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The Impact of COVID-19 on Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted talent acquisition and retention teams, with some experiencing significant disruptions while others faced new challenges. One of the most significant changes was the adoption of virtual recruiting and onboarding processes, as remote work became the norm.

As a result of these challenges, recruitment and acquisition trends have shifted. More companies now embrace virtual recruiting technologies, focusing on remote candidates, investing more in internal talent development and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion. As a result, the most successful recruiters will be those who follow, understand and adapt to these changes.

Graduates of the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Human Resource Management program from the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) are prepared to face these recruitment and talent acquisition trends with in-demand skills.

A Shift Toward Remote Work Expands the Talent Pool

Flexible and hybrid work for non-essential positions was necessary at the height of the pandemic to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. However, the shift toward remote work has become permanent as employers and professionals benefit from greater access to talent and jobs. Employers can source talent from anywhere in the world, which means not settling for skillsets that do not completely align with job qualifications.

They can also offer the work-life balance and flexibility many top candidates seek. Job candidates also can search for employers and positions that best match their priorities. Consider these statistics:

  • Research conducted by Harvard and Stanford revealed that the average business could save up to $11,000 annually by switching to a hybrid model.
  • LinkedIn research on talent market drivers shows that from April 2020 to June 2021, candidates expressed a 24.5% greater priority on flexible work arrangements. The shift has been so profound that LinkedIn has dubbed this change the Great Reshuffle.
  • LinkedIn cites research from Glint which reveals that employees who are satisfied with their organization’s flexibility on work schedules or location are 2.6 times more likely to be happy working for their employer and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for them.
  • During the height of the pandemic in 2021, an Owl Labs State of Remote Work report revealed that 90% of surveyed employees said they were as productive or more working remotely when compared to the office. Additionally, 46% would take a pay cut to continue working remotely, and 1 in 3 would quit their jobs if they could no longer work remotely after the pandemic.

Virtual Hiring and Onboarding Processes

The pandemic accelerated a developing trend toward AI-driven virtual hiring, as many organizations had to adapt their recruitment and onboarding processes accordingly. In the 2020-21 year, video interviews, virtual job fairs and other virtual hiring and onboarding processes became widespread almost overnight, aided by fast advances in software technologies. Since then, many companies have realized virtual hiring’s benefits, such as reduced costs, improved efficiency and access to a broader pool of candidates from different geographic locations. As a result, virtual hiring will likely remain a significant trend even after the pandemic ends.

The Society for Human Resource Management cited two studies that supported this trend toward virtual hiring: An Indeed study of 1,100 U.S. employers found that 82% of respondents adopted virtual interviews for candidates because of the pandemic, and 93% expected to continue the practice. Second, a Jobvite study found that 61% of recruiters said the future hiring process would be a combination of virtual and in-person efforts, while 22% expected to pursue all-virtual hiring practices.

Additionally, according to the LinkedIn survey on talent market drivers, 70% of employers expect to normalize a hiring process that combines virtual and in-person methods.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a Recruiting Focus

The pandemic brought significant attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, largely because of how some minority populations were disproportionately affected. This accelerated a trend toward prioritizing diversity and inclusion practices that had been developing due to demographic shifts.

Research from Pew Research Center reveals that nearly half of Gen Zers in the U.S. are non-white. Also, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics are expected to make up most of the U.S. population by 2044, reports AP News. This means future employers of young individuals will have an undeniable responsibility to support the diversity of their employees.

DEI efforts will be a continuing focus area for recruiters, not just to give employees a sense of belonging and acceptance at work but also because job candidates are increasingly likely to make job choices based on their assessment of a company’s visible DEI commitments. According to a Monster study, 83% of Gen Zers surveyed said a company’s commitment to diversity practices was important when choosing an employer.

2021 McKinsey study reveals “that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams” out-earn companies in the bottom quartile by 25%. In terms of ethnic and cultural diversity, top-quartile companies outperform bottom-quartile companies by 36% in profitability. While hiring for diversity is profitable, hiring a diverse pool alone is not enough. Organizations must ensure that people from all represented groups feel they are working in an inclusive environment where everyone has equal access to career-advancing resources and opportunities.

Internal Hiring

Increased engagement, lower costs, the need to fill positions and a shorter hiring process are a few of the benefits of the shift to internal mobility, but the biggest benefit may be improved retention. Employers have been increasing their focus on building their workforces through internal mobility programs tied to reskilling and promoting-from-within initiatives. Consider these statistics:

  • Internal mobility is up 20% since the onset of COVID-19, according to LinkedIn data on the talent market.
  • InStride reported that 50% of respondents expected their recruiting budgets to decrease in 2021, while 66% expected increases in learning and development budgets.

These are just a few trends in recruitment and talent acquisition the pandemic has spurred. Looking forward, HR and recruiting professionals can expect to see these trends continue to develop, as well as more emphasis on hiring incentives, retention bonuses and student loan repayment plans, especially if low unemployment remains. Graduates of UIS’s online MBA Human Resource Management program will be prepared to face these industry trends.

Learn more about the University of Illinois Springfield’s MBA with a Concentration in Human Resource Management online program.

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