Not so fast. Many prospective employees aren’t ready to upend their lives a second time.
The COVID-19 vaccine boom is in full swing. States and cities around the country are starting to announce the end of pandemic restrictions. The upcoming summer season also means more time spent outside, which can impact the transmission rate of the virus. However, despite what feels like a clear path out of the pandemic, many people, whose lives and working situations have changed dramatically over the past fifteen months aren’t ready to go back to their pre-pandemic lives.
While many industries, like healthcare and logistics have thrived during the pandemic, others are just beginning to open again. Companies are struggling to fill retail, hospitality, and customer-facing positions. The promise of increased wages, time off, or other incentives don’t seem to be moving the needle on filling jobs quickly. And this wave of unfilled positions impacts beyond your local restaurant server. Restaurants given the green light to open at full capacity are struggling to hire enough staff – making the uncapped capacity restrictions moot as they cannot serve customer demand. And this ripples outward to operations, suppliers, farmers, and even technical talent.
In Q4 of last year, most of the country hunkered down for the winter; bracing for the biggest surge in COVID-19 cases to date. The routine of virtual school, childcare, and family roles were solidified as we waited for a vaccine, better weather, and a drop in infections. Aggressive job hunters who had been able to take advantage of the unemployment benefits and the stimulus earlier in the year applied vigorously to jobs in a market that hadn’t yet embraced the idea of a post COVID world.
As the vaccination boom continues and restrictions are loosened, businesses are ready to move forward, but many people are not willing or able to do the same. Personal and professional lives were upended a year ago. People scrambled to find solutions. Now, many aren’t eager to go back to their pre-pandemic lives.
High school and college students who do not need to work summer jobs to support their families are opting out. Parents don’t see the value in risking their children’s health, particularly as the vaccine roll out for adolescents is only starting to get underway. But even as fear of contracting the virus starts to take a back seat, the fear of instability and upending their lives again is taking its place.
On a dime, families were asked to upset their lives. Asking them to make these changes quickly (again) creates chaos in their lives again. Change is risky. Do we ask people to change their childcare arrangements without a vaccine timeline for pre-school or elementary students? Without any clear insight about the upcoming school year, is it worth starting a new job now with the prospect of quitting in a few months? What should families do who have taken in the elderly to avoid placing them in nursing homes?
We have become accustomed to flexibility in our lives – that which was either forced upon us or has become a daily convenience. We’ve adapted to online grocery orders, working from home, running errands at off-peak times, and juggling half days of virtual and in-person schooling. This chaos became the newest version of normal. Asking people to go back to the old normal won’t work.
Now, employers are competing to hire and retain talent across the board. Many companies have been successful with a remote workforce over the past year. However, as they build return-to-office plans, companies will struggle to hire and retain talent that have adopted the remote lifestyle as their new normal. Flexible hours and working from home have afforded parents the opportunity to spend more time with their families as well as save money and time on commuting. Unless employers are willing to be openly flexible in their job descriptions, jobs will remain unfilled and competitors will snatch up talent who are not looking to jump back into the in-office culture.
In the current market, candidates hold all of the cards. Companies are going to need to sell more than a job to candidates. They’ll need to entice new employees through benefits, incentives, clear health & safety initiatives, and long-term job stability. Candidates are in a position to critically evaluate how organizations reacted and performed over the past year; including how they managed the crisis with their own employees.
The floodgate of job opportunities has opened, and the trickle of applicants will become a steady flow as the summer rolls in and vaccinated individuals become the norm rather than the exception. But for those companies who have critical hiring demands now, they will need to seek out talent more aggressively and ensure they are clear about what additional perks they are offering and their intentions for remote work and return-to-office plans.
The first quarter of 2021 slowly increased the job opportunities in technology-based positions. The sluggish January start gave way to entire industries opening back up as we left Q1. And they’re ready to hire. The Talener team has followed this ramp up period over the past several months and early trends have appeared as more clients are ready, willing, and able to beef up their tech teams.
High Touch & Open to Conversations
Over 57% of Talener’s job placements in Q1 started with individual conversations. This is a candidate’s market; high touch interactions and personalized service are expected. Successful placements hinge on building meaningful relationships. Technology candidates know and understand that they are in high demand. Expecting top tech talent to fall into your lap through active job postings will cost your organization time and reduce your ability to meet mission critical needs.
Location, Location, Location
Most employees who have successfully worked from home continue to seek out remote or hybrid-remote positions. They do not want to be tied to a location or an in-office job five days a week. The amount of open technology jobs exceeds the technology talent pool. Companies will need to be clear about their path forward in regards to working arrangements and remote flexibility. Companies that are not explicit in their intentions or dismiss the overwhelming desire by candidates for remote flexibility will find themselves without the talent they desire.
