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How the Pandemic Has Changed Hourly Hiring in 4 Big Industries

Volume hiring

At Harver, we support organizations that hire for low-complexity, high-volume roles. As such, we had a front-row seat to COVID-19 irrevocably altering the way volume hiring is done, forcing organizations to digitize their recruitment process almost overnight. 

Not just that, they’ve had to refocus their recruitment strategy and look for talent with transferable skills, rather than prior experience. They’ve had to change their approach to recruitment by switching to always-on campaigns or looking for ways to make their process more agile. 

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Companies that had been planning a digital transformation of their recruitment function simply expedited their plans.

While US unemployment levels rocketed to nearly 22 million in the first month of the pandemic, hiring never stopped. Now, despite having high unemployment numbers, the growing demand for entry-level workers has surpassed its pre-pandemic levels, yet the roles can’t be filled.

In June, the US Chamber of Commerce declared the current labor shortage (there were over 10 million open jobs in the US at the time) an ‘urgent workforce crisis’, with only half as many available workers as there are open roles.

Adopting volume hiring technology to help recruitment teams work more efficiently has been essential to many companies’ survival, particularly organizations that rely on an hourly workforce. Leading the switch to a digital recruitment process have been four big industries that were severely impacted by the pandemic and forced to reinvent their recruitment strategy to survive:

  1. Retail
  2. Hospitality
  3. BPO & Contact Centers
  4. Staffing

In this article, we’ll explore briefly how each industry has altered its approach to hourly hiring in the post-pandemic landscape, as well as share some best practices or tips for volume hiring in that industry that have come to light in recent months. 

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How retail recruitment has changed post-pandemic

During the pandemic, nearly 2 million retail employees were laid off due to retailers filing for some sort of insolvency, or falling into administration. Elsewhere, staff faced temporary furloughs and reduction in their hours or pay. However, as the world heads out to shop again, retailers are desperately trying to fill hourly roles, especially as the holiday season approaches.

But with COVID still on everyone’s mind, finding enough candidates is proving tricky. Firstly, candidate expectations for work have changed. What they expect from their role, from the organization, has forced retailers to rethink how they brand their jobs and how they sell them.

For example, candidates have expressed health and safety concerns regarding Covid-mitigation protocols. They also want more flexibility in the role, and to be able to choose working hours and swap shifts if necessary to fit in with their life outside of work. Finally, they’re not happy with the longer hours, understaffed stores and unruly customers.

Recruiters, on the other hand, have to think outside of the box to attract enough applicants. They’re also having to consider applicants who might be entering the job market for the first time, or coming to retail from another industry, meaning they don’t have prior retail experience. 

One trend that we see shaping retail recruitment is targetting new talent pools that are typically underemployed, such as older workers or former inmates. Then, retailers are offering short-term hiring bonuses to draw more applicants in, and offer benefits such as education, health benefits or career development programs to attract seasonal workers.

Another trend is the renewed focus on employee retention. Flexible schedules and intelligent scheduling options, team communication tools meant to increase the interaction with colleagues, as well as earned wage access (EWA) are just a few of the tactics used by retailers to prevent employees from quitting before the holiday season.

As for their recruitment process, retailers are starting to use pre-employment assessments not as screening tools, but as matching tools. Instead of relying on automated assessments to filter out candidates, recruiters are using matching technology to identify the skills and characteristics of applicants, and use this data to create personalized development programs meant to help employees develop missing skills.

Before you continue!

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of our new white paper on the digital transformation of retail volume hiring. Learn about:

  • The challenges currently shaping the retail volume hiring space
  • How to align your recruitment strategy with today’s reality by adopting technology
  • The four building blocks of a fully digital recruitment process

The effects of the pandemic on hospitality hiring

Out of all the industries, hospitality has been hit the hardest amid lockdowns and government restrictions. In June 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were over 1 million open jobs in the hospitality industry in the US. In the UK, consumer spending in hospitality remains at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Hotels around the world are experiencing unprecedented booking cancellations.

The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts the pandemic could lead to 50 million jobs being cut globally, while McKinsey research suggests the hospitality industry won’t recover to pre-pandemic levels until well into 2023 and beyond.  

To make matters worse, the sector notoriously had one of the highest staffing turnover rates pre-pandemic. And the events of the last year have seen even long-time hospitality workers leave the industry in search of more stable employment elsewhere, depleting the already tiny talent pool even further. As a result, hospitality recruiters have had to drastically rethink their hourly hiring strategy in a post-pandemic world. 

