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Hiring Hindsight

How You Hired Last Year(and What that Says about You Now)

Covid-19 hit the workplace like a tsunami in 2020. In what felt like a matter of minutes, the pandemic had ushered in historic job losses, left companies with unfilled roles, and made work from home (WFH) the option of choice for scores of employees across the globe.

Instead of the usual practice of bringing new workers on board and replacing departing ones, employers were forced to terminate some workers and furlough others just to stay afloat. But unfortunately, those efforts proved not enough for many companies, and one in six small businesses closed their doors for good in 2020.

Fast forward to 2021, and nearly half of small to midsize (SMB) businesses say they can’t find the candidates they need to fill jobs. So, how did we get here? And more importantly, what can employers learn from the past two years of pandemic-era hiring?

In this special report, we’ll take a look back into the recent history of hiring, including some of the leading data revealing how employers recruited and hired last year, where they succeeded or failed, and how they plan to hire in the future.

Hiring in 2021: How it started vs. how it went 

a flowers growth over a year

As if the massive workforce fallout from the pandemic weren’t enough, employees started leaving their jobs in droves in 2021 in what is now known as The Great Resignation

And in this context, ‘great’ might actually be an understatement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4 million workers voluntarily left their jobs in April 2021 — and the mass exodus continues even today. 

At best, these mass resignations left employers feeling lukewarm about hiring. 

According to the latest Metlife and Chamber of Commerce survey, of the over 500 employers surveyed:

  • 67% didn’t search for, recruit or interview candidates in 2021 because of pandemic concerns and the labor shortage.
  • 55% expected the business climate to recover in six months. (Spoiler alert: It rebounded but didn’t recover.)
  • Companies with less than 20 employees were less worried about the pandemic’s effect on their business than larger companies.
  • 54% of business owners said they were doing tasks that they couldn’t find workers to perform.
  • Less than half of SMBs that were actively hiring reported having an ‘easy’ time finding skilled workers.
  • Bars, small retailers and restaurants were predicted to have the hardest time finding workers.
  • 75% of SMBs said they plan to change hiring tactics to attract talent when the pandemic passes.

Clearly, the way employers thought 2021 was going to go and the way it actually went could’ve inspired its own set of internet memes

But thankfully, it’s not all bad news.

Why 2022 might be better 🤞🏻

the year 2022 with plant growth off of it

The Census Bureau’s 2021 Small Business Pulse Survey found that while the economic bounce-back didn’t quite happen like most employers had hoped, many SMBs got a solid boost in sales from Small Business Saturday on Nov. 27 — a substantial 18% increase from 2020’s record.

And with a new round of vaccinations and tried-and-tested WFH policies in place, many growing businesses are starting to feel more optimistic about hiring. 

In fact, more than half said they planned to fill jobs across all categories in 2021, using both recruiters and digital sourcing.

These grass shoots of renewed optimism ushered in a few interesting trends. 

#1. A thawing hiring freeze 

The pandemic brought on a hiring freeze in 2020, but the economy’s partial recovery in 2021 was an incentive for more than half of SMBs to start hiring again. While a third remained hesitant about restarting their recruitment plans, many are thinking about ways to revamp these processes to adjust their hiring strategies to meet the demands of a changing workforce.

#2. A much-needed revenue hike

Most SMBs (63%) said they expected more revenue in 2021 and therefore were more likely to hire than those who said they would in 2020.

#3. Marketing, IT and operations top the list

Among SMBs who planned to hire in 2021, the industries targeted were marketing and sales (31%), IT (35%), operations (23%), production (21%) and customer service (29%).

#4. Staffing resources varied

Social media sites, like LinkedIn, had the lion’s share of recruiting resources, followed by HR personnel. As companies adjust their recruitment and hiring practices, these resources could vary even more.

#5. One hire at a time

Cautious optimism was the name of the hiring game in 2021, with a third of SMBs who planned to hire saying they would bring in fewer than 11 employees throughout the year. The majority of companies said they wouldn’t hire more than 20 people.

So, what does this mean for your company?

a man hiding behind a chair

Did you hire people last year or wait on the sidelines for the economy and job market to improve? 

