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Executive Spotlights

Hiring Insights from The Pandemic By Cari Kraft, Jacobs Management Group

It seems counterintuitive to be talking about hiring during this time of the pandemic, but we are seeing hiring start to open up.

Aon’s Pulse Survey showed that businesses with hiring freezes for all industries fell by almost half from April (30%) to June (18%) and are at 13% in July for life sciences. And there are those who are forecasting a boom soon, given the pent-up demand that will be unleashed. We believe that is why building the talent pipeline is the priority for 66% of the companies surveyed recently by entelo. We are lucky that our industry has not been as hard hit as others, although exact figures for the life sciences are not easy to identify. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 14 percent between now and 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. STEM jobs, as indicated in the July STEM Job Growth Index report by RCLCO, and CapRidge Partners , points out the resiliency. “STEM jobs, with over 70% typically requiring a bachelor’s degree, have fared better than others, with unemployment rates for those with a Bachelor’s degree being about half of the unemployment rates for those with only a high school education (8.4% as opposed to 17.3%).” And some parts of life sciences are growing. Of course, there are all of the products related to Covid: vaccines, diagnostics, PPE, etc., however, it is not just Covid-related companies that are thriving. According to RSM’s July 20th Life Sciences Outlook , while the US was experiencing a Covid peak, eight of the nine companies that went public were in life sciences, and 14 of the 21 companies that announced a planned IPO were in life sciences (none focused on vaccines or treatments specifically related to Covid-19). Private equity and venture markets were also solid, with private capital continuing a year-over-year increase of 24% from January to May while the rest of the market had a 26% decline. Even before the Covid crisis, this trend was occurring, driven largely by the aging population, which will put more demand on HCPs who treat conditions of the elderly, and those in the assistive care professions – home health aides, physical therapists and others. But now that the whole landscape is changing in response to the healthcare crisis, there are even more changes in the works that will drive the need for different skills and new types of workers. Sales, marketing, IT and other parts of the industry are all in a state of flux, mostly for the better. Medical health records, telehealth, and other areas have been driven to speed up their progress in this era. So whether it is right now or in a few months, we expect a hiring spike. And, as we hire, how can we learn from these trends? The increased amount of remote work has further elevated the demand for soft skills and put an even greater focus on resiliency, leadership, and communication. The shift in remote work looks like it is here to stay. A recent Gartner survey found that 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time. One of the top concerns reported by employers is that remote workers will be less productive and communicative on the job compared to when they were in office. This belief was backed up by Clutch’s July Survey which indicated that 39% of employees have felt less productive while working during the Covid-19 pandemic. And managers themselves are doubting their confidence in managing remotely. According to a recent survey highlighted in Harvard Business Review’s article, ”Remote Managers Are Having Trust Issues,” about 40% of the managers doubted their ability to manage workers remotely. We are also asking people to do more. In a July 21st article by Deloitte, “5 Shifts to Build Workforce Resilience,” 26% percent of employees in a recent poll said they expect to have additional duties and another 12% expect to do more than one role as a result of Covid-19.” The impact of this on the hiring process is the importance of soft skills. While the hard skills for a specific job will stay roughly the same — whether an employee is in office or working remotely — soft skills can have an immediate impact on how successful your remote workers will be in a remote work environment. Some of those key soft skills include: Resilience: One key skill everyone needs is resilience. As the dynamics of the landscape change, people are being asked to take on new roles, learn new skills, and organizations are shifting. Independence: The ability and desire to work independently is an obvious one. In a typical office environment, it is easier to have regular supervision and feedback. For employees to manage their days, work toward deadlines and seek help when needed become more important when they don’t have immediate access to colleagues and office services. Communication: Communication is key both to manage the isolation and to facilitate collaboration. Effectiveness with all forms of communication — chat, video, intranets, social platforms — has become more important. This is on top of the usual ability to communicate clearly and efficiently, Self-motivation and Initiative: No matter how hard we adjust, there is still an increased need for self-motivation and initiative-taking while being remote. The need to seek out connection and be proactive in solving problems has increased dramatically. Technical savvy: Remote work has forced the need for more technical savvy. It has put an additional load on these skills and the need to self-diagnose to fix issues or seek support for resolution.


