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Hiring Tips: HR’s Race to Hire in 2021

HR’s Race to Hire in 2021

Need hiring tips? You’re not alone. With all the challenges HR faced in 2020 and can expect this year, an annual survey by XpertHR shows that recruiting and hiring is at the top of the list among HR professional concerns. Attracting top talent will be surprisingly hard, with about one-half of companies expecting to increase their workforce in 2021.

The survey first reveals top challenges facing HR professionals, which includes those in the manufacturing (20%), services (52%) and government/education/healthcare and other non-business sectors (28%). Top concerns for these HR professionals are:

  • Recruiting and hiring (66%)
  • Workforce planning (59%)
  • Workplace health/safety/security (55%)
  • Employee leaves (54%)
  • Remote workforce (53%)
  • State and local compliance (51%)

As you can see, recruiting and hiring are weighing on most HR minds.  It’s a valid concern as businesses get back to work in 2021. Employers in the manufacturing and services sectors face the most pressure, as about half expect to increase their workforces.

What areas of recruiting and hiring are top concerns? Here’s the breakdown:

  • 83% worry about attracting top talent
  • 61% struggle to ensure applicants feel safe to work onsite during the pandemic
  • 53% worry about the challenge of eliminating unconscious bias
  • 50% find it challenging to hire a diverse workforce
  • 50% see virtual recruiting/hiring/onboarding as a significant challenge
  • 40% anticipate struggling with managing a high volume of applicants

Flex Your Muscle

Some of the top hiring tips to take away from the XpertHR study are the new or increased benefits respondents have adopted to help their organizations attract talent during the continuing pandemic. At the top of the list? More than half are providing flexible work schedules to allow caregiving/homeschooling, and 40% are incorporating wellness programs.

These areas continue to be critically important to employees. A different study found that 78% of employees want the flexibility of fully or partially remote work schedules beyond a temporary fix, while 57% of employers aren’t meeting these needs and have no long-term plan for remote roles at all. Furthermore, 50% of employees have reported not getting mental health support during the pandemic.

As the job market stabilizes and employees assess their work-life balances, 95% of professionals are back to being open to new opportunities, even if they’re not actively job searching. They’re looking for these COVID-related benefits, including a renewed interest in paid leave.

“While paid leave has been a hot topic in the working world for the past few years, COVID-19 has thrust it into the limelight like never before,” XpertHR says. Paid sick leave, PTO, paid paternal/family leave, and more are being added or enhanced by organizations wanting to attract top talent this year. About 57% of those organizations plan on making these benefits permanent.

Scratch the surface, and you’ll find that it’s more than parents looking for these benefits. For instance, while one-third of employees have kids at home, 40% provide care for aging parents and miss seven hours of work each week on average for that reason.

“Employees who deliver care to their families are under severe pressure to remain productive while balancing the needs of children, elders, those with special needs and even pets,” says Anita Darden Gardyne, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Onēva, an employer-provided technology platform. “Those employers who offer work-life balance to their teams as they thrash through constantly changing business, government, and school responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will win the talent acquisition war and ultimately achieve market success.”

Have A Plan

And when it comes to general wellbeing efforts, Deloitte reports that “organizations large and small are tailoring their wellbeing efforts to various worker segments’ needs instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach; finding new ways to allow workers to disconnect and recharge organization-wide; and focusing on equipping workers with the mental, emotional, and social skills needed to not just cope, but adapt and thrive.”

As part of its study, Deloitte found that companies are learning to live with uncertainty, despite hopes for returning to pre-COVID-19 normal. When the firm asked leaders how they approached preparedness, the most popular answer before the pandemic was, “Focus on likely, incremental events.” The most popular answer now? “Focus on multiple scenarios.”

Pivots have included a switch to contingent talent, from staffing entry-level jobs up to hiring fractional and interim executives. It’s a common tactic in uncertain times and one that HR pros like blogger Tim Sacket tout for 2021.

“For the vast majority of companies, the focus on hiring more contingent is a [good] strategy over the next 12-18 months, to ensure they will have much more flexibility and the ability to move quickly to move their headcount up and down based on immediate business needs,” he writes. “I run into a lot of mid-sized enterprise organizations (500-2500 employees) who freak out when you talk about contingent labor. ‘We only hire direct, Tim!’ Um, okay, so all those Fortune 1000 organizations that have anywhere from 15-30% of their workforce as contingent are doing it wrong? You know better than they do, is what I’m hearing?”

And let’s talk about planning around workplace health, safety, and security. This area, too, has suffered from sudden changes, shifting norms, and little guidance. But that’s about to change in 2021, as the new administration rolls out COVID-19 standards beyond what OSHA’s general guidelines provide.

It’s as much a recruitment issue as it is a regulatory issue. Remember that employee wellbeing is a significant concern for job candidates this year. They need to know from the moment they spot the job description that your organization has their health and safety at heart.

“As Monster data shows, 58% of candidates feel their job search expectations have shifted during the pandemic, and projections for 2021 indicate further change ahead. Among their top priorities: safety,” Monster points out in its annual hiring trends report, adding that some companies include verbiage in their job descriptions along those lines, while others are spelling out their COVID-19 safety plans on their career sites.  

And finally, neither workforce planning nor recruiting efforts can be discussed in 2021 without addressing technical innovation. IBM found nearly six in ten global organizations accelerated their digital transformations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 66% admit that the pandemic prompted them to complete initiatives their organizations previously resisted.

When it comes to recruiting, this translates to a prioritization of digital tools, including:

AI for finding and screening candidates, virtual onboarding, and expert-level remote interviewing techniques.

“After the crazy year we’ve had, many HR executives and their staff feel overwhelmed. They’re dealing with all things COVID, including changing benefits policy, remote work, testing protocol, contact tracing, PTO changes, and more,” says Mark Turpin, The HT Group founder and CEO. “The good news is that if you need help now with just about any type of staffing and recruiting—whether it be for retained search, technical recruiting, executive search, and staffing resources—HT has a division that can support you. If you’re at wits-end over HR business processes or HR strategic initiatives, our business consulting group can help with that, too.”

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