Hiring During A Crisis: 4 Key Takeaways to Help Your Team Grow

Hiring During A Crisis: 4 Key Takeaways to Help Your Team Grow

By Michelle Silverstein, Director of Corporate Marketing at Criteria

Looking back on 2020, the year was challenging in so many ways. Yet challenges present an optimal time to learn from experience and improve for the future.

In the middle of 2020, Criteria, surveyed over 400 hiring professionals to learn about how their hiring processes had adapted to COVID-19. We published the results in our annual Hiring Benchmark Report, and the responses were illuminating. From that data, we uncovered some interesting takeaways about hiring that can be used to improve and grow as we cruise into the new year.

1. Remote Work Is Here To Stay

According to our survey, 69% of organizations transitioned to remote work at some point last year. As a result, organizations had to establish remote hiring processes that were just as effective as in-person processes.

For those who were fortunate enough to be able to work from home, we were curious how they felt about remote work. In our survey, we asked: “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, how has your opinion of remote work changed?”

What we found is that the majority of respondents, 54% said that their opinion of remote work has become more positive. Meanwhile, 42% said their opinion had stayed the same, and a paltry 4% said their opinion had become more negative.

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On the whole, remote work has left a remarkably positive impression on those who had the opportunity to try it. From that same survey, respondents said that the key benefits of working from home were:

  • Less commuting (95%)
  • Flexible schedule (76%)
  • Better work-life balance (75%)
  • Fewer office distractions (72%)
  • More time with family (68%)
  • More productivity (64%)

What’s clear is that employees like and appreciate working from home, and that it can actually be more productive than working in an office. This suggests that even after the world returns to a “new normal” and offices begin to open back up, we don’t expect to see everyone go right back into the office. Instead, we expect to see a hybrid workforce model that combines a blend of remote and in-person work.

With remote work likely to play a major role in daily life moving forward, organizations need a way to optimize their remote hiring processes. Remote hiring has the same goal as in-person hiring: to find the best person for the job. Ultimately this means that organizations need a way to accurately and efficiently identify top talent without meeting them face-to-face.

2. The More Candidates, (Not Necessarily) the Better

2020 saw a sudden and massive rise in unemployment early in the year. The result was an influx of candidates flooding the job market. This represented a significant shift in the hiring landscape. Before, the hiring landscape was characterized as a candidate-driven market where qualified candidates were scarce and employers had to put forth greater effort to attract and retain top talent. But with more job seekers looking for opportunities, employers were faced with a welcome challenge: too many candidates.

The result? Hiring professionals started to perceive hiring as “easier” in 2020 than it was in 2019. In our survey, we found the following:

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Across nearly every dimension, hiring professionals were having an easier time in 2020 than 2019. This may stem from the feeling of greater choice among a bigger candidate pool.

Nevertheless, the biggest challenge that hiring professionals face continues to be finding high quality job candidates. While more candidates may seem like a blessing, it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to find that one person who is right for the job. On the contrary, a high volume of candidates can create problems of its own, with the need to efficiently and accurately identifying the candidates who demonstrate the highest potential to succeed.

3. Diversity Is a Priority Now More Than Ever

In our 2020 Hiring Benchmark Report, we also asked hiring professionals if increasing diversity in the workplace was a priority for their organization. What we found was that, for the majority of organizations, it was.

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32% said increasing diversity in the workplace was a top priority at their organizations. 46% said it was somewhat of a priority, and just 22% said it’s not a priority. What’s clear is that most organizations are invested in hiring and retaining diverse teams. The question is, how are they going to achieve that goal?

Unconscious bias is pervasive in the hiring process. One way to combat it is by incorporating more data-driven elements that are tied to job success. The goal is to identify the right person for the job based on their abilities, not based on their connections or background.

4. There’s Reason for Optimism About the Future

There’s no denying that 2020 brought with it a lot of reasons to be pessimistic. However, when it comes to the future, hiring professionals are largely optimistic. In our Hiring Benchmark Report, we asked hiring professionals how they felt about the future for their organization, and the results were surprising:

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The data painted an extremely optimistic picture. 66% of respondents were positive about the outlook, while 20% were neutral. Just 6% were negative and 9% were unsure. Despite the setbacks of 2020, hiring professionals are seeing the opportunity for growth in the future.

Ultimately this is a lesson in resilience and adaptability. Setbacks don’t have to debilitate any forward-moving progress. Even in times of strain, organizations can keep making plans for the future and building towards those goals, even if the vision has to be altered due to changing circumstances.

How Criteria Can Help

Criteria’s assessment platform is designed to help teams hire and grow. If an organization is the sum of its people, then each new employee has an important role to play. When assessments are incorporated into a long-term hiring strategy, organizations can start to see incremental improvements in everything from performance and productivity to employee retention and engagement. 

By administering assessments early in the hiring process, organizations can quickly identify which candidates are most likely to succeed in the role. This can save invaluable time in screening and interviewing candidates, making it easier for the hiring team to maximize their time and efforts towards finding that right person for the role.

Criteria’s assessments are designed to help organizations hire diverse, high performing teams. Through a rigorous validation process, Criteria’s team of industrial and organizational psychologists ensures that the tests are non-discriminatory and accurate. And when assessments are administered early in the hiring process, they help to highlight candidates who may have been overlooked based on resume alone. 

About Michelle Silverstein

Michelle Silverstein is the Director of Corporate Marketing at Criteria, a leading provider of pre-employment assessments. With a background in B2B, SaaS and HR Technology, Michelle is a passionate advocate for helping companies make more informed talent decisions through evidence-based hiring practices.