What this means is not just that new types of workers will be needed, but that more classifications and attributes will be important to employers. There is also a balance in the attitudes of both employers and employees. People who have been working from home increasingly prefer that situation. Not just because it gives them more time with family and friends, but because it saves time traveling, cuts back on meetings and interruptions, and often gives them the opportunity to work more efficiently, or at least feel as though they are. Employers, on the other hand, are re-evaluating a number of aspects of their workforce and hiring process. A remote workforce gives them access to a wider pool of potential hires, from a broader geographic landscape. And, if their business structure allows them to adapt to having more employees work from home part- or fulltime, that means fewer demands on office size, materials and other economic considerations. Experts point to the need to recognize and reward what employees are contributing, as well as understanding where they need support and assistance. In a time when the human connection is more tenuous than ever, it becomes more important to help them feel they’re part of a community with a common purpose. The source of this is empathy. Here’s a video in which restorative practitioner Michelle Stowe provides some guidelines to having empathy with your staff, and teaching them to have empathy with others:


Overall, what aspects of the resumé or personality are becoming more important to employers? And what leadership skills need to be changed in order to guide these new employees differently? For all of us, one key trait is Emotional Intelligence, or EQ. EQ has moved to the forefront in recent years, and encompasses several sub-categories: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Why is it even more important now? One reason is that remote work makes personal interaction a little more difficult and not as regular. We often note that email and messaging don’t have “tone,” and can easily be misunderstood. Now that we’re doing more of those, we have to be aware of how others will read them. Even in Zoom meetings, the flow of communication is not as streamlined as it might be in person. Leaders have to work a little harder to understand, appreciate and respond properly to employees. Then there’s the aspect of employee attitude – the desire and motivation to take on challenges and advance in one’s career. Some people come by these traits naturally, and have a personal drive. But others need impetus and guidance from leaders, and this is a trickier situation given the state of distant work. There are fewer opportunities for a “Good job!” or a pat on the back, or for a casual office drop-in to discuss performance vectors. The job then becomes examining how leadership can measure and encourage activities, and help employees believe in themselves, engage properly with others, and stay motivated in their own interests and those of the company. A related skill is creativity. Again, some come by this naturally, but it can be enhanced in others. It is both a personal and a cultural skill. In a time of great change, businesses need to look at the customers they serve, the products and services they offer, and determine how to shift messaging and processes to take advantage of what’s needed in the marketplace. Don’t ignore this opportunity – it’s what has kept many companies and industries alive over long periods. Build in sessions and activities that will draw out creative ideas and solutions that will expand your sales horizon. Also connected to creativity is critical thinking. This is necessary for other reasons. With the onslaught of rumors, undependable news sources, a tsunami of data to sift through and other factors that add to the confusion, it’s necessary to hone your investigatory process so you know what are reliable facts and indicators, and what are merely memes.


All of the above are complex to evaluate in your people. So here’s a place to start. We’ve compiled a short list of questions to add to your interview process that will be helpful in drawing a picture of these new skills in candidates. For individual contributors:

  1. How has your daily routine changed, for better or worse?

  2. What have you built into your skill sets to accommodate the new work structure?

  3. What has made you more or less efficient or effective?

  4. What do you think are the major contributions you can make to the company?

  5. Are you good at adapting, or do you need help from management? What kind?

  6. What would improve your communication with management, or their communication with you?

  7. What are the biggest challenges ahead for you? 8 How have you handled the stress of the new situation, with respect to both coronavirus and your work environment?

And for managers:

  1. How have you adjusted your management style?

  2. How is your communication with the team different – for better or worse?

  3. What needs to improve, and what are your plans for implementing those improvements?

  4. What are you doing to enhance your technical skills and those of your staff to streamline communication?

  5. What needs to be done to improve productivity?

  6. What needs to be done to adapt to the marketplace opportunities facing us?

  7. How can the company support your efforts in terms of communication, creativity and skill building?


What this all adds up to is that we have before us a rare chance to do what we sometimes wish for – restructure everything. Our businesses, our goals, our staff, our skills, our messaging. This is a time to seize that opportunity, with careful examination and insight, and build back better than we have ever been before. Look for the opportunity in this crisis.


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