The Future of Work 2021: A summary of this year’s survey

Let’s all take a collective sigh that 2020 is over. Last year – which included record-breaking job losses and skyrocketing unemployment– was a challenge. We saw staffing shortages in health care, warehousing, and logistics and prolonged declines in hospitality, travel, and foodservice. Those are reason enough to say goodbye to 2020 and look to the new year for a glimmer of hope and optimism.

Well, it seems that is the prevailing sentiment for recruiters and talent acquisition professionals. Monster has just fielded two global surveys to both recruiters and workers, and the results revealed that despite the volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic, recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are feeling optimistic about the coming year.

Below are the top takeaways from the Future of Work surveys, ranging from the overall state of recruiting and the impact the pandemic has had on hiring to mental health and the role of diversity in the workplace. See how the industry is adjusting and what the coming year has in store for hiring managers, staffing agencies, and recruiters.

The positive 2021 hiring outlook

The big reveal is that the future of hiring in Canada is surprisingly upbeat: 81 percent of the respondents plan to hire in the new year, and 95% feel confident they will find the right candidates. That’s welcome news to the millions of workers looking for new jobs or considering a role or career change.

Specifically, 50% say they’re planning to replace/backfill jobs lost, and another 31% planning to hire net new jobs. The positive outlook is coupled with confidence in the candidate pool. Indeed, when answering, “How confident are you in finding the right candidate for open positions?” 48 percent revealed that they are “very confident,” 47 percent are “somewhat confident,” while a mere 4 percent are “not confident” about finding the right personnel in the new year.

Interestingly, nearly half (49%) of the tech industry respondents said they’re planning on creating new jobs in 2021. As well, recruiters for blue-collar and grey-collar positions (roles that typically require interaction with customers or the public regularly in a non-office setting such as a school, hospital, retail store, restaurant, airport, etc.) said that they would be looking to increase their workforces in 2021, 39 and 28 percent, respectively.

How employers responded to the pandemic

Across the globe, industries were forced to pivot and adapt as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on job markets. For many, that meant shifting employees to work from home, reevaluating employee benefits, and re-organizing workplaces and their overall real estate footprint.

One question is, how many of these changes will be long-lasting? When asked which policies their companies have changed the most due to COVID-19, respondents ranked flexible work schedules (47%); remote flexibility (52%); updated health policies and protocols (43%); staff skills training (33%); and reducing workplace footprints (27%) as the top policies. Interestingly, 46 percent of hiring managers globally expect to make these pandemic-response changes permanent, though the numbers vary by industry.

How does this impact recruitment efforts? A great majority of respondents—77 percent—expect candidates will increasingly ask about workplace safety in a post-COVID world.

In a separate survey of 400 workers, we asked what they expect employers to pay more attention to in the coming year. Along with flexible work schedules (38%) and salary protection (35%), health policies and protocols ranked third (30%)—confirming recruiters’ instincts.

Here’s what candidates expect employers to care about in 2021:

  • Flexible work schedules (39%)
  • Salary protection (35%)
  • Health policies and protocols (30%)
  • Training staff to the new ways of working (29%)
  • Shifting to a more remote work environment (25%)

Top recruiting challenges of 2021: skills gaps and virtual recruiting

The skills gap is widening 

Despite the positive outlook, recruiting still faces some sizable challenges. The top hurdle that hiring managers expect to face in 2021 remains the skills gap and its impact on finding qualified candidates—with 40 percent of respondents naming it as an anticipated challenge. Remarkably, almost a third of Canadian employers say the skills gap has increased compared to last year, with 85 percent of employers say they have difficulty filling openings due to skills gaps today.

With more job seekers looking for career or industry changes, it is not surprising that 71% of employers agreed that “candidates need to articulate their transferable skills to help me understand fit.” However, this is in contrast to what workers are hoping to convey on their resumes. While those in the position to hire wish candidates could show how their skills best match the position they’re looking to fill, 37% of candidates want resumes to better show their values.

Regardless of the industries being recruited, the top skills employers want are:

  • Dependability (arriving at work on time, not taking excessive time off, following through on all assignments).
  • Teamwork/collaboration (working well with others within their team and company as a whole).
  • Problem-solving (the ability to be resourceful when it comes to work challenges and solve them without assistance).
  • Flexibility (willingness to take on new work or new ways of working).

While the top in-demand skills remain the same across different sectors, their rankings vary by industry. For instance, tech ranks dependability (21 percent), flexibility (24 percent), innovation and creativity (23 percent), and teamwork/collaboration (22 percent) as the top-four skills gaps. In contrast, for transportation and logistics, dependability (24 percent), problem-solving/critical thinking (27 percent), flexibility (25 percent), and dedication (25 percent) were the top four.

