Hiring today is just as complicated for Procurement leaders as it was in 2019. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but most indications are a year-end return to the “old normal” at best. Procurement teams still need to navigate this “new normal” a while longer.

One of the more complicated aspects of running a Procurement team in this COVID landscape is ensuring proper staffing. There’s hesitance from the C-suite to hire during a time of economic uncertainty and real concern from potential candidates who would rather stay safe in their current positions than risk a move that could end poorly in a rough market. How should Procurement leaders respond?

I sat down with Andy Jones, Corcentric's Strategic Account Consultant who leads our staffing and recruiting practice, to answer that question. You can listen to our discussion here.

Hiring During the Pandemic

Today’s Job Landscape

Overarching economic uncertainty has shifted the hiring strategy to be less about “growth mode” than in previous years. It is more common to see organizations hiring defensively, simply trying to fill vacancies and sustain operations.

One strategy we’ve seen is reducing the workforce by either letting go on non-critical staff or converting full time roles into 1099 contractors. While this could reduce costs, it also introduces efficiency risks – it also changes the view that potential candidates may have on an organization they consider applying to. 

Hiring managers will need a strong strategy to communicate these changes to allay any fears an applicant has. In a recent LinkedIn survey, 74% of potential candidates are sheltering in their jobs rather than trying to seek a different position. Just as organizations are hiring defensively, applicants are considering their current jobs defensively as they simply don’t know what the future holds.

COVID’s Impact on the Recruiting Process

The net result of this uncertainty is clear: Fewer organizations are hiring, and fewer candidates are willing to make a jump and leave their jobs.

There’s usually a “sweet spot” in terms of unemployment levels that turn the landscape from a buyer’s (employer’s) market to a seller’s (applicant’s) market. During relatively low unemployment levels, those seen during 2018 and 2019 for example, recruiters needed to up their activity level to compete for scarce applicants that had their choice of open positions. Unemployment levels creeping up normally means more applicants per open position, giving organizations more options and negotiating leverage.

However, these aren’t normal times. Generally speaking, Procurement roles aren’t seeing as high a level of unemployment – but Procurement professionals are still spooked by the numbers. This means recruiters need to work as hard or harder than  they did in a good economy to attract new talent.

This means putting in more leg work and making more contacts. Picking up the phone and connecting directly to candidates, reaching them through LinkedIn or other social media, and upping activity levels.

The Future of Remote Work

Plenty of organizations and employees enjoy the remote work setup that white collar roles have shifted to in the last year. Some organizations have embraced this change and closed their physical locations permanently, opting to continue with a remote workforce. However, by necessity or choice, plenty of employers and employees alike are eager to get back in the office.

So, what does this mean for the future of remote work? It likely won’t be a black or white answer. Instead, odds are good that organizations will return to more traditional physical workspaces while at the same time being more tolerant of remote work given the benefits. For example, organizations that previously hired 100% local resources will likely be willing to hire on remote workers for sought-after, specialized skillsets. Organizations may also adopt  hybrid model, offering employees the opportunity to work some days of the week from home.

Any organization looking to snap back to fully in-office workers, however, should carefully consider this choice. Candidates now see that they can get their jobs done from home without the hassle and cost (time and money) of making a commute – and many won’t want to give this up.

Moving Past 2021

Simply put, it’s understandable that hiring managers have a defensive strategy, and will need to maintain it to weather the storm. That said, we also need to keep our eye (and higher-level strategy) on the future. This pandemic will end, and the economy will recover. 

Most estimates are for an early 2022 recovery, with some optimistically hoping for a gradual shift to start in Q4 2021. Think about what your team will need in a post-pandemic economy, and start laying the groundwork under the assumption that you’ll need to be at 100% capacity in nine to twelve months.

What do Hiring Managers “Get Wrong?”

On a tactical note, what are hiring managers doing today that leads to fewer hires… or fewer good hires?

  • Failing to keep activity levels up. Recruiters need more candidate touchpoints today than ever before. Sending emails, connecting on social media, and actually picking up the phone and talking candidates through the opportunity is critical.
  • Not understanding from-home interview limitations. Home life can and will intrude on skype calls, especially for candidates with children in schools districts that haven’t reopened. Be OK with this. Communicate to candidates early on that you’re OK with this. 

Moving Forward

The phrase of the day for recruiting is “cautious optimism.” We’ll all need to put more work into finding candidates and selling them on new job opportunities given current conditions. However, these conditions won’t last forever.

Even while we continue necessarily playing a defensive game, we need to shift our strategic focus to a future when the economy recovers – some old trends and strategies will return, but others (like offering remote work) are likely here to stay, and need to be considered to attract the best candidates.

Click here to listen to my interview with Andy, or read more about how Corcentric can support your recruiting strategies today.

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Brian Seipel

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