May 19, 2021

Your office is opening, are your employees coming with you?

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Episode Highlights

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It is mid-Q2 and a sense of normalcy is on the horizon. Spring weather is here and the US is reopening. What does that mean for your standard office culture and workplace? Remote work has been the norm over the past 14 months. Employees know their routines and how to be productive. They love flexible schedules, working from home, and remote roles. Our most recent survey shows that more than 80% want to return 3 days per week (or less). 

35% of companies we polled have adopted a remote-first policy. What does that mean for companies that are opening back up their offices? What is your company doing? What do your employees want? These questions are important to ask in an evolving market for talent. 

Listen to your employees. Have a plan. Remove ambiguity. Communicate with internal and prospective employees. Have you asked your employees? If not, you better. Feel free to send our survey to your team. You’ll be able to see what your team thinks.  And how they compare to the broader population. 

That will help keep you ahead of the curve. Companies must ensure their employees want to come back. Or be ready if they don’t. Matt Tokarz and Don Effler discussed these challenges. How candidates’ expectations have changed and what employers need to do about it.

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Episode Transcript

Welcome everybody. I’m Matt Tokarz here with Hirewell. I’m currently a lead on our digital marketing and experience team and sitting here with Don Effler. Don, you want to introduce yourself? 

 

Hey, I’m Don Effler. I’m on the Hirewell technology recruitment team and I’m a lead recruiter there focusing on software development and any kind of technology roles that may exist. 

 

Awesome. Awesome. Well, we wanted to talk today we’re seeing a lot of trends in the market at the moment and basically we really wanted to focus on as offices open up, are employees going to be joining and going back into the office? What are we seeing in terms of different companies in the offices kind of opening back up in the market and what are we seeing on the candidate side in terms of people that are looking to make a move in the concessions that companies are going to need to make in order to be successful at recruiting, moving ahead.  Don I mean, what are you seeing in the market right now on the tech side?

 

 How has the pandemic changed the job landscape over the last 12 months? 

 

Yeah, I mean in general the job landscape has been very hot in terms of new jobs and a lot of people looking for things and we’ve had one of our best years ever in terms of the number of people we’ve been able to help find new jobs.

 

 One of the major trends that we’re seeing is even a year ago, remote or work from home flexibility was a nice thing to have, right? And already a lot of clients are talking about having a more remote work flexibility, couple of days no one shows up on Monday, Fridays off sort of thing, or Fridays work from home rather, but which is all nice and kind of you embracing and with the trust of their employees that they’ve earned over the last year that they can get their work done.

 

We’re seeing a lot of that. But from a candidate side, we’ve been seeing a big trend that kind of goes beyond that, right. And that is the amount of people that are looking for new jobs that can either be a hundred percent remote because they’re no longer going to be living in the place where they are currently.

 

I have a lot of friends that are personally outside of technology that have already moved to new places and have moved out of Chicago and maybe haven’t told their employers. And when that day comes where they’re like, “Hey, we’re going to be back in the office next week.” they won’t be going with them,

 

right. And then that will be a signal to them to get a new job and that’s something that they’ve kind of made peace with. And we’ve seen a lot of that, especially within technology. You know, people relocating outside of kind of the core hubs where you normally find technologists to new places.

 

So the jobs that they’re looking for sometimes they’re within those new locations or for the most part, do they offer a hundred percent remote capability because I’m no longer living in that city. So it’s been one of the more – it’s not just a nice to have or I’ve gotten accustomed to this work, but it’s impossible for me to do a job that’s not a hundred percent remote at this time or even after COVID with my plans for my life. So it’s been a huge uptick in the not just more work from home flexibility but I’m not going to be here anymore, I need a hundred percent remote. So I don’t know. What have you been seeing on kind of your side and in some of the non-technical roles?

 

Yeah I mean, I’d definitely say that it’s pretty similar. I mean, if you rewind back a year ago like you had mentioned, it was definitely like a hip thing to do for a lot of the employers that offered either fully remote capabilities or strong hybrid work from home kind of lifestyle. They typically had a leg up.

