Many businesses around the world are currently focused on dealing with the immediate impact of COVID-19 on their operations. In the HR department, managers are concentrating on the most pressing challenges of the current situation, such as facilitating a safe return to the workplace and plugging gaps in the labor force.

But looking beyond these short-term priorities, it's important to consider how the pandemic could have a lasting impact on recruitment and other HR activities. What permanent changes can we expect to see as employers and the entire world slowly recover from this crisis?

An increase in virtual recruitment

Physical distancing and other restrictions created by COVID-19 have led to a lot of recruitment activity being moved into the virtual environment, largely out of necessity. Even though the transition to virtual recruitment has been forced upon them, many employers could have found that these methods are not only effective, but highly beneficial.

Modern technology opens up a wide range of possibilities to remotely engage with candidates, assess their suitability for the role in question and move them along the hiring process with maximum efficiency.

Video interviewing, for example, can be quicker, simpler and more affordable than the in-person alternative, not only for the employer but for the applicant too. It also provides benefits such as recording functionality - so both interviewer and interviewee can look back and review the event - and options for applicants to provide their answers in various formats, like audio or video.

Other tech-driven practices, like virtual recruitment events and automated reference checking, are also growing in significance right now. Personal interaction and face-to-face engagement will still be vital elements of the recruitment process, but businesses that have benefited from cutting-edge hiring technologies will be inclined to continue using them in the future.

More remote working

Remote working was becoming increasingly common even before the COVID-19 outbreak. Research by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics showed that, in the US, there was a 159% increase in remote working between 2005 and 2017.

A separate study by International Workplace Group found that more than half (53%) of respondents felt it was more important to have a choice of work location than to work for a prestigious company.

And it's not just on the candidate side that opinions of remote working are changing. PwC's COVID-19 CFO Pulse survey showed that, in June, only 26% of finance leaders anticipated productivity loss as a result of the shift to remote working, compared to 45% two months earlier. More than half (52%) of respondents said they will take steps to improve the experience of remote working and to make it a permanent option for employees.

"As a number of economies slowly start to reopen, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses have a key role to play in learning to operate alongside a virus that remains a  threat. Companies will need to implement the right measures to keep their employees safe and look at new ways of working to survive and thrive moving forward." - Melanie Butler, partner at PwC UK.

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asian office man

Where recruitment is concerned, organizations that make remote working a key part of their employee value proposition (EVP) could attract a lot more interest from high-level candidates. 

Reliance on contingent talent

The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated one of the key benefits businesses can gain from the contingent workforce: having immediate access to experienced, proven talent when you need it the most. At times of fluctuating demand or when it's difficult to find the capacity you need in your permanent labor force (due to sickness absence or any other reason), temporary staffing can provide a solution.

A dedicated HR partner can help you find the people you need at short notice, thanks to local labor market knowledge and access to reliable talent pools.

You can also take advantage of workforce scheduling solutions that facilitate the hiring of temporary and project-based staff at short notice. This allows you to secure the workforce capacity you need without the cost and complexity of a permanent appointment.

These sorts of tools have proven particularly useful amid the unprecedented circumstances created by COVID-19, but they will continue to serve a vital purpose for many employers after the crisis has abated.

More care and communication

The threat to people's physical wellbeing is not the only health concern that has emerged from the pandemic. Mental health issues like stress, anxiety and depression are a big consideration too.

This is highly relevant for employers that want to look after their staff and help people protect their health in the long term. Research led by the Open University of Catalonia showed that two-thirds of people in Spain (67%) and nearly six out of ten citizens of the UK (57%) and Italy (59%) have felt down, depressed or hopeless about the future at some point during this health crisis.

There are many steps employers can take to support mental wellbeing in the workforce, such as offering financial help through health benefits, or simply providing a channel for people to ease the burden on their minds by talking to their colleagues or managers.

Much like remote working, making these offerings a part of your EVP at the recruitment stage will help you attract strong candidates and boost your employer brand.

If virtual and online recruitment has become one of your top HR priorities in 2020, you'll benefit from reading Randstad's guide to practices that can help you succeed in this space.

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