After a long time of business as usual, the world has turned upside down since early 2020. The COVID pandemic changed the way we live and work. In turn, this drove people - employers and employees - to rethink their careers and lives. This was combined with social movements in support of diversity, inclusion, and equity around the world. As 2021 brought less restrictions, stronger markets, and increased hiring, we’ve entered a new normal, which has been shaped by these recent events.
In our 2021 Recruitment report, we outlined trends that emerged during the disruptive 2020. Now, it’s time to explore how these trends settled and the way they are likely to influence the new business as usual we have entered. In short, we believe that 2022 will be a year of intentional business reinvention based on our recent learnings, which will also touch recruitment.
Firstly, after a period of uncertainty, confidence has started building up again in candidates, employers, and the market. When it comes to recruitment, this means employers have more vacancies while applicants are more selective in their careers. This has shifted the power to candidates, who are likely to control the market in 2022 and beyond. Employers are expected to react by making further changes to accommodate the new candidates' needs.
Secondly, many candidates have reevaluated their priorities. While each person is different, the talent’s focus has generally shifted from financial rewards to fulfillment and wellbeing. Also, it is common for applicants to look for employers who aim to make a positive difference in the world and operate in a sustainable way instead of evaluating them purely based on their balance sheets. These new priorities are expected to stay, especially in younger generations that join the workforce with a different mindset. Employers who are looking to be competitive will have to take these requirements into consideration to attract top talent.
Then, we’ve entered a period where new ways of working are being established. The office used to be the golden standard for decades in most industries and geographies. However, mass remote work showed that there are viable alternatives to it. Now, employers and candidates have their own opinion on what works best for them, which has led to the emergence of several new models, such as hybrid work. Ways of working will keep evolving in 2022 with prevalent new models being established as the new standard across the world. Savvy organisations have already started experimenting with what works best for them and their people.
Lastly, most employers have now focused on diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI). However, we still have a long way to go till people across the globe have equal opportunities. Moreover, individuality has emerged as another trend linked to DEI. Each candidate or employee is an individual with unique strengths, needs, and desires. I believe that real DEI is about understanding, celebrating, and leveraging this uniqueness. Recruitment can play a pivotal role in making this happen for a business.
Without further due, let’s look at each trend in more detail.
The growing power of candidates
In the last couple of years, we saw a dramatic shift of power from candidates to employers when it comes to recruitment. After many years of stability and growth in most advanced and many developing markets, employers went on mass downsizing exercises. In turn, many candidates found themselves out of work or at risk. As a result, confidence hit rock bottom in all involved parties.
However, this has now changed as 2021 brought a feeling of confidence. Markets reopened, employers started hiring, and candidates felt more secure. This confidence boost has allowed candidates to be more selective, specific, and intentional about their careers. For example, it is not unusual for a professional to prefer being out of work than having the wrong job. Employers have noticed this change and have started adapting to the candidate market by accommodating the talent’s needs.
On a related note, employers are having a hard time to identify, attract, and retain top talent due to a skills gap between what they need and what is on offer in the market. This means that highly skilled candidates have even more negotiating power, as there is a shortage of supply for their skills. This has led employers to put a strong emphasis on the candidate and employee experience to attract and retain this talent, which has raised the expectations of the whole workforce based on this new standard.
We believe that this trend will continue, as its root causes will only grow stronger in 2022. Assuming we’ll succeed in our fight against COVID, businesses will need to hire at a larger volume than in 2021. This will boost candidates’ confidence further and we think it’s unlikely to see talent compromising on their needs and desires. Also, the need for an increasingly digital workforce is estimated to amplify skills shortages, driving employers to strengthen their value proposition further to build and maintain a competitive workforce.
We advise businesses to keep focusing on building and maintaining a strong experience for their candidates. In this environment every detail can make a difference, from having a slick and fast recruitment process to nurturing your talent pipeline with engaging content to treating your candidates like clients.
