As one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory, 2020 brought major changes to the economy and to businesses worldwide. From success and hardship for certain industries and professions, to the growth of telecommuting and an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, what can be learned from 2020 as we shape 2021 hiring and staffing plans?
Learning from 2020's hiring and business trends
A strong start stopped by COVID-19
Many companies were on strong footing going into 2020. Continued economic growth in the preceding years set the stage for generally favorable conditions into March, when the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic restrictions tied to public health concerns dramatically slowed the economy.
Facing strict regulations and a sense of general uncertainty about what the future would hold, hiring slowed dramatically. At Beacon Hill, we saw significant short-term decreases of employers seeking new hires across all of our divisions. Businesses had to focus many of their resources on basic continuity planning and charting a path forward in uncertain times.
Hiring starts to bounce back, for some employers
Following roughly six weeks of reorganization and time-sensitive planning and strategy around operating during a pandemic, a significant number of businesses had the information, context and roadmap to the future needed to resume hiring on one level or another. While the staffing industry workforce penetration rate had long been steady at about 2%, according to the American Staffing Association, this key indicator of economic strength dropped to 1.57% in April 2020.
Some additional new jobs emerged in life sciences, technology, and healthcare due to the need to establish, implement and assess protocols for safe operations in the face of COVID-19. Similarly, staffing firms served as strategic advisors to help businesses confront essential staffing challenges created by, and in spite of, the ongoing pandemic.
However, others had to continue to let employees go due to economic impacts. That included the finance, HR, and office administrative professionals at many well-positioned and established companies across the economy along with those in the hospitality, leisure and similar industries, which were severely and negatively influenced by the pandemic and related public health rules.
A surprisingly tight labor market
"Employers unexpectedly found a tight labor market in some key industries."
There's no doubt that the pandemic had a substantial and negative influence on employment. Unemployment claims reached their highest recorded levels during the pandemic, and remain significantly above the numbers recorded in 2019 and early 2020. However, the labor market was in favor of job seekers in some key industries.
Some workers, especially those with in-demand and valuable skills — ranging from soft skills like collaboration and adaptability to more specific abilities like blockchain competency and analytical reasoning — had the option to be selective when it came to considering new opportunities. These job seekers asked not only how companies responded to the pandemic, but what key policies, such as work-from-home options, existed beforehand and how they were implemented. While financial compensation is and will always remain a critical factor, some job seekers took a broader view of pay and benefits as they considered offers.
In some cases, the time and money saved by an employer allowing partial or full remote work, and thereby avoiding a daily commute, can lead candidates to accept a somewhat smaller financial offer. These job seekers are taking not only pay into account, but the full value provided by the position. With leaders in the technology field setting an example in terms of continuing remote work programs and aligning with employee desires, as USA Today highlighted, there is a growing opportunity for businesses to consider the value of relevant benefits and prioritize them to attract key talent.
Increased focus on DEI initiatives
The rising social unrest that peaked in the summer of 2020 also placed the focus of some in-demand job seekers on DEI initiatives, both in principle and practice. How companies handled issues of diversity, equity and inclusion before and after public interest in these concerns grew during 2020 was of particular interest.
Well-prepared companies that continued to hire staff, especially those in industries that had to deal with fewer consequences of lockdowns and restrictions than others, built an advantage in terms of attracting talent. These businesses developed an understanding of key emerging concepts, like remote work, in relation to new hires. Businesses that stopped onboarding new talent for longer periods of time now have to carefully review and update their hiring policies while contending with a labor market that favors job seekers in some industries.
Businesses assess their vendors
Just as candidates are evaluating employers, many of those companies decided to take a closer look at their vendors in 2020. Basic operational factors were an area of focus, such as company stability and ability to continue providing valuable services during periods of business disruption. DEI initiatives also came into play, with organizations more carefully considering how suppliers have — or haven't — explained their initiatives and put them into practice.
Moving forward into 2021
It's not always easy for businesses to find qualified candidates who are hard workers and consistently strong communicators, and several trends shaped by 2020 have only made effective hiring more difficult in 2021. Beacon Hill offers broad-based onboarding support to companies, ensuring that skills, abilities and organizational fit are all taken into account during the recruitment process. To learn more about how Beacon Hill can help your company address its 2021 staffing needs, check out our FAQ page and get in touch with us today.
This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.