Post-Pandemic Hiring Trends: Remote Work and Employee Expectations

By Kristen Harris

As experts in creative hiring, we work hard every day to help our clients find exceptional marketing talent that elevates their team. To keep doing that well, we’re constantly elevating our team too. One way we do this is by attending the American Staffing Association’s annual conference, Staffing World. 

While there was a variety of content at the conference, I heard three things in every presentation–remote work, the talent shortage, and leveraging technology. We’re not out of the woods (yet) with this pandemic. But clearly, it’s going to have a lasting, likely permanent, impact on hiring and the world of work.

Hiring in 2022 and beyond:

1. Remote Work. One speaker framed the change this way: Electricity drove the industrial revolution, the internet drove the digital revolution, and the pandemic is driving the hybrid revolution (original credit due to Gartner, I believe). We’re at an inflection point–remote work has become more common, and it’s not going away. You can decide to bring everyone back to the office on a specific date and order your employees to comply. Still, compliance does not eliminate the desire for flexibility and autonomy in their work lives. We could talk about this at length; check out our blog post and whitepaper on remote work.

Please note, we realize many jobs cannot be done remotely. Jobs that require physical interaction or the use of special equipment need to be onsite at a designated location. That’s a given. However, many other jobs can be done remotely and people proved it when we sent them home to work in March of 2020. To date, 18 months later, a large percentage of employees who were working remotely still have not returned to their offices. They are asking, “if I’ve been doing my job well, and our company is doing well, then why do I need to be sitting in the office from 9-5 (or longer) five days a week?” They’re looking for some flexibility; they’re asking these questions and, if they don’t like the answer, they are looking elsewhere. This leads us to the next topic…

2. Employee Expectations. If you haven’t experienced difficulty hiring people, you likely know someone who has. There’s a “talent shortage” happening right now, making it challenging for companies to find people to fill roles and keep their businesses running. Workers are in the driver’s seat, and they have high expectations. The decisions employers make, how people feel treated by the managers, and a sense (or lack) of empathy for their needs impact how employees feel about their work situation. I’ve heard some disappointing stories about how people feel they’ve been treated during this pandemic period. Most ended with, “so that’s why I’m looking for a new job.” 

It’s already hard to find people, so what can you do to make your company and position more attractive? How are you handling questions and concerns about COVID? Fears about vaccination or returning to the office? Are you empathetic when someone is sick or needs time off to care for a family member? What conversations are you having about hybrid schedules, flex hours, or remote work? Have you acknowledged how amazing your team has been for the last 18 months and asked what they need or want going forward? How can you encourage more diversity and social equity within your company? Are you taking action on those ideas and sharing the plans with your team? Earlier in my career, the mentality was “just do your job” and “you should be happy you have a job.” That isn’t going to cut it with today’s workforce. Your current and future employees have high expectations. If they don’t like what they’re hearing, they might just be looking elsewhere.

3. Technology. Robots aren’t taking people’s jobs exactly, but we are working more and more with robots. Think of them as your highly technical co-worker! We’ve all been using robotic and AI-powered tools for years, whether we’re fully aware of it or not. In fact, part of the “talent shortage” is more of a skills gap. Some people want to work but do not have the advanced technical skills required for the work environment of today and the future. We are seeing many people retraining, upskilling, learning new technologies, and adding to their arsenal of what they have to offer an employer. 

Two things about this upskilling/retraining push…

First, once people complete the training or educational portion, they still need to get the first work opportunity in their new field. It’s disappointing and concerning to see people who finished a coding boot camp, for example, be unable to land an entry-level coding position. It’s no different from recent college graduates. If a company wants to hire someone with 1-2 years of experience, where do you think candidates get that experience? By working at a company! If you are hiring for an entry-level position, truly consider entry-level candidates. Those are people who can come into your business with minimal prior knowledge, learn that role, then learn more, and keep moving up and building their skills. Don’t set qualifications artificially high and don’t require more than is needed to succeed in the job.

Second, be sure your team members are learning new technology. Provide training opportunities, make it a requirement to receive a raise or promotion, or assign them to projects with new teams using different tools. People want to keep building their skills, and you need them to keep growing so your company can stay competitive. The robots will work for them; give them what they need to be effective Robot Masters and Managers!

So what has changed during 2020 and 2021? Everything and nothing. We still need to care about our people, keep learning and growing, and find innovative ways to accomplish our work. And we’ll be doing a lot more of that remotely, using technology, and with new (possibly robotic) team members. We’re here to help! If hiring creative or marketing talent for your team is a top priority, and you’re running into any of these challenges, let us know.