic minimum qualifications.
- Video Interviews. No one should be surprised that video interviews increased 159% year-over-year. Find a tool that can send out pre-recorded interview questions that can be answered at the candidate’s convenience. Responses can be ranked and a large candidate pool can be vetted to a handful of the most qualified. Those top candidates can then be interviewed using a live, online session.
- Background Checks. Proper screening can reduce time-to-hire while increasing the likelihood of a solid candidate match.
- Communication. Hiring is typically a stressful process. With COVID it’s become even more so. Consistent communication with candidates will keep them comfortable and engaged.
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). An ATS streamlines the hiring process and helps employers reduce the time to hire. Job postings can be posted to websites and a variety of job boards with a single click. Candidates can easily be ranked and assessed with keyword matching, screening questions, and skill assessments. Communication is also simplified with automated email messages and texting, and the candidate lifecycle is tracked so everyone involved in the hiring process stays up to date on progress.
In these uncertain times, there are some things that organizations simply can’t control. So it’s important to control what they can, such as ensuring that as they are recruiting and hiring, they have created a positive, streamlined experience. Finally, they can ensure they have the right technology to support each of these important initiatives.