Recruiters Reveal Top Talent Acquisition Predictions for 2020

Kiss 2019 goodbye—we’re heading into 2020! Over the last year, let alone the last decade, recruiters have had to deal with unusually low unemployment, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, and a candidate-driven market that’s thrown old practices to the wind, resulting in creative strategies to secure top talent.


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What does 2020 have in store for recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals? Three experts from talent acquisition firm WinterWyman, part of The Planet Group, share their predictions, below, for recruiting talent in the new year. And, Nina Cofer, Product Marketing Manager at Breezy HR, shares three technology predictions talent acquisition pros should be aware of as well.

Candidates Are Searching for a Better Quality of Life

As technology continues to make work easier for everyone, it also brings about the rise in remote work. And throughout the last few years, more employers have started to see the importance of remote work in recruiting new talent and retaining current workers. Remote work offers employees the flexibility they desire, but will this trend continue?

“Candidates increasingly are placing an emphasis on quality of life when choosing an employer,” says Ben Hicks, Partner and Managing Director of the Software Technology group at WinterWyman. “The desire for work from home options, flexible hours, and improved commuting are even more prevalent than in previous years.”

“It’s the first question candidates are asking about. In this candidate-driven market, candidates are switching jobs in order to improve their quality of life, not because they need a new job, so employers will need to prioritize skills and talent over physical location,” he suggests.

“As part of this, and particularly in urban areas, employees are heavily emphasizing commute times,” says Melissa Masse, Partner and Senior Managing Director of WinterWyman’s Technology practice. “Traffic and public transportation challenges are top of mind—and in the current market, job seekers don’t have to settle.”

“Instead, they’re using their commute as a bargaining chip to push for a more flexible schedule,” Masse says. “Whether that’s working from home part-time or full-time or working off hours to avoid traffic, candidates are making the ask, and companies are becoming more willing to accommodate in order to win and retain talent.”

If your location is hindering jobseekers from applying to your company, consider offering flexible working arrangements to lure them in. As technology continues to improve, WinterWyman’s experts also predict that offering such benefits will help you win the war for talent in the years ahead.

The Impending Economic Downturn Will Bring a Rise in Contract Roles

Over the summer, recession talks heated up after economists speculated that the next economic downturn could be coming in the not-so-distant future. During the Great Recession of 2008, many workers across the country were laid off and forced to take on new jobs that were well below their pay grade. If/when the next recession happens, will this finally bring about the end of the candidate-driven market?

“When the economy starts to change—and most experts seem to expect at least a mild downturn sometime in 2020—we’ll likely see a spike in contract roles and a decrease in permanent roles,” predicts Stu Coleman, Partner and Senior Managing Director of WinterWyman’s Finance and Administrative divisions. “It’s easier to justify a number of temporary contractors to boards at the same financial output than a handful of permanent new hires that have benefits and might require severance.”

“During uncertain times, contract workers provide the opportunity for employers to assess an employee’s skills and fit before committing to a full-time arrangement that includes benefits and other expenses. Employers also want to ensure their financials are in place before hiring full-time employees, so contract workers give them the ability to maintain productivity while managing and considering these other factors,” Coleman adds.

While it remains to be seen what the candidate-driven market has in store, one thing is certain: Gig workers are here to stay, and they may have the upper hand in securing new roles over permanent, full-time employees.

International Affairs Are Prompting Local Hiring Managers to Exercise Caution

As technology continues to increase collaboration across the globe, it also increases the risk of being impacted by other countries’ political choices and decisions.

“The world is getting smaller, and every company is part of the international, interconnected business community,” says Coleman. “Even in cases when international affairs aren’t directly linked to a certain business, there’s a potential ripple effect that could come from that business’s clients and/or customers.”

He adds, “So whether it’s related to Brexit, tariffs, or the next U.S. election, businesses are cautious about overextending themselves and hiring during uncertain times.”

In This Candidate-Driven Market, Companies Are More Willing to Hire to Train

Gone are the days of having 10 years’ experience in a specific skill; with talent needs running high, employers are starting to downplay a candidate’s experience and instead are hiring talent based on their ability to be trained on new tasks and skills. In the future, we can expect this trend to continue.

“When companies are searching for candidates, they typically have a long list of requirements. But with shrinking candidate pools, they’re not going to find many candidates who check every box, so they’re being forced to prioritize their top three must-haves across skills and industry background,” suggests Coleman.

“We’re seeing more and more companies that are willing to hire to train. They’re realizing that if they need someone to have X, they have to be willing to forego Y as long as they’re confident the candidate is teachable and can learn it after training,” he says.

“They need to think: What are the most important things we need in a candidate? If we don’t get everything on our list, what are the skills we absolutely need versus the things we can teach or live without?” Coleman adds.

It appears that 2020 will be no different when it comes to winning the war for talent, with the exception of a potential recession causing disruption. Talent acquisition professionals would be wise to continue to adopt new strategies for recruiting talent in the year ahead, but to be cautious in case we’re headed into uncertain times.

3 Recruiting Technology Predictions

As you contemplate what 2020 will have in store, be sure to factor in the role that technology will continue to play in the year ahead.

1. Operations will be fully automated. “Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the past year have had a major push on optimizing the HR space with tools and technologies such as applicant tracking software, recruiting platforms, and more,” says Nina Cofer, of Breezy HR.

With all of these integrations, I believe that hiring teams will be able to now move to a completely automated operations system. Repetitive tasks such as sifting through resumes, identifying qualified candidates, and any bias in hiring can all be reduced or eliminated with automated systems,” says Cofer.

“Hiring managers will be able to set a hiring process in motion, eliminating their interaction with the software and giving them the time back to fully interact with potential hires,” she suggests.

2. Anticipate virtual interview processes. “A really interesting process that I think will be impactful in 2020 and beyond are virtual interview processes,” suggests Cofer. “Companies will be able to use virtual representation on their company to feel out what candidates would be like to work with, and how they will perform.”

“This also will give potential hires the opportunity to see a full view of what working for a company would look like,” she says. “This process could lead to more advanced processes for hiring and even integrate a gamification aspect to hiring.”

3. Increased human interaction in recruiting efforts. “With all of the AI, ML, and automation in the HR space, I believe there will be a big swing towards humanized recruiting and hiring efforts,” predicts Cofer.

“Even though there are many technologies in place to aide hiring teams, hiring managers will be able to take a step back from all of the processes work and put a bigger focus on the candidates as humans,” she says.

Cofer predicts that the time that hiring managers spend going through mundane tasks will now be spent in real human contact and they’ll now be focusing on hiring strategies instead.

It appears that 2020 will be no different when it comes to winning the war for talent, with the exception of a potential recession causing disruption. Talent acquisition professionals would be wise to continue to adopt new strategies for recruiting talent in the year ahead, but to be cautious in case we’re headed into uncertain times.

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