By now, we’ve all seen the headlines: Employers across the U.S. are in a hiring crisis. Resignations and job vacancies are up, and many job seekers aren’t rushing to find new opportunities. But these headlines only tell part of the story about the pandemic’s impact on work.

At Indeed, we wanted to understand how COVID-19 is affecting recruitment and retention for employers, both now and moving forward. To learn more about their responses to this challenging moment, we surveyed over 1,100 employers from across the U.S. We included businesses from diverse sectors and sizes, from “mom and pop” shops to large corporations, to gain additional insights into what the hiring crisis means for different types of employers. 

We find that while this is a challenging time, most employers have already implemented new approaches to attract job seekers and compete in this tough market. Are these shifts here to stay or a short-term response? Read on to find out. 

New approaches to hiring broaden talent pools

Among all employers surveyed, 79% report it has been difficult to hire in recent months (with SMBs feeling the tightest squeeze, at 82% vs. 75% for enterprise). Meanwhile, 76% of all employers say this difficulty has negatively impacted business overall. In fact, 91% of leaders, managers and executives are taking on additional tasks or responsibilities to keep the business afloat, and this is true for businesses of all sizes. 

84% of employers believe health concerns are contributing to the ongoing labor shortage.

The crisis is inextricably tied to the pandemic, with 84% of employers believing health concerns are contributing to the ongoing labor shortage. (In addition, recent research from Indeed into “the Great Resignation” suggests that a social shift may be underway, as the past 18 months have shifted workers’ ideas of what constitutes a good job.)

Yet despite many (47%) citing there is a lull in hiring or a scaling back due to the delta variant, 94% of enterprises and 93% of small to midsized businesses (SMBs) say their companies will grow and have even more job opportunities over the next year. In fact, we are already seeing seasonal job postings start to climb on Indeed. Strikingly, more than 10% of seasonal job postings noted in the job description that hiring was “urgent,” up from 1.0% the year before

Employers have seen that their old approaches to hiring are no longer sufficient for this new labor market, and it's causing them to broaden their talent pools. In fact, 78% of SMBs and 84% of enterprise employers say they’ve had to change how they hire to compete for talent. 

So what are they doing?

Employers use remote work, flexibility and new perks to attract talent

From remote work to digital communications, the pandemic sped up many changes in the workplace that were already in motion. In particular, flexible or hybrid work arrangements have shifted from rare perks to expectations for many, and for many employers, offering these options is necessary to compete. 

For example, 94% of all employers surveyed are now open to hiring outside of local markets, and 77% say their companies are open to remote workers, with SMBs and enterprise employers reporting similar numbers. 

71% of all employers offer flexible scheduling to more workers than before the pandemic.

Flexible scheduling is particularly important: 71% of all employers say they offer this to more workers than they did before the pandemic, and the number jumps to 77% for enterprise employers versus 66% for SMBs.

Although not as ubiquitous, remote work has also grown more mainstream: Nearly half (49%) of all employers say they now offer remote options, whereas in the past they were less willing to do so. Again, we find no meaningful differences between SMBs and enterprises. 

Eighty-five percent of employers say they are okay with workers’ staying remote indefinitely. And this benefits businesses as well as workers: Employers report that remote work increases diversity (65%) and talent attraction (55%), while 44% say it reduces operational costs. 

For employers that want to stand out even more (and have the means), salary increases can be a persuasive tool to attract and retain workers, and 45% of all respondents have boosted compensation. Accordingly, we have seen a strategic shift toward greater openness around this information: 83% say their companies are now more transparent about salary, bonuses and perks in their job descriptions

Others see the power of small gestures, with 34% introducing new perks such as free food or educational stipends.

All told, 96% say these new offerings have had a positive impact on recruitment and hiring, and 72% anticipate continuing these perks and benefits. 

82% of employers now use virtual interviews 

The pandemic also changed many employers’ hiring methods. Fully 82% of respondents say they implemented virtual interviews due to the pandemic.

93% of employers plan to continue using virtual interviews in the future.

While this was necessary during the lockdowns, 93% of employers plan to continue using them in the future, with SMBs and enterprise companies showing no significant differences.

Employers who use virtual interviews note multiple benefits: 74% cite speedier hiring, while 79% say it’s easier to manage the process from start to finish and to incorporate hiring technologies like online assessments. 

Over three-quarters (77%) also believe virtual hiring has improved the candidate experience; after all, applicants can interview from anywhere, and many report feeling less intimidated than they do during in-person interviews.  

The shift to remote hiring and work arrangements has also helped companies keep abreast of COVID-19 changes: 84% of employers surveyed say they are still using virtual interviews to mitigate risk amid the delta variant’s emergence in the U.S.

Employer responses to COVID-19 bring change beyond adoption of new technologies 

But employers’ responses to the pandemic have gone beyond adopting new technologies. 

Some 67% of all employers say their companies will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to work in-person, and 72% believe that their vaccination policy will have a positive impact on hiring efforts.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of employers have added COVID-related information, such as whether they require vaccinations, to their job postings. 

The pandemic-related talent shortage has also brought a loosening of requirements for job seekers, with many employers looking beyond the resume: 81% say they are less concerned with employment gaps than they were before the pandemic, and 82% now use alternative means to measure a candidate’s strength, such as online skills assessments.

61% of employers see increased diversity through remote talent

Nearly all employers (95%) remain committed to hiring diverse talent, and 86% report that new approaches to hiring enable them to reach and hire a more diverse group of people.

In fact, we find that 45% of employers feel even more concerned about equitable hiring now than before the pandemic.

84% of employers report enhanced diversity in the applicant pool due to virtual interviews.

Thirty-seven percent of employers now use diverse interview panels, and 30% have prioritized inclusive job descriptions. What’s more, the 84% who now use virtual interviews report enhanced diversity in the applicant pool.

For companies that expanded to hiring remote talent, 61% saw a welcome bump in the diversity of new hires as a result, demonstrating how this approach can have positive effects in this important area also.

There’s still room for improvement, but only 18% of SMBs and 24% of enterprise employers report that the pandemic has had no impact on their efforts to hire equitably.

Hiring challenges are real but will give way to positive changes 

There’s no question that this is a challenging time for employers, but a deeper look shows that the majority are taking this opportunity to rethink how and whom they hire.

Looking to outside markets is now the norm, and many employers say they offer remote and flexible work arrangements as a result of the pandemic. Along with salary increases and new perks, these are key ways employers can attract talent, and most say it’s working. Remote work benefits everyone, and employers who have introduced virtual interviewing find it increases the size and diversity of their talent pools. 

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and many employers are taking this to heart. When hiring got hard, employers made strategic changes to appeal to job seekers and stand out from the crowd, and many are ready to leave their old approaches in the past.