2020 has changed everything about talent acquisition as we knew it. Recruiting has gone digital, the candidate experience has gone virtual and the employee experience has become a remote experience for many people.
While working remotely has been on the rise for some time, the global pandemic turned this from a trend into the new normal. Tens of millions of people have proven that their jobs can be done from home, and have come to enjoy the flexibility that this work arrangement brings. As a result, a new cohort has emerged: the Work Anywhere Workforce. Their expectation for working remotely has significantly changed how companies operate and I believe will impact how we attract, recruit and retain talent for years to come.
What are the changes being brought on by the Work Anywhere Workforce, and how will these changes be a catalyst for good in the recruiting industry?
This is a topic that I’ve been diving into for the past few months, reading news reports and researching trends, and most importantly, speaking to talent acquisition and HR leaders to find out what’s happening at their companies and how their strategies are changing. I’ve summarized my key findings and predictions in a new Rally Strategy Guide: 3 Strategy Shifts to Attract the Work Anywhere Workforce.
And on Thursday, Oct. 8, we’ve got a great webinar planned on this topic with industry leaders who have recruited thousands of remote workers this year. You can register for the webinar here!
What I’ve learned from these industry leaders and my research is that yes, there have been seismic changes in recruiting over the past 6 months, and through very difficult and tragic circumstances. But looking ahead, the changes that have been forced onto talent acquisition, Recruitment Marketing, candidate experience and employee engagement have been a catalyst for good.
I’d like to share some of the important changes and industry shifts that will impact your talent strategy. But first, you might be asking: What is the Work Anywhere Workforce?
What is the Work Anywhere Workforce?
The Work Anywhere Workforce (WAWF) defines the growing number of people who can and want to work remotely, and who now expect support for flexible work arrangements from their employer.
Before the pandemic, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 29% of workers were able to work from home, and 25% reported doing so at least occasionally. Then COVID-19 infections began to rise and companies had to suddenly close their office doors and shift tens of millions of employees to a work-from-home model. Once the operational challenges were sorted out and productivity resumed, working remotely became “the new normal” for both employers and employees.
Now, some workers don’t want to go back to working in an office or they prefer the option to work remotely. A PwC survey of executives and office workers found that a permanent flexible work week (and perhaps workday) has broad support. Most office workers (83%) want to work from home at least one day a week, and half of employers (55%) anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after COVID-19 is not a concern.
There are many reasons why a growing number of people want the option to work remotely. They may have ongoing health and safety concerns about the pandemic, they may need flexibility in their work schedule or they’ve simply proven that their jobs can be done just as effectively away from the office and are looking for more freedom in their lives. For the Work Anywhere Workforce, the new normal is here to stay.
But enabling employees to work remotely is good for employers too. It’s not only viewed by CFOs as a cost-cutting strategy, it’s a smart way of attracting and retaining great talent. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Square, Shopify and others have announced significant moves towards a remote workforce for the long term, and the list continues to grow. To remain competitive, more employers will surely follow suit.
In fact, I believe workers will classify employers into one of four categories:
- Employers that are remote-first
- Employers that are remote-friendly
- Employers that just can’t accommodate remote workers (but still, does that really have to mean all jobs? Can a flexible schedule be offered?), and
- Employers that don’t get it (and will be at a significant disadvantage)
Whichever category your company falls into, you won’t be able to ignore the impact that the Work Anywhere Workforce will have on the competition for talent. Based on my research, I’ve defined three key shifts happening right now that are affecting your company and your talent strategy:
- Shift #1: The WAWF will seek out employers that are remote-first or at least remote-friendly, requiring you to completely rethink your employee value proposition, candidate experience, employee experience, company culture and even company operations.
- Shift #2: Your talent pool will increase but so will your talent competition, therefore where and how you attract and recruit talent will need to undergo digital transformation in order to be competitive and cost-efficient.
- Shift #3: With people having more choices in employers than ever before, employee engagement will be the key factor in retaining remote talent, and all talent.
