We are in the middle of a tumultuous convergence of three crises: health, economic and social justice. In some areas we need to layer on political upheaval. And we are not talking emerging markets here.
The “Coronacoaster” as it has been named, is creating upheaval and uncertainty in most markets. Some have been decimated. Many organisations started 2020 in a candidate driven market and in less than six months face a global depression. Any talent acquisition planning, when it existed, has been turned on its head. Almost all organisations are evaluating their headcount, even those that are profitable.
Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to make precise predictions, these are some observations.
Who is ahead of the game?
1. Know your data
With hundreds of millions of jobs are at risk globally and many organisations applying remote working policies, the hiring landscape has changed. Industries in some sectors are shedding headcount (retail, hospitality, airlines, tourism oil and gas) but others are hiring, but for different roles. In some geographies lock down restrictions are even being re-applied as a second wave of the virus hits. Victoria, Australia, has just declared a state of emergency with a new strict lockdown of 6 weeks.
In some ways the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already bubbling under the surface. With a current over-supply of open candidates, organisations should be able to have their pick of top talent, yet many have laid off in-house recruitment teams. Now is the time to be using inhouse skills to map out talent needs for the next maybe three years and creating a meaningful talent plan. A three year plan is almost long term now. The immediate challenge will be coping with the high volume and sourcing the right type of talent. Pre – COVID19 time was lost attracting talent with some companies reporting being “ghosted” by sought after candidates.
Businesses that have data and can tie their people strategy into commercial projections, will have an advantage. Being able to link those numbers to skill set shortage forecasts (or even over- supply) succession plans and upskilling initiatives, will give those companies a critical market edge.
2. Ongoing focus on the pipeline
During downturns, job seekers are traditionally more conservative and less likely to want to move in case they encounter a “last in first out policy” in their new company. Many businesses only source talent against an open role, so Talent Acquisition teams that have always focused on building up a talent pipeline, rather than simply filling specific openings, will be ahead of the game. For those companies with budget, which are savvy enough, this is the time to make contact with candidates who weren’t open in 2019, to fill that talent funnel. This could be the right moment to develop relationships with previously hard to find talent Women in tech functions comes immediately to mind.
3. Relationship with Talent Development
Organisations looking at headcount reductions, may also have hiring needs in specific functions. It seems contradictory, but it is frequently the case. They should be looking at inhouse upskilling where TA works closely with L & D to assess who they can retrain. The need to de-silo talent acquisition and talent development is vital. The candidates or employees who are life long learners, able to navigate uncertainty, show flexibility and adapt to new realities are the ones to look for. You need systems in place to identify who they are in your company or pipeline, and assess their strengths. You should be looking for people who can find their way through the fog of ambiguity and not get lost in it.
4. Managing unconscious bias
Companies should always train everyone in the hiring process to manage their biases, with systems in place to support that initiative. You would be surprised how many don’t. We have to factor in a couple of old biases creeping to the top of the list in this new environment. A major one to watch is “unemployment bias” or devaluing those who are unemployed over passive candidates. Another one is attitudes to remote working. Many candidates for different reasons may need to work remotely while the virus is not under control. Organisations which have a tendency towards a presence culture should be mindful of exhibiting a bias against this demographic. You could rule out a high number of competent candidates.
5. Employee or gig worker?
This is going to impact organisations significantly as they try to stay agile and avoid high fixed payroll costs. Agility brings certain advantages, but requires a different type of thinking. Many inhouse TA specialists are not skilled or trained to assess contract workers and identify key competences gained in ways other than a linear corporate career. It raises questions as to who is responsible for skill development and who owns the hiring process. In many organisations contract workers are treated as vendors and are part of the procurement process. This will mean that a key part of the workforce will no longer come under the remit of talent management and be more of business operations function. Is that what your organisation wants?
6. Employer brand matters
Candidates will be looking at the way companies responded to COVID19 and the subsequent lock down. Interestingly, according to a study by Gallup, in May 2020, employee engagement globally picked up during the pandemic, when employee wellness became a focal point. With health and safety as key drivers, employees are generally more satisfied with their employers than before the pandemic. This is despite remote working and being anxious about job security. It’s important to maintain that message in all internal and external communications.
Candidates are smart and can suss out situations where organisations were not transparent. They know when companies protected executive packages and treated lower level employees badly. Job seekers see right through the token 30% salary cut on a pay cheque of $60 million. Transparent communication is critical.
7. Analysts and market intelligence
In these times of uncertainty companies will rely more than ever those who can analyse data, spot trends and make reasonably reliable projections, or as accurate as anyone can. This allow will allow you to mitigate payroll risk, buy in outsourced services or engage contractors. Companies that had a crisis team and strategy in place, have been able to manage the pandemic better than those organisations that didn’t. They are probably in a better position to anticipate any of the post pandemic recruitment trends
Organisations need to put creating a coherent and well thought out people strategy at the top of their agenda to weather the inevitable post pandemic storm.
But will that happen?
If you need support strengthening your talent pipeline – get in touch now!