In the spring of 2020, kayaks, home improvement materials, and bicycles flew off shelves as many companies had not yet laid off workers. Disposable income was funneled into stocking up on food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Major eCommerce brands like Amazon & Target thrived in being the providers of essential consumables. Now, as we envision the reality of a post-pandemic world, other industries are back to claim their share of disposable income. We will see gaming and gambling platforms hiring aggressively; betting on increased disposable income as we move through 2021.
Healthcare & Health Tech
The demand for health care professionals and technologists has not waned over the past year. Healthcare providers are still struggling to build & secure online portals and create telehealth platforms quickly. Health Tech companies are equally strapped for talent; tapped by major hospital systems and local governments to provide software and services. Even as the number of vaccinated individuals goes up, these companies will continue to need talent as we embark on the next phase of building healthcare systems that can respond to the next public health crisis.
Front End & Design Talent
Front end developers and designers were in high demand exiting the first quarter. Brick and mortar restaurants and retailers continue to build their businesses online after scrambling to stay afloat in 2020. Mobile food ordering and retail curbside pick-up skyrocketed in 2020. Even as restaurant and retail capacity restrictions are lifted, the online ordering trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Web development and marketing companies are hiring permanent and contract staff to meet the demand of small and medium businesses without their own in-house tech staff.
The second quarter of 2021 will solidify the direction in which open technology jobs are heading for the remainder of the year. Coupling the arrival of the summer and the mass vaccination effort, companies are more optimistic that they can hire again with confidence. We expect to see the competition for technology talent to heat up; forcing employers to get more creative and aggressive with their compensation packages.
To learn more about tech market staffing trends, reach out to our team. We can help guide you in building your job descriptions and compensation packages to attract qualified and available talent.
Americans are not known for taking their allotted vacation time through their employers. According to the Washington Post, “Even when Americans get paid time off, they don’t use it all. And when they do use their days – it may not come as a surprise to learn – many of them fail to leave work fully behind.” According to Allianz, nearly three quarters of Americans take micro-vacations, amounting to less than 4 days away, often including weekends.
But as we move into the summer of 2021, hotel bookings, private rentals, and planned time off is surging. TripAdvisor is anticipating more than 67% of households taking an extended vacation during the summer months, a surge that is leaving many employers scrambling as many people have not had any leisure time off in nearly fifteen months.
The increased need for qualified technical talent complicates the interviewing process, training, and successful hiring of new employees this summer. For the first time in many years, vacation-goers are indicating that they will finally cut the cord during their time off and recharge without a direct line to the office.
How are companies coping with current hiring managers and TA decision makers who are slated to take back-to-back time off for the next three months? Organizations have gotten creative with their current employees – limiting the amount of vacation days that can be taken between Memorial Day & Labor Day, closing down operations to force paid time off, or offering incentives to use vacation time after the summer rush.
But this doesn’t address the pile-on of PTO usage when organizations are in dire need of help, particularly in areas like technology. Only 16% of tech jobs were filled in March – leaving over 300,000 open, according to CompTIA.
Companies need to take action now to ensure they’re not facing a double staffing shortage; back-to-back time off of their current staff, and the missed opportunity to have new employees onboarded and up-to-speed in Q3. Additionally, some flexibility will be required as new employees likely have their own vacations booked prior to joining a company. Beyond global PTO policy changes, clear communication and direction amongst individual teams will be critical in successfully making new hires.
Prepare your staff by defining every person’s role in the upcoming hiring process. What is expected of them, and when? If they will be on vacation, set boundaries and choose potential alternative interviewers who can fill in.
Get Buy In
Leaving your team in the dark about hiring goals means that no expectations have been set or preparations made. It’s difficult to get buy-in when you’ve left them out of the loop. Prepared staff are more likely to take an hour out of their vacation time if they are anticipating it.
Empathize & Validate
We’re all exhausted. It’s been 15 months of uncertainty and we all need a break, whether it’s on a beach in Mexico or building a deck in the backyard. Time off is valid; no matter how employees spend it.
In addition to preparing your own employees and getting buy-in from them, it is valuable for your team or TA to know general hiring timelines. Setting up a framework of timelines sets expectations and provides more clarity into how they play a role in the upcoming weeks or months.
Create a Process
When preparation doesn’t account for unexpected projects or shifts in organizational goals, create a process that delegates responsibility. Consequently, If you are hiring a new team member or if a team member leaves and needs to be replaced quickly, everyone understands their role in the interviewing, hiring and onboarding process.
If you are faced with staff turnover, a surge in PTO requests and are understaffed this summer, consider bringing in consultants who can hit the ground running and relieve the immediate burden that your tech teams may be facing. If you have questions about the process of hiring a consultant, reach out to the Talener team for more information.