Looking into my crystal ball: the future talent landscape after COVID-19

I know a super bright 21-year-old called Rebecca. She was at university and starting to revise for her finals, until COVID-19 arrived on the scene. She was on track for a 2:1 in her business degree and was excited about finding a job afterwards in a new city … about making her own way in the world.

She’s now back at her parent’s house during lockdown. Like all of us, she’s spending more time on Zoom than we ever thought possible and baking a lot of banana bread. In some ways things are the same: she’s still doing her classes (albeit online) and she’s still knee deep in research for her dissertation. But she’s also spending more hours worrying about her future than any 21-year-old should.

And it’ll be a different one, I think we all know that much.

But over the last few weeks a lot of people have asked me to delve a little deeper into what the future’s going to look like for new talent.

So I’ve spent a bit of time looking into my crystal ball for them, and for Rebecca – I hope it’ll be useful for your business too.

Top take-homes

COVID-19 hit our economy hard and fast. Some businesses were prepping, others didn’t have time to. We’re still adjusting and figuring things out, so it’s too early to predict a full impact. But with the Bank of England now saying that unemployment could double [1] and Indeed reporting a 53% drop in job vacancies [2] , I think it’s safe to say that companies can generally expect to get a huge volume of applications for each role they advertise.

Looking more closely at what this means for the future talent landscape, I can see five trends emerging.

  1. Talent pools will widen

  2. Virtual assessment will increase – with some limits

  3. Internships will evolve

  4. The inequality gap will widen

  5. Businesses will shift their attraction activity online

1. Talent pools will widen

Because of the rise in unemployment and fall in the number of job vacancies, a huge number of phenomenally talented people who could benefit your business are going to be looking for work.

And not just the ones who live within commuting distance of your office: 74% of companies plan to increase home working post COVID-19 [3], so we’ll see a widening of the talent pool. In the future, forward-looking businesses will just hire the best person for the job, no matter where they live and whatever their ability to physically access your office.

Having more people work remotely on a long-term basis will bring challenges, some of which will only come to light after we’ve been doing it for a while. But what we can say with absolute certainty is that picking from a broader talent pool is a good thing for your business.

2. Virtual assessment will increase – with some limits

How many times have you seen the Amazon delivery van down your road since March? A lot, I’m willing to bet. Companies of all types are using the pandemic as a catalyst for change and benefitting from taking their services and functions online.

I’m seeing the same with candidate assessment: more companies have learnt that early-stage interviews on Zoom or Skype (or your company’s other tool of choice) are easier and cheaper for both candidate and employer.

What I don’t think can be replaced is that final face-to-face chemistry meeting, or giving a candidate the chance to visit your office and see your working environment. So I predict that companies will generally stick to face-to-face assessments (in keeping with the latest safety guidelines) at the final stage.

3. Internships will evolve

Early careers teams have had to quickly put their heads together and make tough choices about whether to continue, delay or shorten their internship programmes. Many companies are still running successful programmes using existing communications and learning platforms, or new platforms that can host the interns’ entire experience.

Once restrictions are lifted I think we’ll see some of these new digital tools being retained and internships looking quite different – because we did so much useful thinking during the pandemic about what the most important outcomes were for our programmes.

But broadly speaking, I think we’ll see most internships return to the office. Pastoral care, continuous assessment, learning from peers and experiencing the office culture are all things that can’t quite be replicated as well from behind a computer screen.

One big benefit post-COVID-19 is that we’ll see much stronger relationships: I think we’ll see intern managers, early careers, and learning & development teams all pulling together to make internships – virtual and otherwise – a success.

4. The inequality gap will widen I’ve talked quite a bit about the positives I think we’ll see for businesses post-COVID-19. But there’s no getting away from the fact that this crisis is affecting us disproportionately. People from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those with caring responsibilities are going to be more disadvantaged than ever before: they simply won’t have the time, environment at home or the technology to join the new world of work.

Sadly, unless companies support these candidates, I expect this will lead to a raft of applications being withdrawn and a decline in applications. With recruitment budgets being cut, workstreams for things like inclusion could fall even further down the pecking order, meaning scores of candidates from under-represented groups might not be supported as much as they could and should be.

5. Businesses will shift their attraction activity online

At the moment, we’re understandably focused on the right here and the right now. But as always, planning waits for no man or mouse!

In recruitment terms, 2021 is just around the corner and without a clear steer on how long social distancing will be here for, we’re going to see more virtual events being hosted by employers, schools and universities, on new and innovative platforms. Zoom won’t rule the roost forever! Make sure your business jumps on board.

How can we help?

In a nutshell, we can help you boost all of the positive effects of COVID-19 and minimise the negative ones.

  • We can design and put in place virtual selection processes. With the likely increase in applications, we can efficiently and fairly assess your candidates, reducing your candidate funnel and helping you hire the very best people for your business.

  • We can suggest ways to adapt your internship programme rather than cancelling it, making sure you stay an employer of choice for the best graduates in the future.

  • We’re passionate about social mobility and can help you limit the inequality gap at your company. Through schemes like apprenticeship programmes, you can offer a route into work for a range of under-represented groups, as well as school leavers. Our programmes assess for potential and provide any training needed to upskill your new trainees.

  • We can develop and implement innovative attraction strategies such as virtual careers fairs for your talent pool – even if your immediate need for candidates and graduates is much lower. I’ve seen employers who put recruitment on hold in previous economic downturns then really struggle to repair their brand reputation with their talent pools, meaning they miss out on the best hires for years to come. Talent pools take a long time to build, don’t throw your years of hard work away! We can help you make sure you have the pipeline in place, when the tap’s turned back on.

Thinking all the way back to my friend Rebecca, I hope that she can see that while the future might feel uncertain and we know that things will be different, definite trends are emerging that forward-looking businesses and candidates should take notice of.

I’ll continue to update you on my thoughts as things (inevitably) change but in the meantime if you’d like to have a chat about how Tomorrow’s Talent could help your business through and beyond COVID-19 do get in touch.

As ever, there’s no fee and no obligation attached!

Stay safe, Steph

[1] Guardian, 7 May 2020

[2] Indeed, 24 April 2020

[3] Gartner, 3 April 2020


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