Industry Insights

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2020 Developing Trends: COVID-19’s Impact on Marketing Research

September 29, 2020

2020 has been a year of massive disruption all across the US workforce. COVID-19 has had an incredible effect on our lives and the way we work, and, many months into the pandemic, the long-term impacts from business closings, broad work from home policies, and other restrictions on daily life are still taking shape.Data collection for this year’s report ended in August, so our sample was roughly split between pre- and during-pandemic times. While we didn’t see massive shifts amongst the entire sample that could unmistakably indicate the pandemic’s effect on the marketing research community, there are a few developing trends that could have a noticeable impact on next year’s data.This post is an excerpt from our recent 2020 Burtch Works Study, which shares salaries, demographic data, and other hiring market insights for marketing research and consumer insights. Download the full report to learn more.

Developing Trends: COVID-19’s Impact on Marketing Research

1. Layoffs and Furloughs Have Impacted the Job Market

Back in April, in the early weeks of the pandemic, we asked our network of marketing research and consumer insights professionals to tell us about the impact COVID-19 had on hiring and staffing within their organization. With over 200 respondents fairly evenly split between client- and supplier-side, 28% reported that their team had already gone through layoffs or furloughs, while an additional 9% said there were rumors of upcoming cuts.Even though staffing and hiring impacts have continued to develop after this point, it shows that a significant number of teams had already been affected in April, and this can have several implications for researchers and employers.Implications for researchers: As the prevalence of layoffs and furloughs disrupt career plans, there has been a rise in the number of researchers on the market looking for new roles. With increased competition, it’s crucial for candidates to be tuned in to the details during the interview process. Be mindful and prepared for assessments, homework or presentations, and additional interviews as companies carefully evaluate potential talent.Implications for employers: There is an influx of researchers on the market or potentially open to making a change if their current position is uncertain. If you have the budget to bring on new researchers, but are on the fence about hiring, this could be an advantageous time to scoop up talent.

2. Virtual Interviews Can Extend the Hiring Process

The interview process has been impacted significantly as in-person meetings have generally been off the table during the pandemic. While many candidates and interviewers are still working remotely, there is more flexibility when scheduling interviews, especially since a longer on-site interview to meet a handful of people can now potentially be spread out to accommodate different schedules. The transition to video interviews has introduced new challenges as well. Because marketing research is a field where employers place so much value on communication, soft skills, and team relationships, we’re seeing more companies take advantage of this flexibility by introducing additional touchpoints and decision makers in the hiring process to further evaluate a candidate’s ultimate fit.Implications for researchers: In some cases, we’re seeing the hiring process take longer for research and insights positions. Without the ability to meet candidates face-to-face, there may be more steps along the way with separate interviews to meet a variety of people on the team. It can be harder for an employer to evaluate communication style, personality, and soft skills on a video interview, so be prepared for potentially additional meetings and conversations prior to an offer.Implications for employers: Even though virtual interviews make it possible to invite more people to meet a candidate in consideration, try to be mindful of the time commitment and streamline the process so it’s as efficient as possible. As tempting as it may be, including too many opinions or decision makers can sometimes cloud the process or ultimately slow things down. The longer the hiring process carries on, the greater risk of potentially losing a great candidate to another company that moved more quickly.

3. The Pandemic has Limited Negotiation Power, at Least for the Near Future

With the increase of research and insights professionals looking for work, the job market has become even more competitive, with job postings experiencing a flood of applicants. With more talent on the market and an influx of researchers vying for fewer jobs, it can be tougher for candidates to negotiate salary when considering a new role.Implications for researchers: In this highly competitive landscape, it’s important to understand one’s market value given tenure in the industry, experience, and particular skillset. While it’s important to be fairly compensated, the current market is such that it may be helpful for job seekers to have some flexibility and to not “draw a line in the sand” when negotiating salary, especially if an opportunity is particularly exciting.Implications for employers: On the hiring side of things, it’s more important than ever to be upfront about salary ranges for a particular position given the current climate. With some researchers displaced, don’t be afraid to take on someone who had previously earned a base above the range for your open position – many researchers have reset expectations in the midst of the pandemic and may have a wider target range than before.

4. Many Companies Still Evaluating Long-Term Work from Home Options

While there hasn’t been a massive rush back to the office, many companies are still carefully evaluating their work from home policies and whether making some positions remote indefinitely is a possibility. We’ve seen some notable cases of West Coast tech companies (such as Twitter and Facebook) adopting permanent WFH options, but overall, most organizations are not yet committing to long-term remote plans and are still keeping a pulse on what level of flexibility will be the best for their business in the future.Implications for researchers: Many organizations value face-to-face interaction and proximity to co-workers for relationship building, brainstorming, team communication, and more. Though today’s climate prohibits that, most companies are hesitant to move towards a permanent WFH setup at this point. While relocations may be delayed or temporarily put on hold, we’re still seeing organizations express a desire for candidates to be available locally in the future.Implications for employers: If there’s flexibility within your organization to bring on researchers from outside of the area, many researchers are open to working remotely and have proven experience successfully doing so. Removing the location parameters of a search could help expand your access to talent and increase the pool of qualified candidates. Otherwise, if it’s possible to offer a hybrid option such as having your employees spend a couple of days in the office each week with the flexibility to work from home other days, it should be seriously considered. Many professionals have expressed an interest in this type of blended model, which could also help recruiting efforts moving forward.

5. School Closings and Shift to Online Learning is Impacting Childcare

As any parent can attest, the combination of WFH and interruptions in childcare have significantly impacted many families and working parents. With the approach to school closings varying across the U.S., parents have found themselves supervising online learning, juggling childcare, and a number of other new challenges affecting daily life. We’ve heard from some team managers that they’re seeing an increase in requests for modified schedules to address this and help navigate effects of the pandemic at home. If and when possible, having some flexibility in working hours to allow for time-shifting can benefit both researchers and employers alike.

6. Full Effect of Industry Disruption Continues to Evolve

Many industries and companies are being hugely disrupted as a result of COVID-19, and the full ramifications of this uncertainty continues to develop. While some companies within industries such as Tech, Pharmaceuticals, or CPG have experienced surges in demand and have continued to hire, other industries including Travel, Hospitality, and Entertainment/Live Events have been significantly impacted due to the unique and widespread challenges that the pandemic presents. As the situation continues into the months ahead, it’ll be important to stay aware of industry developments as we’ll likely continue to see even more changes down the road.

You can also check out our 2020 research & insights salary webinar below, where we shared highlights from our latest research, COVID-19 impacts on the hiring market, and other developing trends for 2021 and beyond.