Emerging from the crisis period of Covid-19 was never going to be a straightforward process, but there have been optimistic indications that economies are on the road to recovery. UK GDP has been projected to grow 6.6% in 2021, and this should bring the UK economy back to pre-pandemic levels by Q1 of 2022. Over in the US, Wells Fargo has predicted that the US economy will grow by 7% in 2021.
After over a year of high unemployment rates, what has been dubbed as the ‘great rehiring’ is upon us. Reports are finding that the US job market is ‘picking up speed’ where the number of available jobs has reached record highs of 9.3 million. The number of open jobs in the UK at the time of writing currently sits at 862,000, climbing from an all-time low of 333,000 that was recorded in Q2 2020.
These numbers are positive, and to get a better understanding of what these figures mean for businesses and employees, we have summarised some of the key workplace trends that are emerging as we gradually come out of the Covid-19 era.
The benefits of automation
Covid-19 has accelerated the integration of automated technology into business processes. During the pandemic, employers have had to adapt in order to maintain operations with a reduced workforce, as millions of jobs were lost in the space of a couple of weeks. In the US, April 2020 brought unemployment rates of 14.8%, the worst figures since the Great Depression. In the UK, a record number of unemployment claims were filed, soaring up by 69.1%.
Operating with a leaner workforce was a challenge for many businesses. To stay afloat, employers needed to find ways of maximising the productivity of each employee. One way of doing this was implementing automation technology to automate manual administrative tasks so that each employee could channel their efforts into higher-value tasks. Now that lockdowns in the US and the UK are coming to an end and businesses are reopening, automation technology is becoming a permanent part of most business models.
A growing emphasis on soft skills
Soft skills (including emotional intelligence, kindness, patience, and communication) have become even more valued and desirable by employers in light of the pandemic. Covid-19 has revealed the importance of employees' soft skills when it comes to working cooperatively and productively during difficult times.
To successfully emerge from the crisis, reports have found that businesses will need to nurture their employees' digital, cognitive, social, emotional, adaptability and resilience skill sets. Research highlighted by Deloitte Australia found that today and in the near future soft skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, and communication will play a key role in around 66% of all new jobs.
Furthermore, a more digitalised workspace has also caused soft skills to be more in demand moving forward. Advances in technology mean that more manual and administrative tasks are becoming automated giving employees more opportunity to work on the elements of their jobs which require creativity, emotional intelligence, and resilience.
Gen Z and hybrid working
While remote working was once a rarity, now 24% of employers are looking to keep it as an option even after employees start to return to the office. The need for technology to handle large video conferences and other company communications and tasks has set the foundation for a digital working environment.
Working from home has brought with it many advantages, such as increased flexibility and productivity. In a report from Accenture, 83% of the 9,326 workers surveyed say they prefer a hybrid model in which they can work remotely at least 25% of the time, while other research has shown that flexible schedules have increased employee productivity by 13% in specific roles.
Another factor making hybrid work even more prominent is Gen Z entering the professional workforce over the last two years. Around 60% of employees under the age of 27 expect flexible working hours as standard practice, rather than as a benefit. To attract the younger generation, businesses will need to keep flexible working as an option for new hires. It's safe to say that remote working will be here to stay as we move forward.
The impact of remote working on diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion continue to be a key focus for employers. Moving forward, there is uncertainty as to whether flexible working will promote or inhibit diversity.
An OE Cam study has suggested that a hybrid working model could lead to the formation of 'in-groups' and 'out-groups'. 'In-groups' are those employees working in a shared location, while 'out-groups' are those employees working remotely. The 'in-groups' are likely to have something called 'present privilege'. The theory behind this concept is that the 'in-groups' have more direct access to leaders and managers than employees in the 'out-groups', which gives the in-groups an advantage when it comes to work performance.
On the other hand, remote working can open up opportunities to more candidates from underrepresented groups who might be restricted by their physical circumstances. For example, those who live with a disability, working parents, long distance commuters, and more senior employees can feel disadvantaged in the workplace. Removing the pressure of working in an office helps to break down these barriers and ensures that there is a more level playing field.
Equality and fair opportunity help create a positive working environment, which in turn leads to higher employee productivity as employees know their hard work will be valued fairly irrespective of their background. So while there is still some uncertainty surrounding the impact of remote working on diversity and inclusion in the workspace, it’s an important area to monitor when assessing the success of the remote and hybrid working models.
The trends affecting the recruitment industry
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reports that the recruitment industry is now more important than ever, as it is the main industry which can accelerate the Covid-19 recovery. In light of this, we’ve outlined some of the top recruitment trends to look out for moving forward.
Economic recovery and the need for faster hiring rates
There has been cautious optimism about the prospect of the great rehiring. The predicted V-shaped Covid-19 economic recovery profile is taking form across the globe, as had been suggested by Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist. The outlook suggests that as restrictions continue to ease, economies are predicted to boom, as industries reopen and more jobs become available.
Businesses which were hit hard by Covid-19 (such as those in the retail, entertainment and aviation industries) are now under a lot of pressure to find employees. There are talent shortages in those sectors hit the hardest by Covid-19, for example the hospitality sector has seen 1 in 10 people leave the industry over the last 18 months.
The lack of available skilled workers means that businesses (especially in the hospitality sector) are now racing against each other to acquire enough talent to return to their normal operating levels. This suggests that there will be a demand for speedier recruitment, as an average time to hire ranging from 20-40 days is too slow for businesses needing to rebuild their workforce. The recruitment industry may need to prepare to meet the demand for much faster hiring rates.
Remote recruitment is here to stay
Remote recruitment will become more important than ever as we adapt to greater candidate volumes and changing work environments. Now that recruiters and talent acquisition teams have the opportunity to find candidates living in different cities, the hiring process will need to adapt in order to reach them. To maximise this opportunity, 28% of employers said they were likely to explore remote recruitment as a permanent part of their recruitment process.
Remote recruitment allows businesses to make the most of the opportunity the recent developments in technology has presented them when it comes to finding candidates. Research also suggests that remote recruitment makes elements of the hiring process more efficient. 74% of recruiters have found that conducting video interviews has made it easier to shortlist candidates, while 84% of candidates schedule an interview within 24 hours of receiving a text invite.
The rise of automation
Covid-19 has accelerated the digitalisation of the workspace. Satya Nadell (CEO of Microsoft) has said that "we've seen two years' worth of digital transformation in two months" when talking about the impact of Covid-19 on the workspace.
Any previous resistance to these technologies has been swept away by this unprecedented situation. Companies have had to rely on technology in order to continue operating, while employees have needed technology to effectively carry out their day to day work. Initial scepticism has receded, creating space for companies to adopt even more innovative technology to continuously streamline their daily processes.
Businesses are increasingly integrating automation into their hiring workflows to help their teams process more candidate data more efficiently.
The past 18 months have changed the way recruitment teams function and the nature of the challenges they face. As we emerge from lockdowns across the globe the businesses that implement tools to streamline their processes will be best placed to thrive in this new environment.
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