In order to compete for talent going forward, you’ll need to be ready for these key shifts, and you’ll need an answer to this defining question: Are you a remote-friendly or a remote-first company?
Remote-Friendly versus Remote-First Companies
What is a remote-first and a remote-friendly company? They are different from an employer’s perspective and from candidates’ expectations. Here’s our definition:
A remote-first company is one that commits to hiring talent who can be located virtually anywhere and that operates the company in a way that assumes everyone works remotely. Remote-first companies may or may not have a physical location (most likely they do). Being a remote-first company is less about the physical space that a company occupies and more of a mind space about the way a company and its teams operate. But for practical reasons, even remote-first companies will focus where they recruit and hire talent for various reasons.
A remote-friendly company is one that supports hiring talent located away from the office at least for some positions and that operates the company in a way that understands that some employees work remotely. Remote-friendly companies have one or more physical locations where most employees work most of the time. They may have jobs that require in-person work (such as manufacturing) or the leadership just may prefer to have the majority of employees on-site.
When we consider the spectrum of what “remote work” means, here’s how an employer would position itself alongside what a candidate would expect:
Given the choice, the Work Anywhere Workforce cohort would prefer to work for a remote-first company, but since there are relatively few employers that currently operate this way (though that’s changing!), WAWF workers are open to considering employers that are remote-friendly.
And given the growing number of people who are looking for remote jobs of every kind, if you want to attract, recruit and retain this talent cohort, you’ll need to completely rethink your:
- Employee value proposition, talent attraction and Recruitment Marketing strategy
- Candidate experience, hiring process and onboarding process
- Employee experience, company culture and company operations
You can see how the Work Anywhere Workforce is affecting every part of Recruitment Marketing, talent acquisition and talent management, and why so much has changed in such a short amount of time! Let me share 5 specific ways that I believe employers will need to respond in order to compete for the Work Anywhere Workforce, and why I think these changes to recruiting… and our companies… are for the good, no matter who you’re trying to attract and recruit.
5 Ways Remote Workers are Changing Recruiting for the Good
1. Inclusive employee value proposition
One of the most important things that you can do to attract and retain the WAWF is to rethink and reframe your employee value proposition (EVP).
Your EVP is really what sets you apart from your talent competitors and is a key foundation of your recruiting strategy (and increasingly also of your retention strategy). And how you communicate the value of working at your company will need to change to be relevant to the WAWF.
For example, many employers will list work/life balance in their EVP. If your company does this too, can you honestly tout that as a benefit today while your employees’ lives have been turned upside down as a result of the pandemic? And what does work/life balance mean to remote workers anyway? The WAWF would expect every potential employer to offer this, and then it’s no longer a differentiator for your company.
Being pushed to create or reframe your EVP in order to be inclusive of the WAWF employee experience is a good thing because a) your company should have a defined EVP anyway, which will make you a stronger talent competitor, and b) it will evoke important discussions at the leadership level about the value your company provides to your employees.
This will create an opportunity to examine the true employee experience of all your employees, and take another step forward to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
2. Digital recruiting transformation
When it comes to getting your jobs in front of the Work Anywhere Workforce, you’ll need to shift to digital strategies and tactics in talent attraction and Recruitment Marketing. But chances are, your existing job advertising strategy isn’t remote ready. Recruiting in the Work Anywhere Workforce Age will lead to a range of new challenges, including how will you know the geographies and channels where your target talent “lives”? The answer won’t be to blast your job ads everywhere. Plus, it will be impossible to manage job postings all over the world. The cost to find the best talent could exponentially increase recruiting costs. That’s why using smart targeting through technology like programmatic advertising will be critical.
This type of technology will become important in the digital transformation of recruiting because it helps overcome the inefficiency of managing ads manually on an individual job board basis which won’t be scalable when you don’t necessarily know where remote talent will come from. Two of the most important features of programmatic for TA teams is that it eliminates over-spending on jobs by automatically reducing or stopping ads when your goals are met, and by learning over time where the best sources of talent are, not only for you but based on other job advertising that’s part of the network.
