The arrival of COVID-19 displaced a significant amount of workers in the global workforce as layoffs and furloughs created extraordinary market uncertainty. Since then, millions have returned to work in one role or another, but the unemployment rate remains high at 6.7%, more than double what it was at the beginning of the year.
With the talent pool expanded at the moment, understanding the displaced worker is ever more important for hiring teams as candidates have expressed an increased willingness to try new things and work in new industries of late. During a session titled “Getting Smarter about Hiring Displaced Workers: Insights from Original Research” at our recent Talent Exchange Live event, Matt Krebs, Director of Learning Insights at Southern New Hampshire University outlined some of the results from a recent survey the university did.
To get a better sense of the displaced worker, SNHU surveyed more than 750 respondents who had either become unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic (48%), shifted from full-time work to part-time (41%) work or had been unemployed but have since taken on a new full-time job (11%).
Of them, around 47% did not have a college degree, while 43% had an Associates or Bachelor’s degree and 10% had a graduate degree. Average age was 31-years old and 70% of respondents were women.
When it came to staying in the field that saw them laid off, unsurprisingly many workers desired a shift, with 72% selecting an “ideal” industry that was different from the one they were in and 62% saying that they want a different job than they had before. Overall, workers were realistic about what that might entail, with 73% indicating they expected to need training to get the jobs they desired.
Workers most commonly wanted to leave industries like retail and hospitality in favor of careers in healthcare, business services and social assistance.
“It’s not a big a surprise to us that folks who were leaving retail and hospitality did not want to get back into those industries,” Krebs said. “If you picture these individuals who lost a job, but have skills they learned there, they’re looking to apply them specifically in something like healthcare where they think they can translate. This influences us in the way we think about how we offer education and training to this population.”
Not mentioned in the survey was the influence of benefits, something many will have lost access to as part of losing employment. Though the survey didn’t ask the question, Krebs indicated that the results do point to factors that benefits could be tied to as the reason they are seeking specific skills that will lead to certain types of jobs.
“Based on the results, it’s pretty clear that stability is a factor in people’s thinking,” Krebs said. “People didn’t tell us they want a college degree, they said they wanted skills specifically. So I would encourage everyone to be thinking about creating reliable pathways for people to acquire new skills so that people understand that as an employer, you offer both training and a pathway toward more stability as well.”
Ready for Training
The survey rated respondents on how they agreed with a statement affirming that they will need new training to get the position they desire. While 73% agreed on some level, 29% of them selected the answer strongly agree, the most common response on a six point scale.
“We think that’s pretty important, that these people are so ready for change,” Krebs said. “There’s really a change happening right now that training in new specific skills is going to be relevant going forward. And when I say that, I mean people have an interest in learning specific skills for a specific job.”
When asked about the characteristics of the learning experience and what they were looking for, respondents’ most common answer was they were looking for very specific skills for a specific position with learning broad skills that can apply to many jobs the third most common answer.
“As survey questions go, the answer was pretty clear that acquiring new skills was really important to the displaced worker population,” Krebs said. “The message to those of us L&D is that people are looking to be trained in skills that will lead toward a specific opportunity.”
Click here to view the view the full 30-minute session that Krebs presented at Talent Exchange Live.