As 2021 draws to a close, we find ourselves in the midst of a candidate-driven recruitment market. For the first time in a generation, it’s the candidates that hold the power over the employer. As countries make a stuttering recovery from the pandemic, the current landscape isn’t likely to change any time soon. And the way we work won’t become any more formal for some time to come.
Maintaining agility has been a key challenge across all business departments throughout the pandemic - forecasting the future in order to prepare for change has been especially difficult recently. For example, we’re already hearing talk of the government’s Plan B standing ready in response to rising Covid cases: business leaders must prepare for more potential disruption as we head into the winter and beyond.
There’s no doubt that talent acquisition has seen incredible volatility. The global workforce has gone from being laid off to quitting their jobs, ready to make moves in a candidate’s market in the space of just 18 months. So, as every industry is desperately trying to hold on to its talent, when it comes to preparing for the future, we must start by learning lessons from the past.
The number of applications may decline (but the quality may go up)
Prior to the pandemic, it was not uncommon for candidates to adopt a scattergun approach to job hunting, sending out as many applications as possible in the hopes of getting employment. 2022 will see a shift amongst candidates to a more targeted and selective approach to job applications. Employers can expect to see a decline in the number of applications because of this. Growing numbers of candidates will make the time to define what they are looking for and then look for jobs that match up, as they know in the current market they stand a good chance of being successful.
Candidates know what they want: we’ve spent the last 18 months in self-reflection, and so many are looking for different things from their careers as a result. Whether that be work/life balance, hybrid working, meaningful work, less stress or more money - the list goes on! The power rests with the employees to seize the day and get what they want. Those considering a move are first going back to their employers to make those demands – more money or more time off perhaps. As a result, employers are going to need to listen or risk more turnover in the coming months.
As both candidates and current employees are becoming more selective, employers really need to put their best foot forward when it comes to employer branding and candidate experience. Employers need to make their workplace desirable by promoting what makes you unique and the elements which will appeal to your target candidates. They also need to look into “quick apply” options to make the candidate experience as easy as possible. This will help to counteract the reluctancy candidates may have around applying for a job with you.
Bolder EVPs: flexibility is king
In 2022, the approach to Employee Value Propositions will have to adapt in ways we’ve never seen before. It’s important to remember that not every culture is right for every candidate, and therefore you cannot speak to everyone all at once. All people are different and have different motivations for work just like companies differ. Employers need to consider who their ideal candidates are and how to appeal to them, looking internally at what makes you unique.
No one wants to go into the office five days a week anymore, so you can’t rely on the classic perks and benefits. 2022 will be more about flexible working and making these policies clearly defined for both current and prospective employees. It’s no longer a novelty perk - bold and specific EVPs which outline a culture of hybridity allowing employees to truly work from anywhere can be a powerful differentiator for candidates. Creating a culture of mobility built on choice and trust can make a company more attractive to candidates.
This means taking a deep dive into your company culture and truly understanding who you are as an employer but also who you want to be in 2022. This way you can adapt strategies and tailor your messaging to talk to specific candidates and reach them on the platforms where they spend time. Saying you’re a great place to work is no longer enough and neither is waiting for applications to come to you. You need to be specific to entice the right candidates and also exclude the wrong ones.
Strategic tech: Recruitment MarTech will consolidate
In the same way that marketing technologies and companies have consolidated, we expect recruitment marketing to follow suit. Many recruitment marketing products currently have key features missing. There are so many tools available for every facet of recruitment marketing which means consumers are overloaded with choice. So many companies cannot support themselves. We see a rising trend of these tools being consolidated with large scale Applicant Tracking Systems buying out smaller products and companies. This is an easy way for them to acquire the features that are missing from their current systems.
This could be a great step forward for recruitment marketing, encouraging the same data analytics and experimentation as consumer marketing. However, recruitment marketing experts need to think strategically rather than looking for an easy all-in-one solution. They must first define the strategic objectives of their tech stack and optimize it to achieve results that will lead to data-driven recruitment marketing solutions.
Fluctuating Recruitment: Informing supply and demand with data insights
Naturally, after a year of sweeping recruitment freezes, hiring activity has skyrocketed recently. In August, a record-smashing 4.3 million people quit their jobs in the US alone. But we can’t blindly rely on this continuing into 2022 - expect it to calm in some areas, for example entry-level roles, whilst continuing to be on fire in others. Hiring managers will need to analyze the roles available and look at both supply and demand to identify where this is loosening up.
We’ve seen salaries skyrocketing to compete for the best talent, so, where demand is lower, you can re-adjust salaries. This responsive agility will require data to inform hiring managers and allow them to assess availability.
Candidates certainly hold the power right now, but businesses should also be prepared for the ‘boomerang employees’ as a direct result of this trend. In the wake of The Great Resignation, some of the workforce may realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The market is still volatile and sudden changes can cause candidates to rethink. As employers react to the demands of the candidate’s market and make the necessary changes for 2022, the dust will begin to settle in the recruitment market. Previous employees may find the concerns which caused them to leave are addressed in their old role, or fresh ones arise in their new role, and give their ex-employer another go.
As EVPs are defined, and strategies outlined, the post-pandemic honeymoon period may begin to wane - a readiness to rehire could be crucial in 2022.
We’ve navigated a winding path to recovery in 2021, with talent acquisition taking much of the impact of post-pandemic business. Our learnings from this must inform how and what we prepare for in 2022: processes need to adapt and businesses need to be agile to cope with what’s to come. Expect the unexpected every step of the way. If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s to expect more surprises. In 2022 we must plan to replan.
Neil Purcell, CEO and Founder, Talent Works (opens in new tab)