In what has been described as one of the most competitive hiring markets in recent memory, it can be a significant challenge for many to find the right talent for their organization. The first step to understanding how to get the best talent in today’s market, is to understand why there is a shortage to begin with. Once an organization understands why the different members are no longer looking for jobs, they can create outreach strategies that speak to them at just the right time. In doing so, businesses have an opportunity to actually swing above their weight class and get elite talent that might not have naturally thought about joining the company.

Where have all the good applicants gone?

Throughout the pandemic, and the isolation that both accompanied and resulted from it, many applicants had time to reassess their life, the decisions they made, and their career. At the same time, there were significant departures from the workforce due to childcare access, as well as those who felt like it was as good a time as any to hang up the cleats. Here are some of the groups of traditional applicants who departed the workforce:

Continuing education seekers

There were significant numbers of people who decided it was the best time for them to further their education and skills. A survey of 1,000 higher education institutions by the Graduate Management Admissions Council found that 75% reported significant increases in interest and applications.

In fact, graduate programs in business, law, medicine, psychology, philosophy, and economics, have seen applicant surges resulting in 20% to as high as 60% increases over prior years. 60 percent! That means a lot of the talented early and mid-career professionals are out of the job hunt as they commit to advancing their skills. Additionally, certificate programs are experiencing all-time highs as well, and would-be job applicants are staying put while they undergo the 2-month to 2-year certificate process.

Loss of women

Today, only 57.5 percent of women aged 20 and older are participating in the workforce, which according to the Department of Labor, qualifies as the lowest female participation rate in the last 30 years. The current American workforce has lost 1.8 million women, and that number climbs as high as 2.3 million if you consider the number of women who would have been participating in the workforce given the upward trend pre-pandemic.

So why have they left? Many women have been forced out by the closing of schools during the pandemic. Even if those women had support systems, those usually consisted of husbands who were working from home, or grandparents that were vulnerable and could not risk being around the kids. Additionally, it cannot be overlooked that many women were the only ones available to take care of their aging parents, and had to make choices about providing care for their loved ones and being accessible for work.

What can we do?

In order to make the most of the opportunity, companies should think about how they can make changes to the way they develop their human capital, make it comfortable for them, and then how they communicate those changes and that new environment. Here are a few examples of things a company should be thinking about doing:

  • Perform an internal audit, and combine with internal surveying to find ways to make the environment more conducive to those returning to the workforce. What policies are outdated, and what policies or programs can be implemented to create a welcoming environment
  • Evaluate if your organization is able to accommodate flex time, or flexible working arrangements. Are you able to have certain days be remote for the next 1-2 years. Does every position need to be in the building? Recognize that there is a lot of continued uncertainty among those who have taken off because they are responsible for others. Many of them are wondering how the Delta and Mu variants will impact them, so your offer to come into the office may elicit some hesitations because they would rather wait and see, versus uprooting their schedule and home situation yet again.
  • Have cross-functional meetings with your staff and stakeholders to design marketing materials which best communicate your philosophy and approach to supporting your team members. Give marketing and HR the budget they need to then make that philosophy a staple of communication and known to the world. It is important to note that if you do not already have an organizational philosophy or strategy around supporting staff, then it’s definitely time to create one. Not having one is no longer an option.

At Celerity, we help solve complex problems for clients. These may range from human capital to creating the best environment for the new post-pandemic workforce. If you are looking for ideas, we would love to chat.