The field of recruiting has endured a few rocky years amid deep societal changes. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way many of us think about work at a time when population growth is stalling in America, Gen Z is emerging into the workforce, massive numbers of tech professionals are being laid off, and the potential of AI – particularly ChatGPT – is unfolding. These factors have created the perfect storm for transformative change within the recruitment field. Recruiters have little choice but to develop strategies that will help them adapt to these changes.
Low Unemployment And The Shift To Global Talent
In early 2023, despite substantial job growth, the overall unemployment rate in the United States dipped to 3.4%, the lowest it had been in 54 years. Although the rate fluctuated a bit throughout 2023, it remained at just 3.7% at year-end, on par with 2022 but significantly lower than the long-term average annual rate of 5.71%.
Of course, STEM fields including tech and engineering have historically experienced lower levels of unemployment than the overall average. For the first eleven months of 2023, unemployment in architecture and engineering occupations averaged 1.5%. And, despite continuing layoffs in the tech industry throughout 2023, that sector of the economy recorded an unemployment rate of just 1.7% in November.
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for America’s talent shortage, as baby boomers continue to exit the workforce and population growth stalls. To fill open roles, employers will need to tap into the global workforce, requiring that they embrace remote work arrangements.
Despite a staggering 98% of workers preferring to work remotely at least some of the time, companies continue to dig in their heels over this issue. A 2023 global survey found that 72% of companies polled had mandated return-to-office policies.
The struggle for those involved in recruiting tech and engineering talent is clear: as it becomes ever-increasingly difficult to fill open roles, the only place to turn to is the global talent pool. But, that option is only feasible if remote work is more fully embraced by business.
Changing Worker Priorities And Expectations
As outlined above, working from home has become a strong preference for workers around the globe. But, shifting personal desires around work/life balance and significant societal changes have resulted in the realignment of overall worker priorities and expectations.
Post-pandemic, workers care deeply about not just where they work, but when they work. While working remotely in the depths of the pandemic, many people recognized how greatly their work/life balance improved when they could schedule a full day of work around personal obligations like childcare/eldercare, school drop-offs and pick-ups, health and wellbeing appointments, volunteer activities, and outdoor/physical activities. Companies that offer flexible work arrangements will have an easier time attracting and retaining top talent.
Another facet of work/life balance that crystallized during the pandemic years was the desire to participate in meaningful work and to make positive societal contributions through work.
Prior to the pandemic, it was expected that employees accept and adapt to the established culture of whichever company they worked for. Post-pandemic, workers are actively seeking out work with companies that align with their values. To attract and retain top talent, recruiters need to ensure a good cultural fit, which requires that companies have a clearly-stated and transparent company culture.
Corporate Commitment To DEI Initiatives
Widespread social justice movements marked 2020, calling for an end to racial injustice. To address concerns by investors, vendors, workers, and customers, many companies reassessed their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
A robust DEI policy is critical to attract not only those candidates who want to work for a company that values diversity but also those who fit into the hiring criteria for the policy. There is a vast talent pool of untapped and overlooked employees, including BIPOC workers, women, people with disabilities, veterans, immigrants, and those who have been previously incarcerated.
Additionally, as recruiters begin to tap into the global talent pool, a strong DEI policy will be a necessity to help diverse hires integrate into the workplace, succeed in their roles, and contribute to the overall success of the companies that they work for.
The Emergence Of Gen Z Into The Workforce
A significant generational transition is taking place in today’s workforce: baby boomers (currently ages 59-77) are retiring in droves and those within Gen Z (currently ages 11-26) are just beginning to complete their post-secondary education and filter into the labor market.
Gen Z is quite different from other generations. Recruiters and businesses will need to adjust their hiring tactics to appeal to the best and brightest of this generation. In particular, Gen Z denizens are:
- Digital natives, necessitating that companies develop and maintain a strong online presence, with attention to company culture and reputation;
- Idealistic, and most interested in working for companies that allow them to contribute positively to the world at large;
- Committed to their values above all else, including salary;
- Identity nomads, requiring that companies pay strict attention to the way that they craft job descriptions, to avoid gender-specific terminology.
Gen Zers are used to living in a volatile world where things move and change at the speed of light. They can be valuable contributors to an organization, but traditional recruitment practices will need to be adjusted to attract them.
Increasing Reliance On Contract Workers
Contract work is highly appealing to many people because it allows them to achieve their optimal work/life balance through remote and flexible work arrangements. Further, contract work provides people with the opportunity to work on projects that truly interest them and that match their skill set and expertise.
Younger generations, including millennials and Gen Zers, find contract work (often colloquially referred to as “gig work”) especially appealing because it offers greater flexibility, mobility, and self-determination than traditional employment.
As more people turn to contract work, that pool of qualified professionals will continue to grow. It’s estimated that, by 2027, there will be 86.5 million contract workers in the United States, representing 50.9% of the total workforce. While some employers have expressed reluctance in hiring contractors, worried about the strain repeated hires will put on their HR departments and questioning whether these temporary workers will become loyal to the company and invested in its success, it’s clear that, to survive, companies will have little choice.
To tap into the pool of contract workers, companies will need to adjust their recruitment processes, as well as their HR-related procedures and the way they offer support to their employees. It will be a big shift to manage and one that an established, trusted recruitment firm can help with. When a contractor is placed by a recruitment firm, that firm typically offers support with tasks such as managing payroll and benefits contributions, withholding appropriate payroll and income taxes, and providing HR-related support, easing the transition from the traditional workplace model to one that embraces the fluid, temporary nature of contract work.
Focus On Reskilling And Upskilling
One of the biggest reasons why employees leave a company is the lack of opportunities for internal mobility. Most people crave opportunities to experiment, learn, and change. And, when an employee leaves, companies typically look for an external hire, which creates a cycle of recruiting for open roles only to see that employee leave to seek more fulfilling employment.
As the labor market continues to tighten, it’s critical that companies shift their focus from recruiting new employees to creating a workplace that encourages growth and internal mobility through reskilling and upskilling. This will have an obvious impact on the recruitment industry. Savvy recruiters will proactively plan for this shift.
The Impact Of AI And ChatGPT On Recruiting
We witnessed the explosion of ChatGPT in 2023 and are just beginning to understand how artificial intelligence (AI) will affect our everyday lives.
An insightful piece at LinkedIn points out that about 62% of the work we do is language based and a large amount of that work has a high possibility of being automated through ChatGPT. For recruiters, that means rethinking, “the entire interview and selection process. Should we do away with résumés? Do we invest in skill certifications instead? How can recruiters adapt?”
Beyond the language-based tasks in recruiting that will shift to platforms like ChatGPT, AI will be able to assist with workforce planning, identifying biases, screening, and writing interview questions based on an applicant’s resume. However, it should be noted that AI is also exceptional at both writing and answering technical interview questions, which means that remote technical assessments may no longer provide an accurate overview of a candidate’s technical expertise.
There is no doubt that AI and platforms like ChatGPT are here to stay and will become increasingly prevalent. It would be wise for recruiters to begin learning how to use and incorporate this technology in their own jobs, leveraging its potential and gaining an early understanding of how the recruitment field will need to pivot to adapt to the changes.
The rapid shifts that the recruiting industry has witnessed since early 2020 show no signs of slowing, unfortunately. Recruiters and recruitment processes will need to continue to pivot and adapt in the coming years, particularly those that work within the tech and engineering sectors. However, trends reveal some very important factors that can be proactively planned for and savvy recruiters would do well to keep their fingers on the pulse of those trends.