Anticipate & Evolve – How might Talent Acquisition emerge from Covid-19?

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By Kirstin Schulz, Lead Consulting PartnerTalent Strategy & Solutions


Whatever industry, company or country you might be in, most of us in Talent Acquisition and HR are currently preparing ourselves and our businesses to emerge from lockdown —whatever that might look like. There is no shortage of advice and predictions out there for HR professionals and business leaders—much of which speculative, others founded in research from consultancies, think tanks or universities. The amount of considerations and potential actions to take can be overwhelming. 

While I can’t say I’ve read every article out there, I wanted to share some reflections and common themes. These are pieces of sensible, realistic advice for Talent Acquisition professionals having to navigate and balance resourcing requirements under very different circumstances. With that in mind, here is a summary of what I believe are the key messages and take-aways. 

Reflect, Learn and Celebrate

In the rush to prepare for the much hyped ‘new normal’, we sometimes forget the value of pausing and reflecting on past or current experiences. They may not be easy to spot, but there surely are a few positives resulting from Covid-19, no matter how your business has been affected. So, encourage yourself to ask: As a business, what have we done well during the crisis?  

For example:

  • Were you able to adapt working practices quickly, enabling employees to switch to home working, prioritising safety, and protecting the health of your people through clear and quick decision-making? 
  • Did you provide support for your people’s emotional, physical and financial well-being during lockdown?  Were you able to protect jobs that could have been lost if it wasn’t for creative ways of managing your cost base? What other organisational changes did you make that resulted in positive outcomes for our employees?
  • Was your business able to pivot, e.g. react with agility to re-organise working patterns or production methods? How did you innovate? Did you even create entirely new products or routes to market?
  • It is likely that many candidates will now be looking at a potential employer differently than before, and the question of how you treated your workforce could well become a defining criterion. Spend time with your HR partners and business leaders and review the learnings and successes. If you haven’t already, try and understand how your employees felt about the large and small things you did for them—what were the “moments that mattered” in defining their sentiment towards you as an employer?
  • Harness the positives and then tell your story! 

Looking ahead

When it comes to the future, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of moving parts—some within your control, others less so—and to separate the noise from the mission critical decisions. ‘Re-setting’ will look different for different TA functions, depending on your target operating and engagement model, overall talent strategy, or current technology landscape.

In consolidating the advice, I’ve put together the following list of (non-exhaustive) ideas, both tactical and strategic, that you may want to consider: 

For the near term

  • At a practical level, review job adverts to make sure they reflect the changing nature of the way work gets done, including referencing remote working, safety protocols that are being put in place, changes to working practices, and how the organisation plans to guarantee social distancing in the workplace. 
  • Start assessing capabilities and skills that will continue to be important, such as the ability to manage and motivate remote teams or collaborate with clients or team members virtually.
  • Partner with HR to ensure you understand the practical, medical and legal implications of dealing with candidates, employees or new hires in relation to Covid-19.
  • Importantly, think through what changes you have already made to your hiring process (e.g. virtual interviewing, ACs, on-boarding) that you know are here to stay, and may need further future-proofing.
  • Prepare for quick ramp ups and ways of dealing with an increase in applications, for example through better screening & sifting technologies.  Ensure that you can accurately spot and quickly capture top talent that may active in the market now.

For the long term

  • Looking further ahead, spend time with key business leaders and help them develop a clear line of sight of what the (new?) business-critical roles are, and how they may differ from critical skills. For example, you may need to hire more ‘utility players’ and employees who can adapt and shift roles based on changing business requirements. Or you may need to source for entirely new sets of skills. 
  • Along similar lines, build an understanding of the current shift in the external labour and talent market, and re-calibrate demand and supply for your desired skill sets as certain talent pools may shrink or increase as a result of the crisis.
  • Consider your international talent supply chain, like cross-border hiring, internal mobility and assignments, and how they are affected from ongoing travel and quarantine requirements.
  • On the other hand, think about how the shift to remote working could broaden your talent pool, if your organisation is willing to truly embrace a ‘working from anywhere’ culture. This could help with hard-to-fill roles, or with moving jobs to lower cost locations where you may not currently have an office infrastructure.
  • Review your ‘recruitment partner ecosystem’ – from service providers to technologies – around the role they can play in your medium to long term strategy, and how they can help you achieve your key objectives.
  • And finally, think about what changes may need to be made to your current recruitment delivery model, enabling you to source talent across all hire types – internals & externals, perm & contingent, project workers & freelancers – whilst maintaining the right balance between a fixed and a flexible cost base.

Lots to think about, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come – happy to hear your thoughts and comments!

View the post and leave a comment for Kirstin on LinkedIn here.

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