The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things, including the job market. While employers need skilled workers as they did before the pandemic, workers’ expectations and behaviors aren’t following the same patterns they once did.
“This is a different candidate than we had in January 2020,” says Melissa Thompson, global head of talent acquisition at Ford Motor Co. Job-seekers and candidates have different expectations. Employers who attune themselves to those expectations stand a better chance of finding the workers and skills they need to perform well post-pandemic.
What Do Candidates Expect?
The pandemic forced many workers to reevaluate what really matters to them. Whether workers spent the spring of 2020 engaged in essential jobs or sitting at home, most felt the pressure to rethink their situation — and most responded by doing just that.
The result is a new set of expectations from job-seekers, candidates, and workers alike. “Companies are experiencing a new kind of worker revolution where candidates and employees feel empowered to choose a job where they feel supported and valued,” says Kerry Gilliam, vice president of marketing at Jobvite.
What does a job that supports and values its workers look like? Gilliam suggests that several factors are at play, including:
- Diversity and inclusion: Employees want workplaces where they feel valued for who they are and they see that their co-workers are valued as well. Job-seekers have even begun inquiring into a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies before deciding whether or not to apply.
- Benefits that align with candidates’ lives and goals. Healthcare and retirement remain important benefits for most workers. Flexible schedules and paid parental leave are rising in importance, while signing bonuses are less interesting.
- Remote work options. Most companies are willing to offer some kind of hybrid work arrangement, but the lack of flexible remote work options can drive away workers — especially top talent who have discovered that remote work means they can do their jobs well and be present for their families, too.
Understanding shifts in employee expectations is a must for employers who want to hire skilled candidates and reduce turnover.
How to Adapt to a Worker-Focused Job Market
The first step in adapting to new candidate expectations is to listen to job-seekers and candidates with the intent of understanding how their perspective has shifted. “When you listen to understand, you can let go of your priorities and begin to empathize with the person you’re talking with,” says Tracey Parsons, head of Parsons Strategic Consulting.
Discussing expectations with applicants and candidates is a first step, but it is also possible to listen in other ways.
Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, for example, allow human resources leaders and hiring managers to “listen” to patterns in large data sets. By examining the patterns AI reveals and the predictions it makes, HR teams can better understand candidates’ behaviors, offer career mapping, and provide a clearer view of how the candidate can expand their skills and grow with the organization. These insights help lay the groundwork for inclusion and long-term skill and career growth, which candidates increasingly desire from their employers.
Employer and candidate perspectives on the hiring process have diverged. Yet the tools exist to identify where the points of divergence lie and to address them in ways that build a long-term relationship between top talent and the companies that need their skills.
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