On many fronts, 2020 has been a year of change, and tech has been top-of-mind as people argue whether popular platforms and tools have been catalytic of societal change. The COVID-19 epidemic has changed the way people work, too, and, in turn, fostered conversations around the meaning of work and what kinds of jobs people pursue. Additionally, political and societal friction has triggered much uncertainty in the economy as a whole, which inevitably impacts jobs and levels of employment.
A Stanford University study released in June indicated that some 42 percent of the U.S. labor force was working from home. This seemingly overnight change in how companies do business has transformed many downstream processes, and we will begin to see these new ways of operating become normal in 2021.
One process that will change in 2021 for the information technology industry? Hiring.
“One trend you may see companies utilize more in 2021 to attract top talent is promoting a Results Only Work Environment which many already do,” says James Philip, founder of Heavy Hitter Holdings, a portfolio of companies spanning executive search, recruiting, human capital consulting, and career services. “For tech positions that don’t require office hours much like sales and customer service, the ROWE environment allows tech professionals to get their work done whenever they feel like it as long as it’s done on time. You mix a ROWE work environment with a work from anywhere strategy and now you really have opened your candidate pool up”
Location, location, location
An interesting trend covered recently in major news outlets has been big tech’s shifting attitude towards hiring and work-from-home. Companies like VMWare are moving to a model where employees and new hires will be able to work-from-anywhere, in exchange for a reduction in salary. Large organizations, especially those in tech and information technology, are realizing that the pendulum of power is creeping back in favor of employers after an economic shock and that they no longer have to pay exorbitant Silicon Valley wages to employees who choose to live and work in areas that have a much lower cost of living.
This shift in hiring strategy can also develop into a strategic advantage for tech firms – who already attract top-quality talent by virtue of their best-in-class employer brands. But by not having to hire with geographic limitations, the candidate pool is vastly larger and arguably, stronger too.
Tech firms can leverage communications tools, such as Zoom, Slack, and Teams to accomplish nearly as much as they could with an in-person work situation, so expanding the talent pool to cover the entire country, and even world in some cases means tech firms now have the ‘pick of the litter’ when it comes to selecting the very best talent to work at their organizations.
Hiring and AI
2020 will serve as an accelerant for companies – bringing forward transformations that were maybe scheduled 5-10 years out quickly to present-day necessities. Artificial Intelligence in hiring is one such advancement that will grow in prevalence in 2021, especially in tech firms – who already have a lot of the infrastructure, talent, and domain expertise to adopt technology changes quickly and efficiently.
With a more scattered workforce and an inevitable increase in focus on productivity, many of the menial, administrative, and repetitive tasks – such as paperwork, screening, and sorting – that make up the hiring process will be transitioned over to AI platforms which can accomplish the task more effectively and quickly.
Work from Home
With work-from-home, companies across the country are having to adjust hiring processes to take better advantage of digital tools. For many companies, transitioning to a work-from-home arrangement has not been easy. Managing productivity, maintaining culture, and keeping employees engaged with an organization’s mission is far more challenging in an environment where colleagues don’t get to meet on a regular basis.
At the end of the day, most of an organization’s creativity, ideation, and culture materialize in the small talk that happens in the office hallway or kitchen, or lobby. Individual development and mentorship also emerge in these unscheduled moments throughout a workday too. The change to a primarily work-from-home arrangement for many companies will inevitably affect these dynamics. Can employees knock on their manager’s door to get a question answered quickly like they could in an office? No, schedule a Zoom meeting, please.
Hiring becomes infinitely more difficult in a virtual environment, and by extension, looking for a job in 2021 will change. Job seekers will no longer have the opportunity to meet hiring teams in person, and this drastically changes an individual’s first impression. This is unavoidable. A naturally vibrant and competent interviewer in a traditional setting could come off as rigid or contrived in a virtual setting. Candidates will have to practice video interviewing skills in a way they would never have before 2020.
“Preparation has always been important, but in a virtual environment, candidates have many more factors to consider prior to a video job interview,” says Gina Curtis, Certified Professional Career Coach, and Trainer / Coach at Employment BOOST. “Background, lighting, image quality, these are all factors that play in the perception you give to a hiring manager and are all factors that we didn’t have to think about before.”
Job seekers looking for roles in tech will need to plan their interviews differently and more thoroughly in 2021.
A shift in focus to candidate experience
On the hiring side, tech companies will start to really focus on the candidate experience in 2021 – to levels not seen prior to 2020. Where companies could lean on office perks and other benefits of in-person camaraderie (a hallmark of the tech industry), companies in 2021 will need to look at their onboarding and employee support programs to make sure staff members have the resources to be successful in this new work environment, while also feeling supported to pursue whatever avenue necessary to stay both professionally and personally happy and healthy.
Job searching in 2021 will change, driven by the fact that the world has changed. Jobs that society used to think were important may not be anymore. And jobs that were previously seen as less valuable could skyrocket in value.
One tip for a job seeker in 2021? Pay attention to job descriptions and really understand the key performance indicators (KPI) of the job. The virtual environment has changed management in many ways, but one way has been increased attention to metricized performance. Let’s face it, managers cannot rely on in-person interactions anymore to gauge qualitative aspects of a team member’s daily work, so they will lean more heavily on KPIs to determine how staff members are doing. Job seekers should invest the time and energy to understand the metrics of the job they are pursuing and understand that they will be held to those performance indicators more than ever before.