Returning To The Office Creates Some WOW Recruiting Opportunities In 2021

As “exceptional workers” are forced back to the office, employers with 100% remote jobs will dominate recruiting.

Note: This article is designed for a quick scan

Yes, the year 2021 will go down in recruiting history as the best in memory for recruiting exceptional talent away from elite employers. This WOW recruiting opportunity is happening because after an elite corporation issues a “fully return to the office policy,” many of their remote workers will instantly become frustrated and less interested in staying at their corporation. This historical recruiting event provides ordinary companies that seldom have more than a minuscule chance of successfully recruiting even a single employee from elite companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and E&Y. However, during this 2021 WOW recruiting opportunity, the remote worker frustration at elite employers will allow almost any size company to successfully target and recruit a cadre of technical and administrative talent from these normally impossible to raid elite employers. 

Employers Eliminating Remote Work Are Creating This Short-Term Opportunity

Recruiting leaders will experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because many elite employers are instituting a comprehensive “fully return to the office policy.” This policy will mean that a significant percentage of their top employees working 100% remotely won’t want to or won’t be able to stop working remotely. So, this first group of recruiting targets will be exceptional,  representing previously loyal workers who will now have no choice but to seek other jobs that still offer a 100% remote format. 

The second cadre of remote worker recruiting targets will come from elite employers that have decided to operate under the mixed or hybrid remote work model, like Facebook and Twitter. It’s also important to remember that even at the elite employers who use the hybrid model, the policy will allow many workers to continue working remotely. But only if that is appropriate for their team and their manager approves. Unfortunately, many individual managers have an extreme preference for a team working in a physical workplace. Inevitably, many individual managers may arbitrarily decree the complete elimination of the 100% remote work for their team. So, managers’ arbitrary freezing of remote work opportunities will provide outside recruiters with the second group of recruiting targets.

The Many Benefits Of Recruiting Frustrated Remote Workers

This “direct targeting of frustrated remote workers” provides many benefits to the company doing the poaching. Some targets will be relatively easy to recruit, and there will be many exceptional remote employees.  Once hired,  they will provide the benefits of gaining successful innovators and best practices used at the elite companies. These remote working new hires will also likely serve as a team leader that can help transform your culture. And finally, the new hire will also likely help identify and recruit several other exceptional employees from their previous company over the next few months. The “recruiting window” will mostly remain open to the end of the year since some elite companies do not require many remote employees to return physically to the office until the end of this year. 

Pandemic Related Reasons Why Exceptional Talent Will Soon Begin Job Searching

In addition to their need to never physically return to the workplace job. Several additional pandemic-related reasons will force or encourage all types and levels of workers to look for a new remote job at a new company that doesn’t require coming into the office, even occasionally. Those additional factors that require many employees to only work a 100% fully remote job include: 

  • Relocated, so they are a primary recruiting target group – this is likely to be the largest group of 100% remote workers that won’t be returning to their elite employer. Some exceptional employees relocated more than a commuting distance away from their company’s facility. Many “already relocated” exceptional workers won’t likely be willing to go through the hassle or the expense of moving back. Instead, I expect about 10% of this group will shift to freelance work. The remaining 90% will likely actively look for another 100% remote work job at another exciting company (perhaps yours).
  •  “In the office” healthcare concerns – some exceptional employees fear that returning to any physical workplace will be unsafe for them or their family (because of the odds of catching the virus). To them, requiring even one visit back to the physical office space may be a dealbreaker.
  • Resist forced vaccinations – in addition to coming back to the office. Some companies are expecting every employee to be fully vaccinated before they can physically come into the office. This demand will drive some exceptional workers to companies with less draconian policies. Others will be driven to job search because they are vaccine resistors. At the same time, it will offend some vaccinated employees that strongly dislike policies that strive to control employees.
  • Some thrive as remote workers – and learn to enjoy it. Others have found that their performance and innovation have improved because they don’t have to suffer from numerous office distractions. These individuals are likely to proactively seek a 100% remote work job at a new job.
  • Fewer advancement opportunities – because of their exceptional work during the pandemic, some employees feel that they will not be eligible for significant bonuses, more rapid promotions, or frequent pay raises if they remain. However, if their current company appears to be facing diminished growth in revenue or employee expansion, in that case, it will likely encourage many exceptional performers to seek a new 100% remote job at a fast-growing company.
  • Childcare shortage – even though they can afford childcare, there is none available. Many of these well-paid exceptional employees will be impacted by the severe lack of childcare services they need to come to work physically. So, until that availability improves, some will have no choice but to seek out a 100% work-at-home job at a new company. 

