Labour market adaptations in a post-pandemic market

With the United States assertively committing vaccinations to their adult citizens by the end of May, Canada is still committing our population, 10 per cent of the US, will straggle across the vaccination line to the promised land of an open economy by end of September (at least a half course of the proscribed treatment should be procured by then).


The aspirations of a functioning economy, shuddered for eighteen months, will be a time of opportunity and challenge for both businesses and the labour market. Energy for travel, social gatherings and unrestricted consumerism suppressed so long the economic release should be explosive. Remnants of the pandemic will have left scars on many aspects of our economy, but one not often discussed is the labour market.


Through structural, demographic and strong-economic impacts of the last decade; our labour supply has been under considerable duress. Migration has softened the blows that would have stripped our astounding economic growth but now business will be faced with new universal issues compounded by transformation.


Covid-19 will forever change our economy and as consequence labour requirements. Technology aptitude, social marketing, information gathering, electronic communication: are all new skills every frontline employee will need to poses or develop. Non-standard working hours and location will become an adaptation or imposition for employees and employers.


A recent study from Gartner considered shifts in the workforce and recognized three challenging factors to the labour market. A pre-pandemic 2019 survey indicated that only 29 per cent of new hires have all the skills required for hired roles. This is further challenged in a period of such change where technologies and process have been universally disrupted.


Another shift in the landscape is accreditation of current skills. With adaptive knowledge, self-directed learning and access to unlimited information dispensed by the internet; the talent pool is more dynamic and skills more problematic to assess and identify. Education credentials may become less relevant to self-taught and acquired aptitudes.


With labour constraint, comes employee choice. Empowerment of the job seeker and a generational deference to opportunity selection further challenges the employer to attract and retain talent.


Harvard Business Review proposes two approaches companies can use to be successful in this environment. Forget the past approach of checking boxes in hiring identification and focus now on selecting potential. Choose with an eye on needs of tomorrow and not just the present.


Another consideration is reframing corporate positioning. Candidates will select a company as much as a hiring manager screens an applicant. In a survey of 2,800 job seekers, 65 per cent reported halting their applications because they found some aspect of the company unattractive. Employers need to align with the market and new expectations of the labour pool. Companies need to position for talent acquisition.


To paraphrase our pandemic mantra, when considering candidate hiring: “be assertive, be focused and be adaptive”.


Author: Blake Doyle, March 2021.

Read this Business Edge in the Guardian.