If you took a chance on hiring but came up short, don’t feel bad. 

The majority of SMBs — about 63% according to Score’s 2021 Small Business Jobs Report — identified their biggest challenge last year as finding the right talent.

In essence, the report confirmed what we’re all feeling. Here’s how one entrepreneur in the survey put it:

"The most common problem is staffing. People everywhere tell us they can't get people to come back to work and can't find help anywhere. There are job signs posted, but many coffee shops and restaurants are forced to shut down several days a week due to staffing shortages."

Sounds familiar, right? 

When asked what made hiring so difficult, the employers surveyed in the report named being unable to offer the level of salaries and wages needed to compete for talent as the top challenge. The difficulty in finding qualified applicants came in a close second, followed by a low number of applications.

This is how Betsy Dougert, Score’s Vice President of External Relations, summed it up: 

"Workers are leaving their jobs in record numbers due to lack of child care, low wages, fear of COVID-19, long commutes, and changing values and priorities. Those who stay are demanding higher wages and better benefits. Small businesses are struggling to meet this demand.”

The good news? Employers may benefit from an economic uptick in 2022 that could help put them in a position to meet the rising expectations of today’s workers. 

The Conference Board, a global group of business and thought leaders, predicted a moderate 3.5% growth in the economy in 2022 and a 2.9% increase in 2023.

If the economy grows as predicted, many employers may be in a position to have a  more active hiring strategy in the new year.

The future of hiring is now

an eye in a crystal ball

Of course, we can’t talk about 2021 without also talking about 2020. When looking to the future of hiring, it’s important to also take a good hard look at how we got here. 

In October 2020, LinkedIn predicted six core recruiting and hiring transitions for the future. The social media giant based their predictions on a survey of 1,500 talent professionals combined with data from its own platform, and in-depth interviews with global talent leaders.

Here are the top trends they revealed:

  1. Companies will hire fewer people on smaller budgets, while focusing more time and money on learning and development (L&D) to grow talent internally.
  2. Businesses will have a greater commitment to and accountability for DEI than they did before.
  3. Virtual recruiting will last beyond COVID-19 and become a standard practice. 
  4. Recruiters will head up the transition to remote work, acting as advisers on workplace planning.
  5. Empathy and action will shape an employer’s brand, as workers look to align with companies that take a stand on social and political issues. 
  6. Recruiters will build skills that are aligned with their companies’ objectives. 

When we line this up with the latest data from 2021, it seems that most of these predictions were right on the money. And many of these trends will likely continue well into 2022.

The only question then is, what are employers going to do about it?

How can employers stay ready?

a man in a cannon getting ready to fire

Rocky hiring waters over the past two years have left employers feeling more than a little seasick. Worker shortages, a (seemingly endless) pandemic, and an uncertain economy will shape the future of hiring. That much is clear.

But for employers who are ready to get off the sidelines and get back into the hiring game stronger than ever, there are plenty of tangible ways to make this year better than the last.

Here are a few practical tips to help you elevate your hiring strategy in 2022:

  • Consider applicants who may not have all the skills you want but are willing to be trained. 
  • Think about hiring current employees to fill new positions, since they’re already familiar with your company and may want a new career challenge.
  • Consider offering candidates low-cost benefits like flexible work schedules, one-time bonuses or even employee discounts, if pay increases aren’t an option.
  • If diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are your goals (and they should be), expand the talent pool you normally use by tapping into job sites, organizations, and communities that are connected to the people you want to hire. 

No matter how your company hired in 2021, there are strategies you can adopt now to make next year even better. And when you’re ready to revamp your recruitment and hiring processes, Breezy is here to help. 

From advertising jobs to making offers, Breezy is the applicant tracking system that helps you attract and hire better employees, in less time. You can instantly post your open roles on all the top job sites to fill your pipeline with awesome applicants and help get your hiring strategy back on track.

As a community, employers have been through a heckuva lot these past two years. So no matter how you position your company to win with hiring, just remember — you got this.

Are you ready?

Better processes. Better hires.

Try Breezy free for 14 days and create a recruitment process that works.

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