December 3, 2020

Building a talent strategy to support the post-crisis future

Here's how HCM technology can help organizations overcome talent challenges and build strategies to drive business forward in a new world of work.

As we continue into the transformational phase, how can we effectively adapt our human capital management (HCM) operations? In this piece, I’ll address core strategies including embracing fully remote hiring, employing alternate work arrangements, and upskilling for the distance economy — and managing it all via high tech, high-touch HCM software.

Embrace remote hiring

Many organizations have not yet come to terms with the idea that in-person recruitment may not be practical for the foreseeable future. In fact, I spoke with one healthcare HR leader who said her company will continue to hold off on hiring until recruiters can meet candidates in person again. This organization hasn’t brought on anyone new in several months and it’s hurting.

If it doesn’t already, your post-COVID-19 talent strategy should include a digitally driven recruitment experience. A full-suite HCM solution is essential in providing an accurate, consistent, and engaging platform for new hires to enter the fold. It can help you remove biases and objectively measure candidate skills against job requirements,  and is likely to boost culture by opening up opportunities to candidates who might typically get lost in the in-person hiring shuffle.

You must also ensure you have the right online partners. LinkedIn is, as always, the place to be, but now is the time to be creative with industry-specific sources as well. Depending on your industry and the roles for which you hire, you may still need to supplement online efforts with targeted offline ones, such as employee referral programs and yes, those old-fashioned “Hiring now” posters out in the world. Using a variety of channels to spread the word that your organization is still hiring, and making it simple for people to find you and apply online, will keep you top of mind for active and passive candidates alike.

Video interviewing is perhaps the biggest change to COVID-age recruiting, and I suspect that once organizations get the hang of it, there will be no going back. Create and share video interview protocol with all your hiring managers, and make sure you proactively educate candidates on how to access and use the software.

In terms of coordination and objective evaluation of candidates, the video trend could decrease interview subjectivity and thus improve the process overall. And, if coordinated well with the rest of the business, video interviewing speeds up the talent acquisition process exponentially so you can get new hires in place to meet immediate needs.

Lastly, taking your whole talent acquisition operation online is an easier way to build a pipeline of talent that’s ready to go as soon as your hiring freeze thaws. Post-COVID, the most effective organizations will use HCM software to converse with and screen potential hires, and to track and follow up with candidates who have demonstrated interest.

Employ alternative work arrangements

COVID-19 was considered by some as a grand experiment in remote work. Organizations that resisted flexible and alternative work structures for years were suddenly thrust into a new way of doing things. And most were not disappointed by the results.

Your post-pandemic talent strategy should include restructuring jobs so they are broader in scope and hires can use their skills in multiple areas. If, during COVID-19, a segment of your workforce has been just as productive working from home, there may not be any point to sending these people back to the office. This is an opportunity to instead consider reinvesting physical resources and real estate in other areas of the business.

There may not be a need to have people working 40+ hours a week, either. In fact, fully distributed work (meaning everyone and everything operates remotely and on employees’ own schedules) is often so efficient that people get just as much work done in a shorter period. In addition to being virtual, your hires can be shorter-term, allowing you to staff up or down as your company’s situation requires. 

Keeping the best talent post-COVID-19 may necessitate customizing careers according to where employees are in their lives at the time. During COVID-19, companies have developed a more holistic relationship with their employees – including a better understanding of their personal circumstances – and this more sophisticated engagement lends itself well to individual career pathing and work configuration.

HCM technology can not only help you restructure your workforce and design new jobs, but it can also facilitate regulatory compliance, custom compensation and benefit delivery, and an agile performance management system that’s most appropriate for remote workers. And, if you’re in a hard-hit industry like retail or hospitality, HCM software can host an internal talent exchange on which you can move employees with currently low-demand roles into higher-demand ones.

Upskill for the distance economy

In February 2020, McKinsey released a survey on future workforce needs and found that nearly nine in ten executives felt their organizations either face skill gaps now or expect gaps to develop within the next five years. And that was before COVID-19 came for us.

The pandemic has created the potential to transform your workforce for the better, but that won’t happen by itself. Without rapid upskilling (outfitting employees with skills that augment their current roles) and reskilling (training employees for new roles), large numbers will be left behind in a post-COVID-19 world defined by remote work participation and the integration of automation and artificial intelligence.

But what skills does your business need, exactly? Agility, digital fluency (or applied technology skills), problem-solving, and interpersonal sensitivity are standard fare, but other skills will depend on your specific situation. As your organization recovers from this crisis, some portions of your offering will provide greater value. Gather other leaders to brainstorm exactly what work you need done to focus on these areas, how that work can be done most efficiently (number of employees, automation resources, etc.), and how to track and build the right skillset in your workforce.

The McKinsey report cited the example of an international bank. “Given that its regular face-to-face sales model faced disruption, the bank concluded that virtual selling could become a competitive advantage if done well. The bank began a tailored upskilling journey for its sales reps to deepen their core sales skills while improving their virtual ways of working.”

Keeping skill acquisition in mind, your talent strategy from here on out must infuse every stage of the employee lifecycle with multiple vehicles for learning. Your HCM system can assist in providing synchronous video sessions and live social sharing to create an in-person vibe, curating a list of existing online courses or publications that employees can review on their own time, partnering with organizations that have produced similar content and offering it on-demand to your people, and recruiting highly skilled employees to teach team members.

Remember, your post-COVID talent strategy isn’t just about getting through the next year. Putting these pieces in place now will also make your organization less vulnerable to future pandemic crises and other unanticipated scenarios.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit is an author, consultant, speaker, and workplace expert. She has written several career advice books, and was formerly a nationally syndicated career columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Alexandra is currently a partner at organizational development firm PeopleResults.

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