What Have We Learned About Hiring During A Pandemic?

This is part 1 of a 4 part “Benchmark Search Hiring Forecast” series, studying the ongoing effects of the pandemic on hiring, interviewing, onboarding and networking.

Think back to this time last year: the heady days of January 2020 were full of anticipation, growth was trending upward, employment was high and with the new year came new opportunities.

Skip forward to January 2021 we find a global economy, and our workplaces, in flux; but in our sector of the accounting and finance fields, hiring has bucked the trend and we are seeing clients clamoring for talent.

At Benchmark Search we are more than prepared to help them find the best in class and our critical challenge has been meeting this rise in demand amid a candidate shortage.

It’s wise to remember that the pandemic’s effects on employment have by no means been equitable. Many sectors such as hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors, which employ millions, have been seriously disrupted, but some sectors have seen incredible growth; professional services, healthcare, tech, insurance, supply chain, finance, and accounting sectors have seen demand skyrocket.

​Equitability of opportunity in the new normal
The pressure on employers around the country to find appropriate talent to meet the changes wrought by COVID-19 are compounded by this disruption – but has the process ofhiring changed alongside the changes to workplace culture?

When (almost) the entire process of sourcing, vetting, interviewing, and hiring has been digitized and physical contact is discouraged, how can companies remain attractive to talent on the move, and how does a company hire with purpose in 2021?

Here at Benchmark Search, we wanted to share some of our findings from hiring during a pandemic: some of the biggest changes to recruitment methodology we’ve seen and what processes have remained consistent throughout.

​New year, new me?

  • 2020 was not a typical year for candidate churn – many employees stayed at jobs they would have left, many employees had their hand forced: 2021 is tracking to be a busy year for delayed staff turnover and employees looking for greener pastures.
  • It is vital hiring managers remember that happy staff make productive companies – a lot of pent-up recruitment energy will be unleashed this year – business leaders then need to make sure they are aware of forces driving turnover.

​Discretion and your hidden job market

  • The golden rule of recruitment is good talent is already gainfully employed: this is your hidden candidate market, and they are more active and more approachable than ever.
  • The digital realm offers discretion as we have never seen before. Recruiting employers can have conversations with potential candidates while in a virtual work environment, allowing them to interview with more ease than before. Additionally, if you find yourself needing to confidentially replace a low performing employee or desire to upgrade talent, you can also accomplish this with more discretion.
  • Acknowledging this hidden market is vital in bringing talent to you: be aware of their needs, and aware of how COVID-19 affected their career over the last 12 months; highlight your unique talent stream, and you will find the best in class coming to you.

No one size fits

  • Great recruitment has always been detail-oriented: the rapport and relationship, the focus on trust above KPI’s, and quality over quantity. The pandemic has by no means put a stop on this, but it has changed recruitment strategy.
  • This is where empathy and expectations matter. Every business has ridden the wave of COVID-19 in very different ways, and effective recruitment must make sure their service is fit for purpose. We help set the right working expectations for your candidate, from the first moment of contact through to onboarding and beyond.

​​Expectation management

  • More than anything, the pandemic has changed how everyone deals with futureproofing, career mapping, and understanding market movements: business health is only guaranteed with the right people delivering your company vision, and for that to happen you need to make sure your staff knows what to expect.
  • From changes to compensation to benefits, furlough schemes, and supply chain issues, changing expectations have put added stresses on recruiters and hiring managers to communicate their culture and be clear in their demands of new staff.
  • Our advice is to simply commit to telling employees and new talent about how you’re investing in your company; the resources you have to protect staff; the new technology you’re bringing in to make it safer and more efficient, and the refocus on your company mission to drive positive work culture.  

Communication and empathy

  • You can only deliver on the above points with clear communication channels and an empathetic management style. The last thing you want to do now is to be aloof or alienate your team by stubbornly sticking resolutely to traditional management platitudes.
  • Communication is also the ultimate soft skill for candidates looking for work and repeatedly touted as the number one most valued personality trait in staff; strong, efficient, and effective communication is now essential in maintaining a clear channel to prospective talent, and if you want your team to be communicative, you have to lead from the front.

The Benchmark Way
Now more than ever we have a chance to change how we communicate and build relationships with new recruits and build a better, more inclusive, form of hiring.

In our next article, we discuss the art of onboarding in our ongoing Benchmark Search Hiring Forecast series.