Recruiting Exceptional Talent Will Also Be Easier During This Period

Recruiting away exceptional talent to your company during the remainder of this year will be many times easier than it would normally be. For the following variety of reasons that include: 

  • Those that require remote work have few choices – unfortunately for them, your recruiting targets are in a bit of a bind because of their return-to-work ultimatum and its deadline. They may be forced to make a quick decision on whether to leave their current company right away. As a result, your recruiting targets will have a sense of urgency and a laser focus on their #1 priority, obtaining a 100% remote work job. This dominant need and its impending deadline will be so powerful that recruits that need a 100% remote job will be less likely to be picky about other minor aspects of a new job. Of course, after being hired, their longer-term retention will be an issue if you don’t continue to treat them right.
  • Many of your targets are also looking for a change – the pandemic was draining on almost everyone. As a result, many employees, even the exceptional ones, are actively looking for significant change in their work-life. In many cases will include at least the thought of shifting to a new company. This widely held “wish for change” will make attracting and convincing candidates to your company much easier. 
  • Faster and more agile employers may be looked upon favorably – after years of working at a large tech company, even as prestigious as Apple. Some of these exceptional employees will be looking forward to working at a company where they have more impact, get to see the decision-makers, and where the decisions on their project ideas are made faster and with less bureaucracy. Therefore, you will enhance your recruiting chances if you emphasize your speed, agility, and the ability of a single employee to have a major impact.
  • Remember to target companies in other industries – many senior administrative, HR, finance, security, and IT roles can be successfully filled by individuals that have a history of working in almost any industry. So don’t limit your recruiting only to exceptional companies within your industry.
  • There will be a large talent pool – I predict that as many as 20% of the current exceptional remote work talent will choose not to return to their current company’s facility. The available pool of potential recruits will be much larger because, unexpectedly, so many top employers or their managers are being extremely rigid about everyone physically returning to the office. The recruiting pool also is larger because of the ineffectiveness of corporate retention programs. I have found that 99% of all corporate retention efforts are not data-driven. The employees you attempt to recruit won’t likely be held back by an effective data-driven, personalized corporate retention effort. 
  • Expect lower levels of recruiting competition – because many recruiting leaders are not aware of this short-term opportunity. Or the attraction factors that will work best on these 100% remote workers. Your recruiting competition will be less intense. And because the employee’s elite company doesn’t have a 100% remote work option to counter your offer. Your odds of recruiting success will be higher.

A Few Quick Tips For Recruiting Exceptional Remote Workers

Space is limited; however, in this remaining section, I’ll provide a few quick tips on how to successfully recruit remote workers being forced out by their current organization. If you need additional tips on how to poach talent, I’ve written extensively on the topic (how to poach suddenly available talent).

  • Emphasize remote work in your recruiting materials and job ads – for the next few months. Make it abundantly clear and place a notice on your corporate careers page that you desire to help those negatively impacted by returning to the office policies.
  • Rely heavily on employee referrals – alert your employees about this unique recruiting opportunity. Ask them specifically to use their contacts to “fully return to the office companies.” to identify desirable workers that we should target. Ask them to screen for talent, cultural fit, and even affordability. Re-staff your referral program and process. And then encourage your employees to use it to identify recruiting targets that are being negatively impacted by a strict return to the office policies. Have your employees look for those negatively impacted by a harsh return to the office policies while they are active on professional industry chat rooms and forums
  • Revisit your silver medalists from top “fully returning to the office companies” – revisit previous candidates that came in a close second for one of your open jobs. And then look for candidates now working at a “fully returning to the office company using LinkedIn. Contact them to see if they need a remote working opportunity. 
  • Consider shifting many of your open jobs to 100% remote work jobs – at least for this short period to hire more additional talent from these top employers. Convert as many of your open jobs into 100% remote work jobs and expand your searches to include talent that lives worldwide.
  • Avoid taking the opportunity to be arrogant – even though you have the upper hand, you should still treat your targeted remote workers with respect. First, remember just because these employees are going to move on from their current job. That doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to move on to yours. Also, remember that your recruiting target’s former boss may decide to bid on them once he or she realizes that coming into the office isn’t a sufficient reason to lose them. So, treat them with respect and like passive candidates that have multiple choices.
  • Fix your retention program – smart executives can cut turnover by identifying and then mitigating the reasons outlined here, covering why exceptional remote employees might leave. The next important turnover reduction step may be fixing your company’s employee retention process. Make it data-driven, personalized, and using “stay interviews” to identify why your important employees stay or why they might leave. 

Final Thoughts

When you survey the history of recruiting, you find that there have been few sudden quantum changes in the world of recruiting. However, you are now facing “fully return to the office policies” can provide a truly rare opportunity. Suddenly, you have a reasonable chance of successfully recruiting exceptional remote working and other talent away from elite companies. It’s an opportunity that cries out for a plan.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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