Hiring in the COVID-19 Era: How Role Responsibilities and Skillsets Will Change for (Innovative) Good

Flexibility, technological competency, and virtual collaboration are necessary employee traits in the COVID-19 environment.                                          

Carter Liebscher|
April 28, 2020

Essential roles are up, others are down. Companies are reacting to current circumstances with new hiring processes.

Hiring is, for the most part, down as we trudge through the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Apart from essential industries upping their hiring numbers—transportation and logistics is up 7% and Amazon is looking to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers, according to NPR—other organizations are using this downtime to regroup, save on expenses, and address new challenges.

Many are figuring out new ways to deliver customer service digitally, taking cues from essential industries that were forced to develop novel service models. In order to keep up, company leaders are examining current and potential roles and how they can be leveraged for more agile operation.

Role flexibility, technological competency, and an emphasis on collaboration are a few of the traits and skillsets employers will look for as we enter this new working environment.

Employers may work toward implementing flexibility in working styles—remote work may be a more widely accepted practice, even by those who before rallied against it—but they may also expect employees to be flexible in their role: taking on new responsibilities and developing new skillsets.

This has been apparent already in the hardest hit industries that, apart form unfortunately laying off employees, are assigning new tasks based on current needs:

In the midst of COVID-19 and measures being taken to contain its impact, many employees are not just doing their jobs but transforming their job routines […] Many of the tasks employees are doing now were not imagined even weeks ago. People are becoming crisis managers, sanitation monitors and work-from-home co-ordinators.

“The coronavirus is changing how we work—possibly permanently,” Lisa Cohen, The Conversation

Employees have not only had to adapt to virtual work, but they’ve also had to rethink their communication habits and workflows. Organization leaders have similarly had to communicate with employees which projects have been shelved and which tasks take precedence over others.

Open roles during and after the crisis will likely include flexibility in descriptions to say, in short, that the role outline is subject to change based on internal or external circumstances.

For organizations with fewer technological investments, the transition for virtual work has been a challenge for management. It’s also been a learning experience for employees, especially those who aren’t as comfortable with technology as others.

As roles and responsibilities change and are adapted to the best available technology, the bar for technological competency for will be raised.

That may not be an issue for certain segments of the new hire pool, but it may hinder potential certain potential employee populations.

Learning management software Docebo conducted a survey on tech skills among different worker age groups, finding that one in four employees in the U.S. don’t have the necessary tech skills to perform in their current role. Considering that 80% of workers in the U.S. rely on technology to perform their job, technological competency is a necessary skillset for present and future innovation.

Some organizations may implement employee development programs to maintain their current employees, while others may shrink their new hire pool.

As we all follow the CDC-recommended guidelines for social distancing, some organizations may continue enforcing them for the foreseeable future.

Offices may be reorganized or entirely redesigned to nudge co-workers to keep their distance and remind them of healthy practices. While that could cause trust issues between employees and management, it could influence greater cohesions and company culture.

Despite the distance, employees may feel that their working dynamic with their peers may have developed as a result of the crisis: They can now effectively collaborate both in person or virtually. They’ll have a lot to share with each other, and with their managers.

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