On many fronts, 2020 has been a year of change. The COVID-19 epidemic has changed the way people work and, in turn, catalyzed conversations around the meaning of work and what kinds of jobs people pursue.
Additionally, political and societal friction has triggered much uncertainty in the economy as a whole, which inevitably impacts jobs and employment levels.
A Stanford University study released in June indicated that some 42% of the U.S. labor force worked from home. This seemingly overnight change in how companies do business has transformed many downstream processes, and we will begin to see these new ways of operating become normal in 2021.
One process that will change in 2021? Hiring.
Working from home
With work-from-home, companies across the country have to adjust hiring processes to take better advantage of digital tools. For many companies, transitioning to a work-from-home arrangement has not been easy.
Most of an organization’s creativity, ideation, and culture materialize in the small talk in the office hallway or kitchen, or lobby. Individual development and mentorship also emerge in these unscheduled moments throughout a workday too.
The change to a primarily work-from-home arrangement for many companies will inevitably affect these dynamics. Can employees knock on their manager’s door to get a question answered quickly as they could in an office? No, schedule a Zoom meeting, please.
Hiring becomes infinitely more difficult in a virtual environment, and by extension, looking for a job in 2021 will change. Job seekers will no longer have the opportunity to meet hiring teams in person, and this drastically changes an individual’s first impression. This is unavoidable.
A naturally vibrant and competent interviewer in a traditional setting could come off as rigid or contrived in a virtual setting. Candidates will have to practice video interviewing skills in a way they would never have before 2020.
New factors will also come into play for job seekers in 2021. What room in their home is most aesthetic for an interview? What does my video background say about me and my priorities?
Is my WIFI connection strong enough to handle a video interview? What do I do if my children run into the room while I’m in the middle of an interview? What happens if there are tech issues during the call?
How well do I work with technology that enables me to integrate into a remote workplace? Can I familiarize myself with time tracking tools, online cloud storage software, and other necessary technical infrastructures?
Job seekers will need to plan their interviews differently and more thoroughly in 2021.
For job seekers looking for work in sectors that require in-person attendance, other headwinds are in place. At least through the first two quarters of 2021, the COVID-19 virus will impact how people work in close quarters.
This raises questions around who can perform these jobs and whether sectors like services and hospitality can a) find enough talent to fill open roles and b) generate the business to sustain hiring. The classic chicken or the egg problem.
On the hiring side, in 2021, companies will start to focus on the candidate experience – to levels not seen before 2020. Where companies could lean on office perks and other benefits of in-person camaraderie, companies in 2021 will need to look at their onboarding and employee support programs.
Ensuring staff members have the resources to be successful in this new work environment while also feeling supported to pursue whatever avenue necessary to stay both professionally and personally happy and healthy will be important.
Job seekers will also consider more factors around health and safety precautions when vetting out job opportunities. COVID-19 has forced organizations to dive into safety planning like never before.
Job seekers, especially those with families or underlying health conditions, will ask more questions around what organizations did to protect their employees throughout 2020 and make their decisions accordingly.
No geographic limitations
A positive for job seekers and hiring organizations, as a result of increasing demand for remote workers, is the breakdown of geographical limitations – essentially, the opening up of the job market to anyone across the entire country and world even.
Traditionally, companies have shied away from hiring employees too far outside a certain radius from their company offices for obvious logistical reasons. However, job seekers have usually chosen to pursue jobs and positions within a certain radius of their homes. Who would sit in hours and hours of traffic commuting to work given a choice?
Prior to COVID-19, geo-filtering of job openings meant a limitation of job opportunities for a large portion of the workforce and a restriction on the kind of organizations individuals could work for based on their living arrangements.
2021 could signal a shift in priorities for thousands of workers – from the cost of living and salary considerations to maximizing career potential instead.
Work-from-home means organizations can fill their candidate pipelines with talent from all over the country, as digital communication tools such as Zoom and Teams will take the place of the traditional conference room.
Everything from interviewing candidates to hiring to onboarding will change in 2021 as companies learn to master the utilization of these digital tools.
We could also see human resource departments incorporate creativity and interactive elements to virtual interviews, all to separate themselves as employers of choice and drive an improved experience for the job seeker.
For companies, work-from-home means the opportunity to access a level of talent previously unavailable to them. For individuals, the pool of available jobs is wide open, and the chance to indelibly change the trajectory of their careers has never been greater.
For those skilled and courageous enough to pursue opportunities outside of their traditional networks, remote work arrangements mean the chance to work for a company that could previously have only been a pipedream.
Job searching in 2021 will change, driven by the fact that the world has changed. Jobs that society used to think were important may not be anymore. And jobs that were previously seen as less valuable could skyrocket in value. Think backend logistics and order fulfillment for e-commerce retailers as an example.
One actionable tip for a job seeker in 2021? Pay attention to job descriptions, and understand the key performance indicators (KPI) of the job. The virtual environment has changed management in many ways, but one way has been increased attention to metricized performance.
Let’s face it, managers cannot rely on in-person interactions anymore to gauge qualitative aspects of a team member’s daily work, so they will lean more heavily on KPIs to determine how staff members are doing.
Job seekers should invest the time and energy to understand the job metrics they are pursuing and understand that they will be held to those performance indicators more than ever before.