The Pandemic Rebound: Recruitment Challenges and Potential Solutions

Millions of people were laid off worldwide, due to COVID-19, in the largest disruption of the workforce since the Great Depression. As formerly laid off workers find new jobs, hundreds of thousands of them are now estimated to be ‘underemployed’, a number in Australia, for example, that measures 7.8% or nearly 1.1 million people.

In some countries, like Burkina Faso and Syria—unemployment, due to COVID-19, has hit rates as high as 77% and 50%.

Further adding to this atypical labor market, millions more workers within retail, hospitality, and restaurant industries are needed, as recruiters scramble and struggle to fill those roles. In fact, if you talk to a recruiter for restaurant or retail industries these days, it is not uncommon to hear the words, “No one wants to work.” That is currently the case in more than a handful of countries, including nations like the U.S., France, and Israel.

In the U.S., the Labor Department reported an unprecedentedly high number of 9.3 million job openings in April, as restaurants began to open back to full capacity and retail shops began to relax on COVID-19 restrictions.

Reasons for a Labor Shortage
Economists and recruiters have different theories about the unique job market we are currently experiencing.

Personal Preferences
One potential reason for a retail/hospitality labor shortage is that some people opted to retire early during COVID. This could be due to health concerns or even the need to care for grandchildren. Other individuals could be delaying a return to work due to the same reasons.

Extended Unemployment Benefits
In countries like the U.S., where additional federal unemployment benefits are still available—any worker earning less than $32,000 per year is better off financially to continue taking unemployment.

Something similar is happening in France, where it’s reported that hospitality workers received as much as 85% of their salaries to stay home for a year, giving them time to re-evaluate their futures, and make plans to resume work in another industry.

Additional Challenges

Less Available Talent
Employees who did not lose their jobs may be less likely to search outside of their current company, until the pandemic is 100% over. In 2019, workers quit their jobs at the fastest rate on record. Then, the pandemic hit, and while millions were laid off, others have opted to wait to make a move, with as many as 1 in 4 workers reporting they want to quit their jobs after the pandemic. Currently, some of this turnover is likely already happening, with some referring to the phenomenon as ‘the great resignation.’ In the U.S., a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April. Labor analysts say the increase is largely due to people searching for more money, greater flexibility, and happiness.

The Hybrid Workforce Debate
Recruiters also face challenges in dealing with uncertainties about what workers’ role will look like 3-4 months from now, as companies are still developing hybrid work plans or plans to return to the office. Many job seekers are looking for strictly remote-only positions, as they have felt the benefits of a stronger work/life balance being at home to focus on things like family, fitness, and zero commute times. In contrast to that (and less talked about) are workers who would like to return to an office and connect with colleagues daily, leaving their houses, and establishing a stronger divide between their personal lives and their professional lives.

Industry Volatility
Some industries boomed and thrived during the pandemic, while others did not. One of the challenges for recruiters, particularly in retail and hospitality, is the volatility of those industries.

During the pandemic, some workers did not just experience one layoff. Some experienced one—two—three layoffs. With so much uncertainty, professionals want to ensure job moves are stable, so they can pursue strong return on their own individual investments of time, resources, and commitment.  This is something we recently discussed in People & Payroll Perspectives: Joining a Unicorn during a Global Pandemic.

Remote Recruiting
During the pandemic some employers continued in-person interviews, depending on the size and scope of their business. But others have pivoted to virtual interviews. While this often works very well, for some job seekers it does not provide the assurance that they need to make such an important decision that will affect their everyday life.


More Skilled Talent Pool

Another interesting thing about the current job market is that during the pandemic people started to question their careers, with as many as 53% of American workers saying they would retrain for a career in a different industry, if they could. It is reported the pandemic helped some people realize what they want in life, and in some cases it’s not what they did previously. Because of this, and increased amounts of free time, while college freshman enrollment was down in Fall 2020, various graduate program enrollment increased, with 70% of U.S-based MBA programs reporting increases in applications.

Remote Talent/Globalization
A benefit to the current job market is that it is becoming more common and easier to hire remotely and globally, which allows employers to access a larger, more specialized talent base. In fact, if you are thinking about branching out into a new country, hiring an EOR partner can help ease the process and transition, giving you access to each potential country’s own hiring practices, laws, and regulations.

Improved D&I
Some recruiters say a remote process has made it easier to avoid unconscious bias, or the process of making assumptions about someone based on their name, gender, appearance, or where they live. For example, candidates previously looked over due to location are now potential hires. And if you use a digital recruiting solution or software, it can help eliminate bias even more, as many of these services promote and offer ‘blind hiring’, where automation hides the demographic information of candidates.

Tips for Recruiters

Think Outside of the Box
Regarding retail and hospitality recruiting challenges, teens looking for summer jobs are in luck! This season could be highly profitable for those under the age of 20, with some restaurant owners already noting the changes and reporting hiring double the usual amount of teenagers.

Younger talent can make a great addition to a restaurant, hospitality, or retail team—as they are usually very trainable and often have open schedules during the summer months. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor statistics currently reports nearly 37% of youth ages 16-19 are currently employed.

Evolve Your Candidate Journey Experience
Now is a great time to evolve the journey for your job applicants! Developing an external pipeline can help. This can be done by developing partnerships with other organizations, particularly colleges and educational institutions. Also, for less skilled workforce recruiting needs, your organization could partner with local high schools and community colleges to recruit students to fill those roles in restaurants and hospitality.

Focus on Company Culture
Maybe you are recruiting for a job in a post-pandemic less desirable industry, but that does not mean you can’t secure the available talent in the labor pool but working to gain a competitive advantage, regarding your company’s culture! Focus on the unique benefits and perks associated with your job offerings. Maybe that includes free meals—or guaranteed flexible hours, if requests are completed within a certain amount of time. Or perhaps your company offers all workers some form of tuition reimbursement. Consider re-evaluating non-traditional benefits your company brings…or even look at the unique positives among relationships employees have with one another and showcase that positive work environment to your potential recruits.

Share Your Ideas!

As a workforce leader and/or a recruiter, how are you handling the current job market? We have a private discussion board full of ideas and a chance for everyone to share unique expertise! Log in and contribute today!

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