 

People wanted to work there because they had a little bit more flexibility and once they ramped up, like they would be able to really focus on what things look like  both at home and in the office. So that’s kind of changed because obviously the last year or year and a half, we’ve seen every company have to do that.

 

So a lot of the companies that, that was an advantage for them now kind of lost that advantage and are kind of just status quo, I guess you can say. On the candidate side, very similarly we’re seeing a lot of people that  they’ve worked in Chicago all their lives or they’ve been a part of the Chicago market and I reach out to them and they’re sitting in Michigan right now at a Lake house because they can or they’re traveling for months at a time. So we are seeing a lot on the functional side or on the marketing side where people have found that they can work remotely.  They like that flexibility. They want to see that flexibility in their new role and yeah, they might be open to coming to the office once or twice a month or once or twice a quarter now. For the most part, people are looking at positions that are only remote and are really only entertaining positions in that capacity.  Even if they don’t have a move on the horizon right now, they like the opportunity to be able to move. 

 

Yeah. And I think that definitely kind of begs the question of why is that happening, right? We’ve kind of alluded to it a little bit but it’s definitely more so than I’ve gotten comfortable to working out in my living room, right. So what are some of the reasons that you’ve seen for people now requiring a hundred percent remote flexibility?

 

 I think the biggest thing, the biggest reason is because it’s known to work at this point.

 

So people are no longer willing to say, “Hey, I’m going to drive for that half hour 45 minutes into the office” or “I no longer feel like I need to have an hour and a half commute via train into the city or via L and to different parts of the city just to do the same thing I can do here.” They could wake up and maybe get an extra half hour sleep, log in a little early, log out right around 5:30 – 6 o’clock and they get a longer workday in and feel more energized because they don’t have to deal with that commute. I’d say that’s the big one for a lot of people local to us. But then I’d say the younger audience, whether it’s people fresh out of school or people that aren’t tied down with with homes yet, they want that flexibility to be able to travel.

 

A lot of people right now are going week to week or month to month in an Airbnb just because they can and they can check in at areas and figure out where they want to put down roots. So I think that flexibility has been really key for a lot of people in terms of what they’re looking for out of their next position.

 

And a lot of companies were pretty strict about that about working in an office prior to cause they were worried that the productivity would drop- while we’ve got a year of data telling us that that’s not necessarily the truth. And with more people that have experience now working remotely in a setting like this it’s less of a concern on the employer end too and there’s a lot more concessions being made from that perspective. 

 

I mean, I completely agree with you on all those points.  That doesn’t mean Chicago as a market is going to shrink from its current size now to like a hundred thousand people because everyone’s leaving but a lot of people have roots here and just want that more flexibility. But what we’ve seen a lot of too is not just the desire for more flexibility and kind of avoiding the computer, even taking a couple of more trips here and there. A lot of people have realized that maybe the city that they’re in isn’t the place they want to be long-term, right.  But these are kind of the things are going through employee’s minds at the moment. 

 

From your perspective, what do you think that means for employers themselves? Like what is the biggest kind of takeaway as an employer knowing that there’s this huge movement potentially with employees that might not have made it obvious yet that they’re not going to kind of come back? But what are your thoughts there? 

 

I mean, I think it’s the two big things from an employer lens are going to be having a strong kind of communication or message out to their employees about what’s feasible versus what’s not.

 

So I think first and foremost, it’s gotta be that communication around what the structure is going to look like and two, I think there has to be some sort of concessions around either a fully remote or a hybrid kind of operation at this point since they’re so used to it.

 

I mean, we work with clients that are fully remote. We work with clients that are fully in the office right now and I’ll tell you who are easier to recruit for and work with right now and that’s certainly going to be the ones with greater flexibility. And I know that’s not always possible depending on the industry and depending on the position.

 

But if that’s not even a discussion that you’re willing to have right now, the talent pool that’s going to be willing and able to join your organization is definitely going to be a bit limited comparatively. So I think that communication and at least having a discussion around that flexibility is definitely going to be imperative moving ahead. 

 

Yeah. I mean I agree. And to your point,  some of these roles and these companies that are now a hundred percent remote, like the onsite piece wasn’t just because they liked seeing their coworkers every day, right? It was paramount to the role itself.