And it’s not just a case of offering the best pay. Right now it’s an employee’s market – they have the pick of the jobs. Everything you can do to improve your employer value proposition will help set you apart from the competition and entice talent back to the industry. For example:

  • MGM Resorts are providing upskilling opportunities for 82,000 employees, demonstrating their commitment to their employees and that they’re invested in their future careers. 
  • You could increase your benefits packages from just the basic package such as health insurance and paid time off, to include perks like 401(k) plan, helping international students acquire J1 student visas, paying for staff continuing education, or paying referral bonuses.
  • Hilton, for example, was named Fortune’s Best Hotel in 2020 for expanding parental leave to up to 12 weeks for new mothers and up to 4 weeks for new fathers. 
  • Follow the example of Amazon, Bank of America and McDonald’s and adjust salaries to at least match the cost of living. 

Before you continue!

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of our white paper on the digital transformation of restaurant volume hiring. Learn about:

Restaurant volume hiring white paper

How COVID-19 has changed contact center recruitment

BPOs and contact centers are facing some of the biggest challenges they’ve ever dealt with. The pandemic has created a working environment that BPO and contact centers in particular, weren’t prepared for – the need for remote working, shift workers and an increase in flexibility measures. 

While volume hiring in the BPO and contact center space has always been tough, now it’s reached new heights. And in order to meet the challenges, according to Deloitte, the pandemic is acting as a catalyst for a rapid digital transformation of the traditional BPO and contact center models.

In order to first remotely hire staff, and then secondly have them WFH, BPOs and contact centers have had to implement certain digital measures to deal with data security as well as ensure employees have the appropriate IT set up to help them succeed in their role. 

Some BPOs have adopted a hybrid working model to mitigate the risk of having all employees located in a single location, while others have shifted toward cloud based work platforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of employees. 

As part of their digital transformation, some contact centers are integrating recruitment software to not only automate their recruitment process, but to help them make better, data driven hiring decisions. From custom pre-employment assessments that assess applicants for the characteristics and skill sets linked to good performance, to offering candidates realistic job previews in a bid to manage candidate expectations of what the role entails. 

A new digital recruitment process means the candidate journey is a very different experience to the traditional resume based application of old. This new one is engaging and educational and more in line with what candidates expect from BPOs and contact centers today.  

Before you continue!

Don’t forget to grab your free copy of our white paper on contact center volume hiring in 2021. Learn about:

The 2021 Guide to Contact Center Volume Hiring

Current state of the staffing industry 

The US staffing market is the largest in the world, accounting for over 31% of global staffing revenue in 2020, totalling $152 billion. And revenue is forecast to grow by 16% this year. This is largely due to the resilience of staffing firms and their ability to pivot on a dime early in the pandemic and continue successfully serving their clients, despite the rapidly deteriorating conditions. 

According to Business Wire, the last year saw a large number of HR and staffing businesses undergo a digital transformation. With 82% of global recruitment firms saying the pandemic caused them to ramp up their efforts to digitize and automate their efforts in a bid to unlock new levels of productivity and transform the way they operate. 

And now with job openings at an all time high, the US economy needs the staffing industry more than ever. With a record 10.1 million job openings recorded in June, the US staffing industry has never been so in demand.

But finding temporary employees to fill low-skilled jobs in client companies was hard enough pre-pandemic. In the current climate, the staffing industry is finding it tougher than ever to attract high quality talent. The situation isn’t helped by ongoing unemployment benefits incentivising would-be job seekers to remain at home.

In fact, according to HBR, a recent working paper examining the impact of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation revealed that a 10% increase in unemployment benefits caused a 3.6% decline in job applications.  

To entice hourly workers to apply, recruitment professionals have had to utilize innovative ways to encourage them. From increasing starting salaries and temporary pay rates, to highlighting the flexible nature of the role. Employers have also had to reassure employees that their workplace is a safe place to come to, spelling out if necessary the cleaning processes, any use of PPE or other healthcare initiatives. 


COVID has impacted talent acquisition leaders involved in volume hiring in every industry. In order to meet the challenges that the pandemic presented, they had to rethink their recruitment strategy, and reconsider their digital transformation plan, bringing it forward as a matter of priority. They’ve had to adapt their approach, and switch focus from past experience to transferable skills. They’ve had to find new ways to make volume hiring agile, even at scale. 

And for the majority of them, they’ve achieved this through a digital transformation of their recruitment strategy. Their manual, traditional hiring process was no longer fit for purpose. For organizations that rely on an hourly workforce, adopting recruitment technology has allowed recruitment teams to work more efficiently, to hire faster, better and fairer.

We think it’s worth paying attention to the ways these four industries have handled the crisis, because some of the changes they made may have been born out of necessity, but they’ll likely stay with us long after the pandemic furore has died down.

Before you continue

Subscribe and stay up-to-date with everything recruitment related by receiving a weekly content digest and email updates on new resources!



Alexandra Johnson is a seasoned writer specializing in HR, recruitment and tech topics. When she isn’t at her desk writing, she’s researching tech developments.
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