What Challenges Has the Pandemic Caused And What Is the Impact On Hiring in 2021?

Towards the end of 2019, many of us were consuming blogs around the hiring and recruitment trends predicted for 2020, figuring out how they were going to affect our markets and activities. It is safe to say that none of those blogs predicted what 2020 had in store for the world, and the impact it was going to have on our industry. challenges 2020

After a tumultuous year, I reached out to business owners from a range of industries to get a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses, and on their hiring strategies as we head into 2021.

The Challenges

The pandemic will likely be remembered by business leaders as one of the toughest times they have ever had to lead through. From dealing with major infrastructure changes to accommodating remote working, to managing an entire workforce remotely, most won’t forget the impact of COVID-19. For many, too, there were industry specific challenges when it came to staffing. The CEOs we spoke to have certainly faced some interesting challenges over the past months.

Bronte Clifford, CEO of the Ohio School of Phlebotomy, faced the challenge of hiring teachers into an environment where teachers and students were not only in proximity; they were also drawing blood from one another. How have they had to adapt to overcome this? “We are starting to prepare some online content in case there is another shutdown, but you cannot learn to draw blood from an online class.” Bronte went on to explain that to keep their facilities open, they’re now using half the capacity to enable social distancing – but this means they need twice the number of instructors to accommodate the number of students. The result? “We are always hiring instructors.”

Similarly, Dyna Jones, Founder/Project Director at BLISS Senior Care Foundation and President/CEO of First Promise Care Services LLC faced challenges in being able to deliver their offering of “[teaching] people who are looking to help people how to give quality care.” To keep their students safe, they’re now operating smaller classes, with mannequins for the students to practice on.

Other challenges came in the form of the adaptations that had to be made to stay compliant with the rules around distancing. Mimi Lively, CEO of ZRG Medical, explained how they’d adapted by moving one half of the team to working from home, and the other half working on-site. Despite choices being dictated by the fact that 50% of the workforce were unable to work from home due to the nature of their roles, this has still caused resentment within the team. “They don’t feel it is fair, and wonder if the WFH employees are pulling their weight.” This is not an uncommon challenge, and the impetus is certainly on the employers to ensure that they are implementing strategies that not only enable them to monitor the productivity of their WFH workforce and make changes accordingly, but to also motivate and incentivize those still on-site and those in key worker positions.

We also spoke to Jenelle Syverson, Owner at The Choke Cherry Tree. They lost three members of staff over the course of the pandemic, in instances where plans to retire or relocate were accelerated. This sudden hemorrhaging of staff has been commonplace around the globe, where plans to move closer to family or make a career change have been expedited by the pandemic.

And Amanda Bowie, Franchisee of The Salt Suite also experienced loss of staff. “Pre-COVID I had 4 employees including me. I closed for a month due to COVID. I received [loans via the] Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and opened back up with 2 employees. I wasn’t making enough after the PPP ran out, so I went down to 1 employee plus me.”

Impact on Hiring in 2021

Recruitment is an industry that is ever-changing, and it’s looking like many of the changes made in 2020 are here to stay. So, what will the impact of the challenges above be in 2021? We touched on remote work above, but many business owners saw this shift as either inevitable, an opportunity – or both.

Danny Kattan, Managing Director of PIA Residential told us that his business had gone mostly remote before COVID-19. Why? To give them better access to worldwide talent, with the bonus of being more cost-effective. Explaining that it was a case of “quality over presence,” he went on to declare that offering remote working is an obligation as the world opens up; there may have been disruption in the past few months, but the “technology already existed to work remotely.” This potential Future of Work, one that is remote and flexible, presents great opportunities for companies that perhaps, historically, have been limited when it comes to top talent because of where they are based geographically.

Sofi Hersher, Managing Director at Ignite: Action also spoke candidly about the future of their company. Following substantial growth in the past year, from 5 to 11 employees, they always planned for an office-based culture – “creative collaboration with everyone in the room.” When COVID hit, they had to reevaluate and, in Sofi’s words, “pressure makes diamonds.” They turned their focus to “the right people, rather than the geography of people. [And] it has raised questions for us around the Cost of Labor vs Cost of Living,” as well as questions around time zones. This is an interesting concept; remote hiring means that companies need to have a far broader knowledge of the cost of living globally to be able to make job offers competitively and keep their teams motivated and incentivized.

And for some, there is opportunity. Cathy Miron, President & CEO of Esilo, explained that due to the increased security risks associated with remote work, their offering of security assessments and helping clients properly set-up safe and secure remote access has become more in-demand. And, in terms of their own operations working remotely? “It’s not more complicated than being in offices – just different.”

With many voicing similar opinions on remote work, Kelly Del Fuoco Mota, Co-Founder & COO of Pembroke and Co feels differently. “We expect to see companies go back to their offices in 2021-22. You can’t innovate at home – you have to be in the office to grow. Business owners need to think long-term.”

From speaking to these inspiring business leaders, it’s clear to see that companies have proven that they can adapt quickly to unprecedented circumstances. And it is a hopeful picture, showing that despite the challenges of the past 12 months, businesses are adjusting to a new way of working and the processes that come with that; new tools, procedures and processes that are enabling them to continue to operate and grow safely.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above, or your experiences of the challenges and predictions of the longer-term impact in terms of hiring! Please feel free to share them with me, either on LinkedIn or in the comments.

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all of the business leaders that offered their time to speak to me and provide the quotes and information for the above article.