COVID-19 Changed Hiring — Here’s What the Hourly Workforce Looks Like Today

If you are an employer with a predominantly hourly workforce, the past two years have been painful. As recently as December 2021, 4.3 million Americans left their jobs, down slightly from the record 4.5 million in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of February 2022, employers have added at least 400,000 jobs every month since May 2021, yet job openings remain at a record high and many companies are still short-handed. 

According to Rich Crawford, CEO at TalentReef, the pre-pandemic economic market for the hourly workforce was fairly consistent. For the most part, employers had a certain going wage and there were plenty of applicants in the pipeline. 

“Employers knew that these workers bounced around for higher pay or better benefits, which was fine because things were, on balance, stable,” he says. “The thinking was ‘people turn over, I can always find someone else if I need to.’” 

Now, two years after the pandemic started, many companies are still scrambling to fill positions.  

“That’s the most significant thing that happened with the pandemic: the entire upheaval of that stability,” explains Crawford. “You had workers leave the market, you had workers afraid to work because they didn’t want to be in contact with the public. You had workers saying, ‘Well, I should get paid more to go back.’” 

With so many job openings and not enough job seekers to fill them, we now see a talent pool of candidates that are holding out for higher wages and/or boosted benefits. “If you, as an employer, can’t deliver on those basic demands, job seekers won’t hesitate to look elsewhere,” says Crawford. 

The majority of the hourly workforce — Millennials and Gen Zers — now have different expectations about their hiring and working experience than they would have before the pandemic. They want higher pay and better benefits, but also a true work/life balance so that they can care for family members, adjust their schedule for child care, and do things that are meaningful to them outside of work. 

So with more job openings than potential employees, companies must stand out and prove why a candidate should choose them — and it all starts with the application.  

“The application, interview, and onboarding process have to be super easy and intuitive,” Crawford says of what he calls ‘frictionless engagement,’ adding that the hourly talent stability prior to the pandemic may never return. With that, employers will have to double down on their talent sourcing and recruiting efforts.” 

For candidates, frictionless engagement means optionality in how they apply (AI chatbot, company career site, application forms, text-to-apply) so that they can move through recruiting, hiring, and onboarding quickly and efficiently — in the way that works best for them. Ultimately, you are able to get them an offer letter before someone else does. 

For hiring managers, it means automating processes and optimizing workflows and configurations to free up time so that they can respond to an interview qualified applicants promptly. This will increase your applicant flow, enable you to hire more people who actually fit your needs, and best of all, allow you to continue to grow your business. 

“The new normal is there will be more long-term volatility in the hourly wage labour market, including factors such as wage rates, type of employee, hours worked, flexibility — just more volatility,” he adds. “I believe our customers will have to deal with that going forward, more than they had to in the past. It’s clearly a challenge, but it certainly can be achieved.” 

Download our white paper on the State of the Hourly Workforce 2022 to find out how to meet today’s hourly workforce hiring challenges.  


About TalentReef 

TalentReef solves talent management for the hourly workforce. Our unique combination of industry expertise and digital innovation drives more quality candidates. Our platform creates efficiencies and ensures consistency, eliminates errors in the hiring and onboarding process, and empowers great enterprises to retain talent longer. We have the features, flexibility and support services to evolve or completely transform an entire talent management ecosystem. As an industry-leading talent management solution provider, we leverage over a decade of servicing national brands at more than 100,000 locations to establish optimized recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training and assessment workflows. Our platform integrates seamlessly with business systems to create a single, streamlined experience for all internal and external stakeholders. In essence, TalentReef optimizes every component of the employee lifecycle, bringing greatness to staff, infrastructure and, ultimately, business growth.