How to Hire & Retain the Right Talent in 2021

How to Hire & Retain the Right Talent in 2021

The Virtual Workforce Is A Given

Turning your consultancy on a dime hasn’t been easy, but some of the challenges are thankfully diminishing. In fact, the nuances of converting to a virtual workforce and a mostly or completely offsite project work are now last on the list of Top 10 Challenges Facing Professional Services Leaders, according to respondents in a recent SPI Professional Services Talent Benchmark.

However, there are plenty of challenges still remaining including around many around hiring and retaining the right talent. Here are some tips taken from the recent Technology Advice Paper: Top 10 Critical Consulting Moves for 2021.

Don’t Neglect the “Soft Skills”

When it comes to talent, consulting staff (and clients alike) must punch up their skills as online communicators and collaborators – to best engage without in-person lunch meetings or stand-up presentations. Those soft skills are now critical to your firm’s success.

In stressful working environments, clients seeking consulting support appreciate meaningful interactions with a more balanced professional staff, skilled at effective collaboration, with a bit of compassion.

Hire for the Long Term

Many businesses are trying to make short-term adjustments today so they can more easily adapt as needed tomorrow. But when it comes to hiring talent today, leadership must invest for the long term. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that on average it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace him or her.

Make your firm attractive to the top talent that’s available by offering opportunities for learning, growth, wellness, personal connections, and family flexibility. Your firm will find that the opportunities you offer to your talent today will pay off in retention, employee satisfaction and even client satisfaction down the road.

Resetting Growth Strategies in 2021

Resetting Growth Strategies in 2021

Like most sectors, consulting firms have faced various levels of disruption as a result of the pandemic. This post outlines 5 ways to get back on track in 2021.

Over the course of this year the mainstream news media has given us a clear understanding of the impact of the pandemic on consumer businesses. But understanding the impact on the consulting sector is a bit more nuanced. And, like many things in the world of consulting the answer to how the pandemic has impacted the sector is, “it depends.”  Research and anecdotal evidence varies.

How the Pandemic Has Affected Firm Revenues
The fact of the matter is that for the majority of firms, 52% of them in fact, 2020 will be a year of revenue decline. While a good portion (~30%) will stay revenue neutral, we estimate only 4% of firms will experience substantial growth this year (growth in excess of 30% or more). In short, if your firm has unlocked meaningful revenue growth this year, you’re not quite a unicorn but your experience is definitely far from the norm.

How Firms Have Responded to the Challenge
While that’s all interesting, it doesn’t really help you very much. The real question is how did firms respond when faced with adversity? What did firms actually do to counteract the challenges 2020 threw at them? And, eventually, what does it mean for the road ahead – will some of these adjustments be “keepers” to maintain for the long term, and which adjustments should simply be “lessons learned”?

In our research, we looked at this on two levels. First, we wanted to understand if firms made moderate or significant changes to their business strategy. We classified this as developing new service offerings, creating new channel relationships, entering new markets or opening new geographies. As it turns out, 75% of firms did one or more of these things. And, as you might expect, firms were more likely to invest in new delivery methods (more digital ways to service their existing clients) than they were to say, enter entirely new vertical markets.

Firms that have pivoted business strategies moderately

Second, we wanted to understand how firms adjusted at a tactical marketing and business development level. We considered this to be things like investing in new digital selling tools (i.e. LinkedIn Sales Navigator), investing in paid digital media or SEO services, or launching a virtual event series. Similarly, 78% of firms modified their marketing and business development tactics in one of these ways.

Firms that have modified business development tactics

As you might expect, firms were more likely to invest new marketing resources into things that had the most promise in directly connecting them with clients in a “virtual conversation.” But we also know from other research that the volume of thought leadership coming from consulting firms during the pandemic drastically increased. In fact, in July I spoke with the editorial leaders of 3 of the largest global IT services firms and they all told me the same thing, “We published more in the last 3 months than we did in the last 3 years.” So, we do know this — clients are flooded, now more than ever, with objective opinions on what they should be doing going forward.

So, What’s Working? And What Should You Do in 2021?
Obviously, every firm is different. Your response is directly commensurate with the nature of your firm – its ability to adapt, its hunger for change, its contractual obligations, its budget, its buy-in for marketing, and more. A business strategy firm that predominantly works with retailers obviously faces a much different go-forward model than an operations consulting firm working in the manufacturing sector or an IT services firm working with healthcare organizations.

Based on what we’ve seen in our research and in our client base, I go into a lot more detail on these Top 5 strategies for the year ahead in this webinar.  They include:

  1. Isolate Growth Opportunities Going Forward– All of your marketing and business development energy needs to operate within a narrow intersection of needs and wants.
  2. Industry Alignment Opportunity– Economic crises tend to accelerate trends already in motion. We’ll talk about the one sector that continues to shine bright, and why you should align your firm with it somehow.
  3. Raise the Quality of Your Thought Leadership Content– Clients don’t need more voices. But they do need better ones. Use 2021 as an opportunity to bring quality forward, not repeat the same stories everyone else is telling.
  4. Enable Your Salespeople to Be Thought Leaders – Most consulting firms rely heavily on thought leadership to start conversations with potential clients. But few do a very good job of helping sales continue the story.
  5. Double-Down a Portion of MarketingInvestments – Conferences and in-person interactions will re-emerge sometime in 2021. But that doesn’t mean client executives are going to rush back to the table. We’ll discuss the best ways to connect with potential clients in 2021.