In the Spring of 2021, a new phenomenon emerged, drastically altering the recruitment landscape – ‘The Great Resignation’. And this trend has persisted: 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs as recently as October – that’s 2.8 percent of the entire workforce.
In January, we will likely see those numbers increase. The Independent reports that three out of four workers in the UK will consider handing in their notice after Christmas. A period that traditionally records a high volume of career changes will only see this intensify.
For some sectors, the impact of a new wave of resignations would leave them critically bereft – and lacking the recruitment personal and processes to alleviate the problem. David Bernard, the founder of behavioural assessment firm AssessFirst, believes the answer is a mechanism that could realign recruitment in a disrupted market: behavioural analysis.
To understand the conditions of the current labour market, let us look briefly at the hospitality and travel sectors. According to World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the travel industry was hit by a $2 trillion loss of revenue in 2021. Its staffing shortage has been described as the worst on record, with companies struggling to afford the incentives designed to attract new employees.
The hospitality industry, meanwhile, is attempting to atone for some staggering losses. At the height of the pandemic, British hospitality sales were down by £220m a day. The lack of staff, according to Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UK Hospitality “has never been so acute” in her 30 years of experience in the industry.
While travel and hospitality are at the more extreme end of financial losses and staff deficits, they are emblematic of the market as a whole. Millions of people are rethinking how they work and live. Driven by the pandemic into WFH (working from home), reduced hours and more family and leisure time, it is no surprise that such a shift would motivate a career reassessment. This circumstance has borne the so-called Great Resignation.
Brexit too has, of course, contributed to a diminishing workforce in sectors like hospitality. One of the UK’s biggest listed pub groups (Mitchells and Butlers) lost almost a quarter of its staff, for example. Taken together, the new year is likely to further increase staff resignations and shortages.
The beginning of a new year generally brings a spike in the volume of notices submitted. But, given that we are already amidst a seismic shift in employment circumstances, predictions of an upsurge in ‘The Great Resignation’ do not seem awry.
Many industries will be seeking to find a solution from the very thing causing the problem: too narrow a talent pool. We can see this unfolding in real-time in the hospitality sector. So far, the solution has been one of incentives: more pay and more benefits in the hope of enticing applicants. The evidence of this working, however, is scarce.
Increased incentives appear to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. This is not about the conditions of work, so much as the nature of the work. Hoping to attract applicants from a disinterested pool, one that has likely decided to switch to another industry, is not an optimal strategy to find motivated, engaged staff.
And, presently, recruiters are narrowing an already dwindling pool by seeking experience. We naturally tend to recruit led by a bias that is difficult to eradicate. How many hospitality recruiters pour over a CV, led to their judgements by unconscious criteria – ‘Has the candidate ever made a coffee before, and how well they manage a shift in a coffee shop?’.
This is, obviously, understandable. It seems perfectly logical to question whether the candidate can do the job, as this may indicate how well they’ll deliver and how long they’ll remain in your business. And while it is understandable to base such judgements on a candidate’s experience, this line of thought is inherently flawed.
This bias tends to affect recruiters instinctively, meaning those candidates who lack direct, relevant experience are often discounted. Or at least, what we consider to be direct, relevant experience – there is a crucial difference. Examining this difference is the key to assuaging doubts about candidate suitability, and, critically, widening what appears to be near non-existent talent pools for understaffed sectors.
There are two questions that I believe recruiters in sectors like travel and hospitality must consider. Firstly, is mass recruitment of industry-experienced candidates viable? And secondly, can we identify candidates that are motivated to remain and thrive in the role?
The answer to the first question is, resoundingly, no. Brexit and the pandemic have made talent acquisition in the traditional method futile. A complete shift in mindset is required.
To answer the second question requires behavioural and pre-employment people analytics. Without implementing a recruitment process that can identify motivation, transferable interpersonal skills and key personality traits, sectors experiencing a mass exodus of staff have, unknowingly, exacerbated the problem.
Prioritising these factors over experience immediately widens the net, drawing in candidates that otherwise would be completely unconsidered.
At AssessFirst, we have spent two decades researching and utilising how to harness candidate data. In anticipation of changing workforce priorities for decades to come, we created an AI platform that does exactly this.
We can pinpoint behavioural criteria for each position in the company, and assess the true potential of candidates to slot happily and effectively into a given sector, regardless of experience. When a candidate matches the identified skills required to succeed in your organisation, a hire can be more confidently made.
When I began exploring the potential of AI-led recruitment processes, I could not have foreseen how a global pandemic would hasten the attitudinal shift displayed by large swathes of the workforce.
Nor could I have predicted the shortage of recruiters – particularly in-house recruiters – in a hugely disrupted job market.
But now that we are amidst the unanticipated, the time is right for recruiters to anticipate how talent from wider sectors can fit the culture of their company. And to do so with confidence requires the data-backed insight of behavioural analytics.