The shift to employee wellbeing
Many of us used to take health for granted before the COVID pandemic. However, recent learnings pushed a big part of the workforce to reflect on, evaluate, and reprioritise their careers and lives. As a result, the narrative has shifted away from glorifying high salaries, pompous titles, and overworking. Instead, candidates are looking for employers who can offer a strong employee experience, including interesting work, flexibility, and work-life balance. From older generations who changed their priorities to younger talent whose values were forged in this environment, it’s hard to see this trend changing in the future. In fact, it’s something that we expect to grow further, with employee wellbeing becoming crucial for businesses. The workforce of 2022 will expect an employer who focuses on their needs and desires by allowing them to be creative, enjoy their job, and achieve professional and personal growth.
Moreover, professionals are looking for employers who can provide them with a sense of purpose. Traditionally, purpose-driven individuals were building their careers in the third sector. Nowadays, many candidates are looking for a job that will allow them to make a positive impact on the world regardless of their industry. Even professionals in industries that were traditionally salary-focused, such as banking, are now seeking an employer who is looking to change the world while operating in an ethical manner.
Savvy businesses have already started investing in focusing on the wellbeing of their workforce. Also, many organisations have focused on ethical, transparent, and sustainable operations. This is a trend that is expected to remain strong in 2022 and we believe that concepts like employee wellbeing, ethical business, and CSR will maintain their importance in the corporate agenda. From a recruitment standpoint, we suggest building these narratives in your employer branding. Show prospective candidates you appreciate their time and effort. Make sure they understand you care about the wellbeing of your people, other stakeholders, and the community. Lastly, showcase how your work changes the world for the better.
The new ways of working
Before the pandemic remote working was considered as something for specific jobs and industries that is generally uncommon, impracticable, and unproductive. Most importantly, it was a privilege rather than a right for a worker. Working remotely during COVID changed this, as now we all know that employees can be productive outside the workplace. This is a strong argument for location independence that has disrupted traditional ways of working and led to the emergence of new models.
When discussing ways of working, it is important to consider the different parties involved. On the one hand, some employers see remote work as a concept that reduces their control over their workforces. Indeed, organisations whose culture has been built over controlling employees may face issues when their people work remotely, as it can break the foundation of their management. However, businesses who motivate their employees through reward, recognition, and a great employee experience don’t have to worry. When these organisations offer flexibility to their employees, they are likely to feel more respected and appreciated, increasing their engagement and performance.
In any case, not all employees have the same feelings around the office and remote work. In short, not one size fits all. Part of the workforce loved working remotely. They prefer not having to commute, appreciate the flexibility of working from home, and can work more productively this way. Others missed the social element of the office, struggled with the blurred lines between work and personal life when working from home, and their productivity plummeted.
Therefore, it is important to offer talent options, so that they can select what suits them best. We expect the debate around ways of working to continue in 2022, however, we will see more clarity in comparison to 2021. As a talent acquisition professional, make sure you offer options to your candidates. Speak with hiring managers about the possibility of allowing new hires to select their preferred working pattern and location. Also, make your recruitment process flexible too, letting applicants to interview from home and at the time of their preference whenever possible.
The appreciation of individuality
In theory, DEI has already gotten some traction. However, many businesses use DEI as a business case to attract talent, clients, and other stakeholders instead of focusing on its ethical aspect. As a result, while employers speak about DEI, results are not always there. On a related note, individuality is not something that has been associated with the corporate world in the past. However, this seems to change, with talent not only asking for equal opportunities, but also for a personalised experience based on their needs. Employers who offer options to talent will be best placed to win in this respect.
I suggest implementing policies that allow employees to join your business regardless of their characteristics and bring their real self to work. To make this happen, you could implement anti-bias training, make sure your recruitment and selection process is fair, and look into encouraging diverse thinking and reward performance objectively. In addition, you could cultivate and nurture an open culture that allows candidates and employees to dress and speak as they would in their personal lives.
From a recruitment perspective, it is crucial to treat each applicant with respect showcasing you appreciate their interest in your business. Be open to accept people regardless of their attire and language as long as they are skilled and motivated for the role, thank every candidate for their time and effort regardless of their performance, and offer feedback. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important for your business than your reputation.