The pandemic has done more than just require companies to move online. From February to April 2020, the number of employed workers fell by 24.7 million people, and some experts estimate that over 50 million jobs are at risk of being lost. While many people are hopeful that they will get their jobs back, many analysts aren’t sure how the job market will bounce back. The recession has hit women, especially hispanic women, young adults, and workers without any college education the hardest.
Reason #1: Talented people increasingly want remote technology jobs that can’t be automated.
A quiet revolution has been taking place in the American workplace. While boomers feared automation and robots decades ago, the day-to-day work has incorporated intelligent machines into every aspect of life. While only 5% of jobs can be completely automated, within 60% of jobs, 30% of the work done can be automated. However, job loss due to automation has not been even across the landscape of industries, affecting rural and distressed communities the most. One study found that in five states, at least 25% of the workforce had applied for unemployment benefits in March or April 2020. Talented people are realizing that technological skills are more important than ever and are looking for companies that are shifting their organizational structures to be more agile and cross-functional. This will require companies to be better equipped when it comes to retraining, reallocation of people, and contracting.
“As work and organizations have become more fluid — and business strategy is no longer about planning years out but about sensing and seizing new opportunities and adapting to a constantly changing environment — companies must deploy talent in new ways to remain competitive.”
Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey in Talent Wins: the new playbook for putting people first (2018).
By definition, talented employees are looking for employers who are adapting to the environment by engaging their employees well, developing new and existing talent, tracking and managing performance. If you’re not re-thinking the way that you do all of these things, you could miss out on that talent.
Reason #2: Job seekers care more about mental health issues.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency built to protect the health of people in the U.S., starts generating marketing and outreach campaigns about COVID-19 and mental health, you should probably notice. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees. A poll from April 2020 found that ~45% of people in the U.S. have struggled with mental health issues related to the pandemic. Common threads among these issues are anxiety from isolation and job loss.
In the turmoil around the economy and the coronavirus itself, society should be mindful of its collective resilience. The anxiety, stress, financial strife, grief, and general uncertainty of this time will undoubtedly lead to behavioral health crises.
With more people working from home, people looking for jobs are increasingly expecting their potential employers to show concern for their mental health. The severity of these concerns vary by age, job, income, and other socioeconomic factors. You don’t need to be an expert in psychology to guess that a black swan event such as a pandemic is going to affect our collective psyche for decades to come, although extensive research into this topic is available. Mental health issues are here to stay, so if you want to keep the talent you have thriving and attract new talent, you need to be thinking about it.
Reason #3: Job seekers care about their potential employer’s return to work program.
While more people are looking for jobs, talented people are still being hired and they increasingly are vetting their potential employers. For a lot of people, crisis is an opportunity or a forcing function to make people more introspective about their purpose. In order to find a new job that is a good fit, job seekers need to consider who they are and how their work aligns with their own values. One survey estimates that 71% of risk assessment teams are concerned about lawsuits with employees when they reopen, surveys support the idea that a lack of workplace safety measures are now being viewed as a dealbreaker. They need to be protected so that they can be productive. One recent survey found that 51% of workers are worried about getting sick at work and would not want to return for that reason.
Specifically, they are looking for comprehensive return to work plans that include personal protective equipment (e.g. masks), mandatory testing, contact tracing, hygiene practices, clear response protocols, and reconfigured work layouts. The CDC’s recommendations can give you a baseline for developing this plan, but they don’t go as far as making specific recommendations on implementation or logistics. Fortunately, there are reliable experts you can contact to help you get started.