Well, 2020 has certainly been a ride. A global pandemic was not what anyone saw coming as 2019 drew to a close. COVID has taken a tremendous human toll, and far too many lives have been lost. In addition, thriving global, national and local economies took a major hit, further imperiling people’s well-being, as financial costs added to the emotional ones.
Now, as we look to 2021, there seems to be a light at the end of the very long tunnel. The rollout of immunizations has started, and people can finally hope for a return to some semblance of normal. However, it’s going to look very different than in the past.
TalentReach has had a unique birds-eye view of the economic and social impacts in Seattle, as hiring is a bellwether for many economic indicators. We are in the “people business” – and personal relationships have always been our biggest strength and why clients and candidates keep coming back. We’ve heard their individual stories, their companies’ hiring outlooks, and have done our research to be able to put together our outlook for 2021, and we’d like to share it.
The national economy will be slower to recover than Seattle, but there is increasing optimism.
In the final days of 2020, a much debated $900 billion stimulus package was passed in Congress and signed by the president. It will be a boost for many – though it will inevitably fall short. The $285 billion small business relief it offers will be key, as PPP loans, as many of those businesses will not make it out of 2021. The hospitality industry has been devastated, and many restaurants, travel and tourism businesses will need extra support to survive. Federal pandemic unemployment benefits expired as well, another blow to the overall economy, though the new stimulus will start some again. In Washington State, Governor Inslee has signed an emergency order filling the gap for Washingtonians who relied on that relief – another sign our state is doing better than most in bringing economic help to its citizens.
No matter what happens, the landscape for working has irrevocably changed. Some of the biggest changes revolve around the new “work from home” normal for many companies. This was the year teleconferencing became the norm, and where you’re physically located became less important. Going out to eat and socialize faded as delivery and virtual gatherings soared. Distance learning and telemedicine also took off, due to necessity. Open concept office plans? Nope. Those are so 2019. All the industries that support this new state of working and living will thrive, while many businesses that relied on people heading to the office will wither. (Doggy daycare centers will probably be a thing of the past, as our pets have their owners home). There is hardly an industry that is untouched by the pandemic, for better or worse, as Americans (and the world) rethink life post-pandemic. Real estate, construction, medicine, education, the arts – all of these rely on technology, even if it’s tangential. Businesses can capitalize on the new tech “goldrush” much the way Nordstrom got its start making boots for miners during the Klondike gold rush…you don’t have to be striking gold to thrive, just harness the economic power of the markets that support it.
The Local Economy
The national unemployment rate of 6.7 % (using November 2020 stats, the most recent available) is higher than the State of Washington’s (6%) while the Seattle metropolitan region is among the lowest urban areas in the country at 4.5%. By comparison, the New York City region is at 9.7%, San Francisco region is at 7.2% and Los Angeles at a whopping 11% unemployment. Seattle has suffered far less than peer cities. Much of this is due to the unique insulation from economic damage that Seattle has enjoyed due to our high tech industry. We’re home to two of the most valuable companies in the world, Amazon and Microsoft, and another 18+ companies with over a $1B valuation, at least ten of them are recent startups. Many of these companies didn’t just survive the pandemic, they thrived during it. (Amazon, the economic juggernaut, with its own delivery fleet and shipping model, has had unprecedented growth during this time). Seattle was one of the first cities impacted by the pandemic, and the fastest to react with working from home and stay at home orders. Microsoft and Amazon were also flush enough to offer help to hourly contractors (like office cleaners) and small businesses like the restaurants that usually served their offices at lunch time.
What It Means for TalentReach
We saw the drop in hiring when the pandemic hit, and now we’re seeing the upswing, as employers scramble to gear up for a new year, with better prospects on the horizon. Now we’re uniquely positioned to hit the ground running as we help our clients and candidates reach their goals.
Seattle’s talent pool for tech is second to none, but now we are no longer bound by city limits. TalentReach was ahead of the curve of sourcing the right tech candidates, and our knowledge of Seattle tech employers’ needs gives us the right experience to draw from other markets, like San Francisco/Bay Area, New York, and other tech hubs to bring the right candidates for Seattle roles. It no longer matters where a candidate is physically located, which brings us a huge pool of people looking to work for the Seattle companies that have thrived during this tense period. While many businesses falter, so many of the employers we work with have proved to be recession-proof, and are looking to grow. We have our eyes on the places that are surging and need new talent. Likewise, we know the places that have had great talent that might be looking to move elsewhere as the economy shifts. We can tap into this talent pool quickly.
Overally, we’re bullish on 2021 and are already ramping up our client pool and fielding calls from worthy candidates we’ve worked with before. Stay tuned here for more updates on the state of hiring in Seattle in 2021!
Action Items for Employers
- Revisit corporate mission statements and see how you can demonstrate values in a remote environment. Corporate culture is easier to display when people meet face to face. If your company says it values transparency and communication, show it. The CEO of a small Seattle tech company took to writing a weekly email to employees during the pandemic, sharing open and honest thoughts and concerns, on everything from the Black Lives Matter protests, to compassion for employees with family members suffering from COVID. Employees found this personal touch incredible, and their support for their employer has soared.
- Upgrade employee benefits to reflect current climate. Before, free beverages and snacks in the office might have been a draw. Now, think about how you can help employees at home. One Seattle tech company sent $500 checks to each employee earmarked for improving home office setups, to be used for anything from new monitors, office chairs, lighting or desks. Another has closed down for one Friday every month so employees can all take personal time for mental health without impacting their vacation time or their workload. Having the whole office closed is a great benefit as many employees complain that the new work from home schedule often results in working more hours, not less.
- Revisit your interview questions and processes. Again, things that worked in person might not translate over video. And the qualities you are looking for in a candidate might be different now. Is it more important to have a team player who thrives in a group or the self-starter who works best alone? Only you know what the work environment you have needs.
- Call TalentReach for a free assessment of your hiring strategy and the state of hiring for the candidates you’re looking for.
Action Items for Candidates
- Keep LinkedIn up to date. This one has never been more true. Your digital footprint has to be solid, and reflect your strengths. Work on that “about” section, and add some personal color. A list of bullet points might not be enough. State clearly what you do, what drives you, and what you’re looking for.
- Upgrade to LinkedIn Premium. No, we’re not getting a kickback. But anything that increases your visibility on this crucial platform is good.
- Keep your eyes open. Even if you’re happy with your current job, always be on the lookout for the next step in your career. There was a time to value safety, but no reason to stay stuck in a non-growth position. Look for companies with a solid business model post-pandemic and for positions that you’re passionate about.
- Call TalentReach for a free consultation and assessment of current opportunities.