The Impact of 2021 on the Talent Marketplace

Talent Acquisition

If you thought 2020 was the year the talent market would experience its most significant disruption, you might want to brace yourself. As it turns out, 2021 is proving to be a year like no other as companies look to get back on track, but struggle to find the talent they need amidst a sea of potential candidates.

Part of that trend is being fueled what we now have begun referring to as “The Great Resignation”. Whether it’s to pursue new opportunities or take a new course in life, people all over the world have been handing in their notice. Some are leaving for a new job in a market that has become increasingly competitive and allows workers with the right skills the ability to make some demands they may not normally be able to make.

Others are leaving the workforce entirely, whether that’s to pursue their dreams, simply take some time off or focus on their responsibilities as a caregiver.

Finally, many in traditionally low paying industries have made changes, identified areas of opportunity for themselves and begun the process of acquiring skills to That talent isn’t necessarily being replaced any time soon and in many cases, it will be tough for employers to entice them back without a substantial revamping of what’s on offer.

Pre-vaccine and the world beginning to reopen, LinkedIn research showed that 74% of workers were essentially “sheltering in job”, meaning they’d arrived at the conclusion that the smartest thing they could do would be to hang tight and wait until the crisis had passed. Six months later, the crisis continues but the limitations on life do not courtesy of millions of people receiving vaccinations.

PODCAST: Ep. 69 The Great Resignation with Steve Cadigan

While it doesn’t mean you can’t get the virus or its variants, vaccines have proven effective in lessening symptoms and significantly decreasing the need for hospitalization if someone does become sick. Between the vaccinated and those who have had COVID and survived, a substantial portion of the population appears ready to leave lockdowns in the rearview for good and they’re seizing the day when it comes to what they want from work, their home lives and everything in between as part of that.

With turnover rates plaguing businesses of all sizes, the smaller fish in the pond tend to lose out to the biggest, those who can offer larger salaries and a name on a resume many candidates associate with success.

Rewind the clock a little more than a year and it seemed talent acquisition teams were on the bench, waiting for the pandemic to subside so they could figure out what comes next. When it came, many struggled to react as talent began moving in every direction.

Overcoming Turnover

The natural inclination of many talent professionals when it comes to combatting turnover is to think about retention and engagement. Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that overall employee tenure was around 4.1 years, a number that has been declining in the wake of the pandemic and the perspective it has provided people.

For younger workers, it’s often talked about how it’s even less, with 2.8 years representing the average tenure. To stem the tide of exits and help set the right tone for relationships with new recruits that hopefully will remain for years to come, HR professionals have five key concepts to set goals around.


Employees want to learn new skills, new concepts and to make themselves future ready. They want to belong to organizations that push their development with intentionality in an effort to make them successful wherever they go. Investing in your people is likely to help you keep them around and in the process take the edge of that turnover rate. Technology can help identify their skills, areas of opportunity and potential paths forward, but ultimately it’s a conversation between humans that will help drive the best results.

Career Path

What are they developing for? There are a variety of roads forward for any employee, but helping them identify one they want to pursue, creating clear steps for progression and a training program to get them there makes people feel valued and provides a deeper sense of purpose. Career mapping is an evolving art as data science and artificial intelligence play a greater role, but in some ways, simply showing the intention of investing in the employee can go a long way.

READ: The Art of Career Mapping: HR’s Guide to Reskilling the Workforce

What Matters Most

Every employee will have different needs and the value of the employer-employee relationship should be built around that. One employee may have a pre-existing health condition that requires a certain level of healthcare benefits. Another may have an elderly parent living with them and require higher levels of flexibility and another may simply value time off or compensation above all else.

Engage employees on what they want most from an employer and work towards an individualized program that will meet their demands. Doing so shows that you care about them as a person and value their contribution enough to attempt meeting their needs.

Labors of Love

People are better at what they do when they’re engaged in something they feel passionate about. The thing they are passionate about may not always be a viable option for them, be it for financial reasons or skill level, but there may also be ways to tie that passion into their work and help them develop around the things they love. Doing so makes their workday easier, more engaging and creates a sense of fulfillment that may otherwise be lacking.


While all of that sounds nice, there is one cold-hard fact that will remain at the end of the day. Jumping through hoops to keep talent on board has to align with a business goal. Keeping people whose ambitions and desires in no way line up with business goals is likely to still end an employee exit or ineffective performance. Make sure as you go through the different retention focused initiatives, you’re keeping the business and its goals at the center of the conversation.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets 

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