Moving your recruitment advertising and Recruitment Marketing strategies into the digital age is long overdue, and is another reason why the WAWF will help change recruiting for the good. Digital recruiting strategies will help you reach candidates where they, as well as help you make your budget stretch further.
3. Modern recruiting technologies
Here’s the good news: Your candidate experience is probably already WAWF friendly. If you’ve had to shift to recruiting, hiring and onboarding talent virtually due to the pandemic, then you’re set up to support the way that the WAWF looks for jobs.
But here’s the challenge: Your effort in this area isn’t complete, it’s only beginning. Most likely you had to move your recruitment operations to a virtual mode rather abruptly and set up what you thought at the time were temporary changes. But a virtual candidate experience that feels temporary won’t be enough to convince the WAWF cohort that your company truly supports remote workers. Not only that, the longer these “quick fixes” are kept in place, the higher the cost of change later.
Upgrading your systems, changing your hiring processes and expanding your training to support a virtual candidate experience could be just the business case you need to finally gain support for modernizing your TA and HR technology. This can only be good for your team, your company and for all of your candidates going forward.
4. Employee experience aligned to employer brand
The challenge for a candidate who is considering their next employer is that employee experience, company culture, leadership style and the effect of company operations are all experienced by each employee differently and individually, based on what team they work for, who they work for and with, their specific role in the organization and… before the pandemic… the office or facility where they worked.
That’s why I believe that employee experience will become the MOST important consideration for the WAWF when evaluating potential employers and ultimately deciding to join one company over another. Therefore, communicating employee experience will become more important to remote workers than communicating your employer brand. Employers should expect WAWF candidates to research longer, check more sources, dig deeper, ask more questions, seek more answers and want to verify their perception and the information they’ve gathered both inside the company and with those who have left.
This level of research and scrutiny will force employers to really “speak” to the remote talent audience — and all talent audiences — on a personalized basis by creating recruiting content and messaging that directly addresses their needs and answers their questions throughout the candidate journey.
Communicating employee experience will become more important to remote workers than communicating your employer brand.
5. Companies as connected communities
In 2019, Glassdoor released the results of a multi-country survey that found that 77% percent of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job, and 56% said that company culture was more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
But with the Work Anywhere Workforce, culture could become something intangible or worse, alienating, if the company doesn’t think “remote” in everything it does. Because if remote talent leaves, it will affect retention company-wide.
Therefore, to retain talent in the Work Anywhere Workforce Age, I believe that an employer’s view of company culture will need to evolve into creating a “Connected Community” and that inclusion and belonging in the greater community will be the measure of true employee engagement.
This is another way that the WAWF will be a catalyst for positive change. This is a time when we all need to feel more connected to others and included in and part of something bigger, and examining how you ensure that all of your employees truly are connected and included will be good for your team’s well-being, which will enable them to bring their best selves to work.
Seizing this Moment as a Catalyst for Positive Change
Many believe that the shift to remote work during the pandemic is not a temporary situation, and I’m one of them. To attract and retain the Work Anywhere Workforce, your company will need to think “remote” in everything it does. Marketing your remote-friendly culture will be table stakes and not enough to differentiate your employer brand. You’ll need to dig deeper to find what makes the employee experience for remote workers (and all workers) truly unique at your company, and that strategic exercise will help you create a more inclusive employee experience for everyone on your team.
Employers will need to make new investments in technologies, processes and training in order to provide a seamless virtual candidate experience and onboarding for new hires. Though we may have been pushed to find temporary solutions to support our virtual talent experiences initially, we now have a tremendous opportunity to modernize our TA and HR technologies for the better.
There are many implications for employers in the WAWF Age, and the rise of remote work must be embraced at the leadership level. The desire — the demand — by people to gain more flexibility in their jobs and freedom in their lives will be unstoppable. This is the new normal.
What do you think? Leave me a comment on my LinkedIn article here and join the conversation!