A look back at 2019: What Went Well and What Didn’t

A lot happened in 2019. Let’s recap.
Dec 10, 2019
Dawn Maragos
Dawn Maragos
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One might say that 2019 was a tumultuous year in the HR world. We would say that it was a mix of both good and bad. Either way, a lot happened, and we want to provide you with a recap. So, regardless of where you sit at the hiring table, we hope you’ll look back on these 2019 trends with interest (and nostalgia) as you write your year-end reports for the C-suite.

Trend #1: Changes in Candidate Communication 

Texting establishes a close relationship, and our experience is that many candidates are more responsive via text than email or phone. And that’s not a bad thing. This responsiveness makes the interview process easier overall. We suggest, however, that texting remain focused on simple topics and logistics, not complex conversations where there’s a risk of things getting “lost.” For example, we prefer that candidates call us after interviews, and live interaction is a necessity during crunch times such as the offer stage. Just don’t let texting early-on in the process establish a precedent that leads to a lack of needed conversation later. One final note, texting has already evolved into the initial outreach method for a lot of high turnover roles and contract work, and it will be interesting to see if there are similar increases across all areas of recruitment as well.

Trend #2: Work From Home Policies  

More companies are offering work-from-home policies because employees want them, and these companies are competing with others that provide them. With more workers skipping the office, companies are  also saving money on rent and other costs related to managing an office. None of this surprises us. As the Sloan School of Management at MIT reports, 51 percent of workers looking for new opportunities are doing so because they want more flexibility and more control over their work lives.

Trend #3: Salary History Laws

The No-Salary-History Law is new to Illinois (and yes, we’ve talked about it extensively here). These laws have been around in other states for awhile, though, and the data shows that in these states it’s decreasing the gender wage gap. A recent piece in U.S. News and World Report states that among the top five states with the narrowest gender pay gaps, four of them have such laws in place. These states include California, where women make more than 89 cents to a man’s dollar; New York at 88 cents, and Vermont and Delaware at 86 cents. 

Trend #4: Diversity and Inclusion Focus

Candidates and employees are demanding an increased focus on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), But they also want to be considered for opportunities based on their skills and not purely because of D&I. We’d like to remind you about our thoughts on the subject (“Look for Diversity of Thought, Find Diversity”) and encourage you to look for a post during Q1, when we will release data on our total 2019 placements and the diversity numbers associated with them.

Trend #5: Companies Relocating to Chicago 

A number of Bay Area companies have recently made the move to Chicago, either relocating their offices or expanding their presence here. These companies include Facebook, Styleseat, Flexport, Google, Uber, Salesforce, Affirm and Tegus. The impetus for these moves is to tap into the wealth of talent located here at more affordable costs. The conflict we’re seeing thus far, is that while these companies expect to pay less for salaries here, they retain their same expectations around worker productivity.

Trend #6: Candidate Assessments

Assessments such as the CCAT, Predictive Index, Strenghtfinder and DISC are becoming increasingly popular, and major companies are using assessments to build teams through identifying different types of profiles. The caution, however, is that companies cannot use assessments as a replacement for interviewing and decision-making, nor as a crutch or excuse for saying no instead of providing a transparent response for why a candidate isn’t the right fit. Further, assessments have to be used at the right time. Many candidates see them as a waste of time, and in a market where they have options, if the assessment is requested as a first step, candidates may choose not to bother.

Trend #7: Questions About a Possible Recession  

People love to ask about the job market and whether the country is headed for a recession. To start, we’ll keep it simple and definitive: Strong (the market) and Not Yet (when it comes to a recession). That’s not to say it hasn’t been a weird year in terms of high peaks and low lows. WeWork nearly imploded. And several major IPOs have sputtered. So maybe businesses actually making money matters? In spite of all of that - the job market keeps chugging along - let’s look at some 2019 unemployment data:

  • January 2019 - 4 percent unemployment rate (the high for the year, so far)
  • November 2019 - 3.5 percent - marching a 50 year low

With that said, the unemployment rate is sometimes a misleading indicator. Wage growth has been modest and there are a few causes for concern.
When looking at our (Hirewell’s) key metrics, we’ve seen steady growth from last year (~eight percent). Not quite the 20 to 25 percent we’d seen the previous years, but not the softening we’d worried about. Our client base remains diverse across the board, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, and our Tech practice, in particular, is up 20 percent from last year. We released our first salary trends report six months ago and are excited to release an updated version early next year. 
We’re also seeing the most multiple-offer situations we’ve ever encountered, and so if anything, the question right now is not whether a recession is coming, but what companies need to do to win the war for talent: 

  1. Get creative with your employment packages - Sign-ons, retention bonuses, more flex on range.
  2. Instead of the standard one-on-one phone calls followed by an on-site interview, think creatively about the interview process - Utilize Zoom calls, off-hours interviews, coffees and lunches.
  3. Add more second or satellite offices in Chicago to pull talent from within the city itself. And co-working spaces such as WeWork enable it.
  4. Explore basing salary ranges on skill sets. Our clients are starting to understand this and asking us for guidance.
  5. Assess the value of hiring junior people vs. experienced workers, and develop internal training programs. 

Does any of this mean a recession isn’t coming? That’s a conversation for another day.  

Final Thoughts

Today our CTA is simple: Tell us what went well or didn’t work for you this year. And we’d love to hear your predictions for 2020 (link here).


Dawn Maragos
Dawn Maragos

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