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The pandemic and the hiring industry

the hiring industry

Six months into the pandemic, it seems obvious – to me, at least – that the hiring industry (including job boards) is not going to go up in a puff of smoke. It felt like that was a distinct possibility during the first shock of lockdown, with tens of millions out of work, the economy in free fall, and what can only be called a uncoordinated response throughout the globe. Luckily, we’re past that now.

However…it is also clear that changes are occurring, many of which I suspect we still don’t quite understand or even see. First, whether employers want it or not, remote working is here to stay. I think in some areas it will diminish after a vaccine is widely distributed, making working in physical proximity a possibility again. For other areas, it may have consigned ‘office work’ to the dustbin. For example, during my recent (unwanted) interactions with my phone company, it turned out that all support staff I talked to was working from home. Given the margins in the phone biz, I’m betting that the company decides they’d rather save the money and keep those people at home, instead of paying for an office.

It’s also clear that many jobs simply don’t work as ‘remote’ – your dentist will continue to need to stick her hand in your mouth, for example. But many jobs are falling into a gray area – yes, they can be done remotely, but it isn’t optimal. Think about school for children ages 5 to 10, for example; they can certainly be asked to sit in front of their computers (if they have one) and do lessons, but is this really the best for those children? A key part of early learning is interaction with the physical world – something that is difficult for teachers to replicate using a remote model.

Then there are the millions of workers who don’t have a spare room, a computer, and a reliable internet connection. For them, the work world just got much smaller. Until the vaccine comes, they can stay unemployed – or risk their lives to work in jobs that require contact with others, for employers who may or may not provide adequate PPE.

So there is still much work to be done in the hiring industry – and a need for employers to hire. But the cards in the process have been shuffled – and that affects the intermediaries, i.e., the job boards and recruiting firms. How do you fit workers from a dramatically changed industry such as hospitality into a different industry that really needs them? How do you help employers disclose what they are doing to provide a safe work space – legally and ethically? And how do you get your own business back to a growth trajectory when there are still millions of people out of work, and thousands of businesses closing?

I don’t have the answers for the hiring industry but I do have a suggestion: now is an excellent time to survey your candidates and employers.  Find out what is actually happening on the ground with them. For employers: are there candidates they need but can’t find? For candidates: what are the key things an employer could offer that would make them say ‘yes’?

Most of all, stay alert.  The pandemic is a medical emergency – and a political emergency – and a human emergency. That makes for a volatile situation.

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