As COVID-19 continues to affect the nation and the world, small businesses are now making extreme changes to survive the extraordinary challenges the pandemic has wrought.
While new technologies and thoughts on workplace culture had already started to change the way we work before COVID-19, the pandemic continues to accelerate these changes at an unprecedented pace.
For organizations able to stay afloat, CDC-recommended social distancing measures have made remote work the new norm. Managing workloads, increasing or decreasing headcount, and maintaining productivity have also become a remote process for many. And nearly every aspect of small business hiring—from sourcing to interviewing and onboarding—has been impacted.
What’s different about small business hiring now that COVID-19 is here?
Focus is shifting from filling roles to seeking out skills
Before COVID-19, business leaders often viewed a college degree as a “proxy” for hard and soft skills, effectively shrinking the pool of viable candidates and increasing payroll expenses. Candidates filled positions that fit degree and experience requirements, and once hired, they were viewed by their roles rather than as “people with skills.”
As small businesses struggle to maintain productivity and reduce expenses, role titles and definitions are becoming increasingly less relevant. Instead, successful companies are shifting to a competency-based hiring approach needed to deliver performance and build a strong, post-pandemic workforce.
Roles are becoming increasingly more flexible
COVID-19 marks the turning point for how employers holistically think about their workforce and embrace the benefits of having more flexible, effective, and productive remote teams.
There are long-term and persistent benefits of having a more flexible workforce. Flexible jobs help diversify teams by keeping parents—especially women—in leadership roles. Shifting to a more flexible workforce can also help companies save money by only paying people for the work needed at the moment during these turbulent times and beyond.
Increased sourcing from the freelance gig economy
Out of necessity, many companies are putting permanent roles on pause and filling interim roles instead.
A recent survey found that nearly half of U.S. hiring managers (47%) are more likely to hire independent professionals in the future than before the impact of COVID-19, and 73% of hiring managers are continuing or increasing their use of independent professionals.
As small businesses embrace the gig economy, owners and managers are sourcing and hiring freelancers from gig sites like Moonlighting to take on specific scopes of work in specified timeframes.
Outsourcing pressing, short-term projects eases the stress and workload of current staff while also providing more flexibility and agility to budgeting. Sourcing from the gig economy is also allowing small business owners to scale up or down quickly without the overhead and increased time-to-hire that comes with hiring permanent, full-time employees.
Employee rights and safety have become the focus of hiring marketing language
From the candidate perspective, Monster found that the vast majority (90%) feel it’s essential for their current and future companies to have health and safety guidelines and return to work strategies. Yet, only 40% of employers have such measures in place.
Job seekers recognize that when organizations put safety protocols in place, they’re putting employees first.
To hire best-in-class employees, employers are adding language to all job descriptions explaining what safety protocols are in place. They are communicating safety protocols in all employer branding, including social media and hiring pages on their company’s website. Businesses are also sharing (and showing, if possible) COVID-19 safety protocols during all phases of the interview process.
The face-to-face interview has moved online
While initial phone screenings remain the same, the handshake and face-to-face interview have been replaced by online video interviews.
This shift not only makes it possible to speed up time-to-hire, but it also improves the candidate experience, boosts the employer’s brand, and can be highly interactive. Employers and candidates can assess gestures, expressions, engagement, and body language as easily online as in-person.
Onboarding and training remotely
Once a candidate accepts an offer, many small businesses are pivoting to virtual onboarding and training. The challenge is how to give candidates a real feel for the job and company culture.
Progressive businesses offer a virtual tour of the space new employees will eventually be working in and have them talk to teams that are not part of their group to get a feel for other people in the office.
Will this spark long-term changes?
How people work and hire changed overnight, and the new processes are likely to become permanent. In the past, studies found 44% of companies wouldn’t entertain remote working, and now it’s something almost every company needs to consider. That is a monumental shift in working, interviewing, and hiring. This shift requires a higher level of trust and understanding credentials, as well as managing personalities and relationships.
We are likely to see long-tail repercussions to the changes in behavior, and small businesses adapting now and remaining flexible to changes yet to come will flourish. As we move towards a post-pandemic world, new ways of working and new technologies will emerge, causing the small business hiring landscape to look quite different.