 

We work with a lot of technology consulting companies that send employees into their client’s offices, right. That’s what their clients are paying for is to have someone come and join them within their organization as a leader. So that’s why they’re paying those consulting fees to get boots on the ground.

 

And some of the consulting companies that we’ve worked with, similar to what we said before, their candidates have or their employees have moved out of the areas that they service. So yeah, they can wrap up their current project but because they’re no longer in the area that they service the next project they can’t physically do that work- even in technology, which you would think of course technology can be done remotely.

 

That’s the number one thing that you think of that can be done remotely.  It can’t always. So what’s important to do? Do they change their service offering? Do they offer more money to bring people back? There’s a lot of kind of questions and sometimes those are hard questions, but your business model may be affected by this and that will affect how you hire and your expectations for hiring in terms of like using agencies, paying more than you thought you should a year ago. There’s a lot of things that kind of go into that. Especially if it’s a requirement. 

 

 I think a lot of that boils down to the communication and the accommodations that you can make even getting out ahead of what possibly could happen.

 

I mean, I know a lot of people you’re all caught off guard if somebody leaves without any real notice and everybody thought things are going fine, but when was the last time you checked in on everybody regarding where they’re at? And when was the last time you the conversation, “Hey, like I know we’ve been remote. What do you want to do moving ahead?”  We’ve seen surveys go around both here at Hirewell and just around the Chicago market, around what it looks like and what do people want to see? I think it just kind of boils down to whether or not leadership’s going to be open to doing some of the things that their employee base is going to be looking for.

 

Yeah. And I think that like – this is like a doomsday scenario but I think employers have to be prepared for that like, “Hey, we’re going to go back to the office end of August.” Right. That’s the plan, whatever, right? That’s what we’re going to be doing.

 

You might have five to 10% of employees being like, Hey, by the way, I’m not coming with you.”  And if you haven’t had that conversation individually or as a group or made that conversation available, you might have a mass Exodus that you weren’t expecting, right, of talent. Maybe 10% it’s a really high number, right but it probably is. But the point is, even if you lose three or four of your key people, that can have devastating results. So if you haven’t done the due diligence and just the talks ahead of time to see where people are at and what people are going to need moving forward.

 

So I think to wrap up as to what employers should do, obviously try to make as many accommodations as you can to keep employees engaged and communicate those changes so they’re aware and they don’t have their eyes elsewhere because they don’t think that it’s something that can be possible.

 

 And if you don’t know what those concessions should be, it’s time to start having conversations with your employees about what they’re going to need and what their expectations are in the future. Would you have any other advice for clients in particular and how to manage this?

 

 I think the other important realization that the clients have to have in mind is that, it’s a lot easier for people to have conversations with recruiters, with other companies right now just because everybody’s kind of remote and people are likely going to have options out there.

 

We’re seeing it right now and I know it’s been discussed at nauseum at times, but you’ve got fully remote companies on the East coast and West coast now that are looking at Chicago talent that may be a little bit cheaper than they’re used to and they can pay better and be fully remote. And it’s super appealing because they’re unique companies that people in Chicago maybe didn’t think they could ever have the chance to work for. So you’re seeing the talent pool also ticket kind of a hit too because we’re now competing not just with the Midwest, but companies down in Austin, companies out West, out East and it’s the weirdest market I’ve ever been a part of in my eight plus years of recruiting. And like, I don’t see it changing anytime soon 

 

Absolutely. So I think biggest point: communicate, communicate, communicate, figure out what your employees want and figure out a way to make it happen.  Any final thoughts, Matt? 

 

No. I mean, just be aware of the job market’s changing. I mean, I think everybody’s pretty knowledgeable at this point on how things are looking but at the same time you don’t want to get caught off guard with a key contributor leaving that you didn’t necessarily think about.

 

So having that kind of awareness on where people stand within kind of the office setting and whether or not they’re open or even able to return to an office. As well as what you should be doing as a company to accommodate those, you want to make sure they can come back.

 

 Well, if you want to discuss this further as a client or as an employee, my email is deffler@hirewell.com.

 

Mine is mtokarz@hirewell.com.  

 

Talk to you soon. Bye.

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