Prepare Now to Tackle Your Post-pandemic Talent Challenges

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Jun 5, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

Layoffs and furloughs. Office shutdowns and business closures. Today, these are the topics making headlines—and taking up the focus of many HR professionals. But to succeed as an organization in these fast-changing times, business leaders need to think not just about what crises are happening today, but also what opportunities tomorrow might bring.

One of those opportunities today is in talent acquisition. Until very recently, many organizations were having great difficulty finding good talent for key positions. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, the talent landscape has changed dramatically. Many workers with exceptional skills are suddenly entering the job market due to reductions in force conducted by companies across the globe. This means the time is now to find great candidates for those hard-to-fill positions at your company—both the ones that exist today, and the new ones that will be created once the crisis recedes. As Harver CEO Barend Raaff told HR Technologist, “Keep former employees close because tens of thousands of companies will re-open overnight, resulting in an unprecedented recruitment storm.”

Here are four ways to uplevel your talent strategy to prepare your organization for the post-coronavirus world.

Assess changing workplace and workforce needs

In March, many organizations quickly switched from having employees coming into the office to working remotely from their homes. Others made major changes to the workplace itself, increasing the amount of physical space between employees (and customers) and providing protective gear.

Now, as many organizations across the country enter their third month under “safer at home” orders, HR leaders can start assessing what these changes have meant for the company in terms of costs, productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and other important factors. Have physical changes made to production lines changed employee productivity or well-being? Which departments and teams are thriving as they work remotely—and which are struggling? Which employees are happier and more productive working from home—and which are feeling lonely or disengaged? Which employees are unable to work from home? Are there changes you are seeing in customer behavior that might last beyond the current pandemic?

Once you make these assessments, you’ll be able to make better decisions as you consider your organization’s future hiring needs. You might, for example, decide to do away with location requirements for certain positions if you find they can be performed as well or better with remote workers—thus widening your pool of talent, saving money on office space, and allowing more flexibility with compensation, since a hire living in a rural area may have different salary requirements than one in a major city. Or you might decide to retain changes to the workplace environment itself if you’ve found it boosts employee productivity and retention.

Revamp job requirements and descriptions

After assessing your talent needs, you’ll want to update the roles and requirements for various positions at your organization. You might find, for example, that you need to reshuffle duties, separating the work that requires in-office presence from the work that can be done remotely, to allow for more virtual teams.

You’ll likely also need to update job descriptions and requirements. Some manager roles, for example, may now require experience managing virtual teams; other roles may necessitate familiarity with virtual collaboration tools. If your previous job postings described a work environment that has evolved due to the coronavirus pandemic, or if you instituted practices regarding protective or safety gear for your workers that may appeal to potential candidates, make sure to mention these changes in your job ads too.

Put HR technology in place to attract top talent

Even industries like manufacturing that used to rely almost exclusively on walk-in candidates and in-person applications have had to change hiring practices during this pandemic. This means more people today expect that more parts of the job search process—from recruitment to interview to hire—will happen online. In addition, many organizations are expected to rehire and expand their workforces once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic abates—and the talent market will tighten up again.

Organizations can adjust to today’s increasingly digital recruiting process and prepare for the inevitable post-pandemic hiring surge by adopting HR technology that will help them quickly identify and appeal to high-value talent. Social recruiting tools that integrate with your organization’s applicant tracking system or careers website, for example, will help your organization promote its employer brand and allow you to automate the process of finding like-minded active and passive candidates on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

Engage with target prospects

Many organizations had to suddenly enact hiring freezes in response to the coronavirus crisis. Your company may even have desirable candidates who were pretty far along in the recruitment process whose hire you had to put on hold for the time being.

If you have identified high-value talent that you’re not currently able to hire, do your best to keep in touch with them and let them know that, despite current circumstances, you very much hope to have them join your organization in the future. A candidate relationship management solution (CRM) that allows potential employees to stay in touch with your company to hear more about what it’s like to work at your organization and what new job opportunities are available — and that allows you, the HR professional, to easily send targeted emails to segmented audiences — can help you achieve this simply by automating the process.

With your top candidates, try to be as transparent as possible, giving them updates on when you’ll be able to bring them on, so that they can make good, personal decisions about their own careers while staying interested in working for your organization.

Stay on good terms with alums

If, like many businesses across the country, your organization has been put in the difficult position of conducting layoffs and furloughs, make sure to give employees support and care on their way out. This will not only help protect your employer brand, but also improve your chances of attracting boomerang employees should business pick up again.

Do your best to offer severance packages, extended health insurance continuation, and outplacement services to help affected workers land new jobs in this challenging labor market. At CareerArc, we’ve put together best practices for conducting virtual layoffs to help companies ensure their offboarding process allows them to retain positive relationships with their former employees.

Adapting to the coronavirus crisis has been the biggest challenges many HR professionals have had to face in their lifetimes. As we continue to adjust and adapt, let’s also stay open and curious about the new opportunities brought about by these changing times. Strategic HR leadership will allow forward-thinking organizations to emerge from this crisis with a stronger, more efficient, and engaged workforce.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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