Key Learnings from SHRM 2021

Several Hireology team members attended the 2021 Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) conference in Las Vegas last week. As the largest gathering of HR professionals in the world, SHRM offered us an opportunity to more deeply understand the issues plaguing HR teams today and gain insight into what we can do to best support our current and future customers.

This year’s conference featured speakers from a variety of organizations and backgrounds, including Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and People Officer at Chipotle, Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO of Life is Good, and olympian Michael Phelps. The event is designed to cover a range of topics — from HR basics to new ideas about the future of recruiting and hiring.

Unsurprisingly, the events of 2020 and beyond heavily influenced the key themes covered throughout the conference. Overdue social justice conversations combined with a global pandemic brought new hiring challenges and priorities to the forefront. To summarize what we learned at SHRM, we broke down the topics addressed into four key areas of focus:

Applicant flow

Nearly every HR professional we spoke with said they were looking to fill multiple roles. And most also said that connecting with and attracting quality applicants for those positions has been a challenge. So if you’re having a tough time too, you’re not alone.

Much of these struggles stem from the current post-pandemic labor supply and demand imbalance. Companies are looking to quickly replace the staff they let go or furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic. But the problem is that folks aren’t eager to return to these roles — people have reassessed what they want from work and they have plenty of opportunities to make career changes.

Based on our conversations throughout the event, it’s clear that overcoming these challenges requires modernizing your hiring efforts. That means you have to reconsider everything from where you source applicants, to the processes you follow to hire candidates, to the tools you use to onboard and manage your new employees. The current hiring crisis is not a temporary challenge; it’s permanent. And you need to adapt now in order to get ahead and hire the best.


Similarly, most organizations are also struggling to retain their best people. This is especially common among organizations with hourly workforces — such as hotels, restaurants, and retailers. As noted above, there are more jobs open than there are people actively looking to take them. So folks who do want a career change can do so quite easily.

That means you need to take a look at your culture and HR processes. Talk to your employees or send anonymous surveys to figure out what it is that your top employees want — and what would motivate them to leave — and pledge to make some serious adjustments sooner rather than later. Also keep in mind that some turnover is inevitable, especially for those hourly roles mentioned above. The key is to always be prepared with a solid pipeline of talent in order to quickly backfill roles.

Another way to curb turnover is to prioritize hiring the right people for your organization. Verifications during the hiring process like skills tests and reference checks can provide added assurance that the folks you hire will be a good long-term fit for your organization. Employee referral programs can also help you hire more qualified talent. Studies show that employees referred by your existing team members tend to stick around longer than those who come in through other sources, like job boards.

Mental health

It should go without saying that these past 17 months have been unlike any other. We lived with a constant threat of the virus and were forced to isolate ourselves from loved ones. This has understandably impacted people’s mental health. The best employers found new ways to keep their teams happy and healthy through initiatives like providing added flexibility, reexamining work loads, and offering more time off for folks to focus on themselves.

Although it may seem like life will return to normal soon, mental health will always be an important issue. So any changes that you have made in order to address your team’s mental health need to be permanent. Benefits like flexible working hours and access to counseling should always be ingrained in your culture. And if you haven’t prioritized these types of benefits, now is the time to do so — otherwise you risk losing your best employees and hindering your hiring efforts.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

In addition to a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, 2020 also sparked an overdue conversation about social justice. And this conversation motivated many employers to reexamine their diversity efforts. By prioritizing diversity, you can play your part in contributing to a more just and equal society. Plus, organizations that value diverse perspectives tend to put forth better ideas and thus are more successful.

But of course, this isn’t easy. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives require time, resources, and intention. You can’t just pledge to hire folks from different backgrounds. You have to put real effort into creating a workforce that is inclusive of everyone and provides equal opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

For example, some organizations have prioritized different sources for attracting applicants in order to reach a more diverse group of job seekers. Others have implemented standardized interview guides to ensure that all candidates receive equal treatment throughout the hiring process. And post-hire, companies have found success with mentorship programs, DEI councils, or continuing education initiatives. However, there is no right answer. You need to spend time deeply understanding what is perpetuating a lack of diversity at your organization before you can find a solution that works for you.

After immersing ourselves in the three-day event, we now feel even more confident that our solution is the only platform for organizations looking to build and maintain a modern workforce. Our all-in-one suite of pre- and post-hire tools can help you reach and connect with more applicants, ensure equity in your hiring process, and ultimately keep your best people around long-term.

If any of these issues have resonated with you, schedule a free demo today to learn how Hireology can help.



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