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One way to hire faster (and better)? Embrace flexibility.


There’s no time to lose. The most recent JOLTS Report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed another record-breaking number of job openings in June — over 10 million! That means top talent are able to be choosy, most often weighing multiple job offers.
LAST UPDATED: December 8, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The recent JOLTS Report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a record-breaking number of job openings, making it difficult to hire top talent.
  • There are four key reasons why hiring managers are struggling to move faster: low pay, slow to offer, low commitment, and lack of flexibility.
  • Being flexible is especially important now, and companies can adopt new ways of working to increase their chances of attracting superstars.
  • Companies that use adaptable work arrangements need to deliver on an incredible work experience to retain top talent.

Listen: One way to hire faster (and better)? Embrace flexibility.

There's no time to lose. The most recent JOLTS Report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed another record-breaking number of job openings in June — over 10 million! That means top talent are able to be choosy, most often weighing multiple job offers. Your competition has never been more fierce. Yes, you want to hire the RIGHT people for your team, but if you can't do that QUICKLY, you've no hope of landing the best talent.

Based on our experience with thousands of customers, there are four key reasons why hiring managers aren't able to move faster right now:

  • Low pay: Many companies, not realizing how much the job market has changed, are simply not offering current market rates, and in a talent-led market, talent are choosing roles with higher pay.
  • Slow to offer: The standard hiring process is cumbersome, with lots of layers and hurdles and many people involved. Thrown off by new ways of hiring, leaders want to make a perfect match, are super busy, or are unsure how to assess skills remotely.
  • Low commitment: With so many permanent roles available, hiring managers who are unwilling to commit to long-term or full-time opportunities for top candidates are losing them to other companies.
  • Lack of flexibility: It's chaos out there. Companies are struggling to decide when, how, and where their staff can work, and many, believing on-site is the only way to stay connected and productive, are refusing to consider remote workers or flexible schedules.

Sound familiar? You're most certainly not alone. While all of the above challenges are huge and relevant right now, the need to be flexible has become the most urgent issue as COVID-19 numbers continue to surge. Sure, the desire to come back into an office or even just bring workers together in person might be desirable — once it's safe to do so. In the meantime, there's work to be done, turnover is continuing (remember that Turnover Tsunami?), and most leaders are struggling to make the hires they need to stay ahead.

To help, I recently hosted a brainstorming session with some of the brightest Agents, Recruiters, Account Directors, and Managers here at Aquent to uncover ways that leaders can use flexibility to increase their odds of attracting those elusive superstars before they're gone. There are many reasons why exploring new ways of working can boost your results and help you hire faster. Let's look at a few.

Focus on skills, not geography

The more accommodating you can be about where talent work, the more you can remove geography from your hiring equation and focus on what matters: the skills talent bring to your team. Knowledge workers are increasingly choosing the work/life balance afforded by living in lower cost of living cities. Wherever they move, their skills follow, creating new pockets of highly skilled professionals in cities like Denver, Austin, Charlotte, and Nashville.

Think you can't change your company's view on this one? Think again. Leading organizations are already delaying their return-to-office plans, many after already pushing back those plans twice in the past six months alone. Now is the perfect time to help executives revisit the WHY behind their interest in restricting hiring to local areas, which will limit the ability to hire the people you need to deliver business results.

Improve diversity and inclusion

This benefit is no longer news. Well over a year ago, Fast Company outlined the many benefits and necessary adjustments for employers who want to leverage remote work to improve workplace diversity. A more recent article from LinkedIn provides even more detailed positives for specific groups of employees and supports not just improved diversity but also inclusion.

If you're serious about bringing diverse ideas, backgrounds, and experiences to your workplace, adopting new ways of working will no doubt help. Companies that have used this time to be intentional about attracting diverse candidates are already ahead of the game. If you're not sure your company is taking diversity seriously, point out the fact that diverse organizations outperform their peers to get their attention.

Compete on price

We already know that skilled workers are leaving high-cost urban areas for a reasonable pace of life and a lower cost of living in smaller cities. While there's a lot of debate about whether or not companies should adjust salaries based on location, many companies are already doing it.

The market is still working to figure out how to handle compensation and location. However, that makes it the ideal time to rework and target your recruiting efforts. Tap into smaller pockets of talent outside major cities. Work on crafting an offer that attracts recently relocated workers, offering pay rates somewhere in the middle of small- and big-city rates.

Not sure what local compensation should be? Do your homework. There are lots of salary guides out there for you to use, including ours, which allows you to compare salaries areas with varying cost of living indices.

Reduce risk, increase safety

Customizing physical locations to provide a safe workplace that is conducive to collaboration, without introducing the fear of having to enforce mask-wearing or vaccination status is expensive and risky. No one has figured out yet the acceptable trade-offs between being together and being safe. As health concerns continue (and likely will for some time), 70% of workers want flexible work. Your best path to attracting top talent is to get flexible.

If none of the above resonated, think about this: Diversifying the physical location of your workers makes your team more resilient during catastrophic events. From localized COVID outbreaks to natural disasters to regionalized violent events, we live in a world where the work of on-site teams can be disrupted without warning. While we can't control what happens or where, a dispersed team can reduce the impact.

Let's be clear: extending offers with adaptable work arrangements is just the beginning of your work. Once you hire those superstars, you'll need to look at the rest of their journey to deliver on an incredible work experience. Many organizations are already making strides on not just reworking but truly rebuilding the world of work, and companies like Dropbox even publish their learnings. Check out their Virtual First Toolkit for ideas you can use in your own hybrid or remote structure to jump-start your efforts.

Don't wait to see what the next phase of this pandemic will do to the long-term future of work. Embrace flexibility today, advocate for hybrid teams, and get great at hiring remotely. For those companies who are all in on dispersed teams, they are progressing every day as they adapt and rethink best practices for hiring, onboarding, collaboration, and career development in ways that will win the talent war over the next decade and beyond.

Plus, everyone has become exasperated by the stops and starts and general uncertainty brought on by today's health crisis. Decide to be as accommodating as possible—or miss out on this incredible opportunity to hire faster and better.

Why do I care? My mission is to connect leaders to find solutions. If you're a senior design, experience, or operations leader of an in-house team and want to connect to others who share your unique challenges, let's talk. Our InsideOut community hosts virtual roundtables to support the learning, growth, and sanity of our members, and I'm honored to facilitate those discussions. You can find more learnings from our group on our InsideOut blog. Let's keep learning together!