Virtual recruiting: on the rise but growing pains remain

With the shift to remote work and the decline in in-person activities, virtual recruiting became essential during the pandemic.  74 percent of Canadian recruiters used virtual technology for at least half of their candidate interviewing and new-hire onboarding, while another 35 percent said that at least 75 percent of their recruiting practices were virtual. Respondents specifically working in talent acquisition and recruiting say that their hiring process is 75 percent virtual.

Despite those high numbers, not everyone is on board with virtual recruiting. It was cited as the third biggest challenge facing employers in 2021, with 28% of respondents saying they expect to struggle with this form of hiring.

Not surprisingly, the level of use of this technology appears to be generationally influenced. Indeed, 44 percent of Gen-Z and millennials say that virtual technology was involved in at least 75 percent of their hiring process, whereas almost half of baby boomers and nearly a third of Gen-X hiring managers say that 25 percent or less of their hiring and onboarding are virtual.

Similarly, there is a distinct disparity between virtual recruitment and the industries being recruited. White-collar hiring is more virtual than blue and grey collar recruiting, with tech and finance/banking more likely to use virtual tools in their hiring process. At the same time, retail, leisure/hospitality, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, business services, transportation and logistics are less apt to take the virtual route.

Finally, though virtual hiring is on the rise due to the pandemic, recruiters still rank in-person interviews as the top way to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for their company.

Recruitment process challenge to address: how to best assess qualified candidates

Based on the value of in-person interviews and the difficulties associated with virtual hiring, it is not surprising that when asked which parts of the recruiting process will prove to be most challenging in the coming year, recruiters pointed to identifying and assessing qualified candidates:

Here are the three recruiting challenges anticipated for 2021:

  • Assessing candidates during the interview (42 percent)
  • Identifying quality candidates quickly (44 percent)
  • Effectively screening candidates pre-interview (41 percent)

Asked what online job board tools recruiters find most useful in finding qualified candidates, they listed resume search tools (40%), applicant tracking systems(29%) and the ability to text candidates from the platform(25%).

With the continuation of work from home and remote work, other anticipated challenges for 2021 include “finding candidates with the skills I need” (39%) and “work-life balance expectations” (31 percent). Those hiring for blue-collar jobs said that “finding candidates with the skills I need” (51 percent) was the biggest issue, followed by “lack of candidates with the tech skills/access to work remotely” (22 percent).

Key candidate considerations for 2021

The long-term emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the social and racial unrest during last summer are expected to have long-lasting impacts on how workers expect employers to respond to such events. As part of our Future of Work survey, we asked workers about the impact of work on their mental health and the importance of a diverse workplace. The findings reveal a strong desire for DEI in the workplace and ample opportunities for employers to offer benefits related to mental health.

How work Is impacting mental health

Mental health issues and concerns have been top of mind for many Canadian workers and employers, and as the pandemic continues, these issues remain a major concern. We surveyed workers to see what mental-health problems were caused/impacted by work.

The top-ranking issue is job-related anxiety at 33 percent. The following issues also impacted workers:

  • Depression (15 percent)
  • Headaches from too much screen time (16 percent)
  • Loneliness (12 percent)
  • Physical illness (6 percent)
  • Increased alcohol use (7 percent)
  • Imposter syndrome (4 percent) and increased drug use/suicidal thoughts (3 percent)

Studies have shown the impact these factors can have on worker productivity. Thus, hiring managers and recruiters should work closely with their teams to ensure that workers have the tools to help prevent these issues and have the skills to help treat them if they do arise in their workforce.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies Needed for 2021 Hiring Plans

When workers were asked what DEI initiatives they were most looking for in an employer, many cited employee training, building a diverse workforce, creating elements of an inclusive environment and workplace (including being open to and including other people’s opinions). Having people from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions and encouraging employee resource groups (i.e., pride, diversity, and inclusion practices) ranked as top priorities as well.

Some encouraging survey results show that employers have responded to workers’ DEI expectations, and the two groups’ inclusivity-priorities align. A total of 42 percent of employers focus on employee training, and 34 percent are working towards building a diverse workforce.

Although the majority of Canadian employers (53 percent) say that they are updating their recruitment strategies to attract more diverse talent, an astounding 65% of employers revealed they don’t have a DEI strategy in place. Those who do have an active DEI strategy focus primarily on gender, age, and ethnicity and less on race, disability, and veteran status.

Moving forward in 2021

Ultimately, the Future of Work showed that the outlook for hiring is healthy, though there is work to do among recruiters and candidates to strengthen and improve the state of hiring in 2021 (especially when it comes to the skills gap and how transferable skills are demonstrated). All people in the world of work can look forward to a year of increased opportunities, a continuing reliance on virtual work, and more flexibility when it comes to where and how employees work.