The Future of Hiring Looks Bright in 2021

November is here, which means it’s time to start predicting what the future has in store for 2021. If you’re reluctant to make predictions, we don’t blame you! At the end of 2020, who would have thought the candidate-driven market would be replaced with record-high unemployment and that many employees would get to experience the “joys” of remote work firsthand after begging for the flexibility for years?

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Our reluctance aside, the Adecco Group’s Professional Recruitment and Solutions division was brave enough to share its expectations for 2021 based on newly released survey findings. The survey reveals how employers have coped with the COVID-19 pandemic with regard to talent management, as well as what they are thinking about current and future hiring and retention decisions, as the pandemic continues.

Key Findings from the Survey Reveal …

According to the survey, close to 70% of organizations that have furloughed or laid off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic will backfill roles that were eliminated (68%), even with hiring freezes (40%) being the most important cost-saving initiative to organizations during the pandemic to date.

Nearly 9 in 10 of those saying they will backfill roles plan to do so in less than a year (87%), and 62% plan to do so in less than 6 months. During the COVID-19 pandemic, adaptability/creativity (45%), critical thinking/problem solving (41%), and financial management (40%) have become essential skill sets for organizations to have.

In fact, as hiring decision-makers work to meet the increased need for specific skill sets, 45% of respondents indicate their organization is upskilling current employees, followed by 35% that are reskilling current employees to be redeployed to other areas of their organization.

“Even as the U.S. continues to grapple with economic fall-out and uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s encouraging to see that employers are thinking about the future and approaching talent management and acquisition in thoughtful ways,” says Laurie Chamberlin, President of the Adecco Group’s Professional Recruitment and Solutions unit in North America, in a press release announcing the findings.

“Making decisions about furloughs or lay-offs and reprioritizing what skills an organization needs to survive is not easy,” Chamberlin adds. “This survey made it clear to us that despite those tough decisions, employers are putting their best foot forward and remain optimistic about their future talent pipelines.”

Let the Predictions Begin!

Looking ahead, 40% of respondents plan to expand their IT and technology departments, closely followed by customer service (36%), marketing (34%), and sales (31%). Employers remain optimistic about talent prospects, as 40% of respondents indicate the number of available candidates has increased.

However, that’s not making it any easier for candidates to land a job, as nearly half of employers (47%) indicate their rigor of hiring criteria and process has remained unchanged, and nearly a third (30%) indicate their rigor has increased during this time.

If hiring a new employee during or post-pandemic, respondents are equally split in saying that the new employee’s salary would be less (42%) than or the same (40%) as someone who was hired pre-pandemic for the same position with the same qualifications. As expected, the use of virtual screenings and interviews has increased because of the pandemic (51%).

As all types of professional industries adapted to remote working this year, the survey revealed that 37% of respondents’ organizations previously opposed flexible and/or remote work but now promote it. That change in attitude is helping them plan for the future with more flexible work options for employees.

In fact, for those who are making hiring decisions for their organization, the most important benefits of hiring a remote workforce include more satisfied employees and a more productive workforce. Despite these benefits, just under two-thirds of respondents (62%) say there are still geographical considerations when selecting a candidate, such as proximity to an office or a worksite.  

Good News for Existing Staff!

Despite ongoing uncertainty about the future, there is some positive news on the horizon for current employees. Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (79%) say it is likely their organization will offer salary raises this year. However, nearly half of those respondents indicate they’ll likely be smaller than previous increases (39%).

Furthermore, 61% of all respondents say their organizations will still offer monetary bonuses to employees this year. Even more reassuring, 54% of those respondents believe the bonuses will be higher than they were last year, compared with a quarter who believe they will be lower (25%).

With the proliferation of remote working, 38% of respondents indicate their organization has already offered employees new forms of compensation, such as stipends and reimbursement for supplies. Financial support for home technology equipment like a laptop or monitor was most popular (58%), followed by Internet (53%) and home office supplies like notebooks and pens (49%). These new forms of compensation were more common among larger companies, those with 500 employees or more.

“Over the last decade, the percentage of people working remotely has been on an upswing. By necessity, this trend accelerated during the pandemic, which accounts for the extra support employers are offering employees to help cover remote work-related costs,” says Chris Chmura, PhD, CEO and Chief Economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. “Despite the rapid adoption of remote work this year, historically, only about one third of all jobs have been classified as partially or fully remote. It will be interesting to see how long-term plans for remote working pan out.”

Leaders Beg to Differ

The survey also uncovered interesting differences among decision-makers and how they view talent management and acquisition based on the department they work in:

  • Only half of marketing respondents indicate their organization will backfill the roles eliminated during the pandemic (52%)—significantly less than any other department type surveyed.
    • Respondents who work in Human Resources are the most optimistic about backfilling the roles in less than 6 months (69%).
  • Respondents who work in accounting and finance are the most likely to believe their organization will offer bonuses this year (79%), while respondents who work in legal are the least likely to say the same (33%).
    • However, the majority of legal respondents (88%) believe their organization will instead offer salary raises this year—more than any other department type.
  • 42% of legal respondents say their organization previously opposed flexible working but now promotes it.
    • When hiring a remote worker, 77% of respondents who work in accounting and finance believe there would be geographical considerations, compared with 41% of legal respondents who are least likely to say the same.

“2020 has not been a typical year for anyone and it has shown us just how resilient professional organizations can be,” concludes Chamberlin. “In the months and years to come, companies around the world will solve problems using the lessons learned from this unique period in time.” 

The Adecco Group’s “Compensation and Workforce Trends” survey features responses from over 1,150 hiring decision-makers, managers, and above in the United States and across marketing, HR, administrative, accounting and finance, and legal departments.

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