Bounce Forward Not Back – Impact of COVID-19 on Recruitment

Rebecca Foden, Head of Talent Acquisition for Transport for London delved into the impact Covid-19 is having on the recruitment and talent acquisition industry. Her article ‘Bounce Forward Not Back’ sheds light on business cultures, access to new talent and the changes required to pivot as a business and move forward positively.

“An important moment of reflection and call to action for every TA team, we’re in this together”
Covid-19 has disrupted our ways of working forever. It has caused ‘Big Change’ for every organisation, through the loss of revenue, disrupted supply chains and customer’s reactions to brands based on how companies prioritised the needs of their people, customers and shareholders.

Across LinkedIn and social media, we are seeing thought-leaders push out content about the impact of Covid-19 and undoubtedly the most popular question from candidates (those we seek to hire) in years to come is going to be,

“How did you treat your people during Covid-19” – which brands have come out on top during Covid-19?
The curse of the virus will have far-reaching impacts. The reality is that a moment of truth for corporate cultures has been created and both consumers and potential employees are observing brands that have responded well with a compassionate purpose and caring values. Employers will need to think differently about their brands as a result of this crisis. Many will need to quickly define a new purpose and set of values as they will need to show how they treated their supply chains, partners and communities during the crisis as well as describing their new virtual culture to employees.
A new role for Talent Acquisition (TA) is emerging, as we will need to help regulate and support these organisations to story-tell the new culture and employer brand remotely managing a very different set of expectations from potential employees. Organisations will need to think about the following trends and respond appropriately:

The future workplace is here now. What is the impact of Covid-19 on Talent Acquisition?
On the upside, for TA this is the catalyst that the industry has been fantasising about; An infinite and boundless talent pool without the restriction of geographic boundaries or location strategies based on talent availability of skills. The opportunity to leverage untapped talent in the global marketplace – The new normal has been set, ‘working from home has now been tested at scale’ there’s no longer any excuse – this is the springboard that we’ve been waiting on.

Is an Inclusive Workplace of the future finally in sight?
A far more inclusive and diverse workforce may evolve as we change our whole hiring practices removing every barrier that has prevented us from hiring great talent previously – up till now the unshifting were location and flexible working. The new normal means that we now have a borderless talent pool that is Infinite and Boundless” – the open talent economy has landed – people and work in a borderless workplace. This will be a profound change for every organisation; whose talent will become attractive to a larger audience.

There is no workplace like home. What’s the impact of Covid-19 on working from home and flexible working?
Talent and employers will be able to seek each other out, on more equal terms, from anywhere in the world. Covid-19 has accelerated the open economy with over a billion people globally being forced to work remotely. For those organisations standing at this cliff edge and tentatively peering over doubting this new virtual world muting a ‘quasi / hybrid back to normal’ type scenario will be left out of the ‘war for skills’ and will be left behind. The Disrupted HR club has spoken about the ‘E A C H’ model for a while now – ‘Employees as Adults, Consumers and Human Beings’.

The crisis has applied this framework by chance, the previous parental approach that has hampered organisational success with over prescriptive rules to everyone based on a few roguish employees has been temporarily halted with many organisations having to totally ‘trust’ their employees in the new virtual world. The new virtual reality of treating employees like adults at scale has emphasised ‘trust’ at scale and organisations that embrace this new way of working will spark greater creativity, productivity and engagement.
This has been witnessed already across society, in these extraordinary times of ‘frugality’ we’re seeing boundless creativity, innovation and purpose from career pivoting to find new income, millions of volunteers supporting the NHS, 3D printers making face shields at home as well as millions of people working flexibly/from home in many roles where previously business cases were dismissed and or denied with over complicated bureaucracy.
The inconceivable has finally happened and it is not only good for our people but also for our planet…

Working from Anywhere – on a beach, mountain, Timbuktu
The idea of “Working From Anywhere” (WFA) was cited by the Harvard Business Review in August 2019 re-imagining the future workplace where employees could literally work from anywhere, living where they choose anywhere in the world as long as there was an internet connection. Seven months ago – before COVID-19, this notion was unlikely, farfetched and unfathomable. Promoting working from home policies for new hires was cited as one of the biggest challenges facing the modern recruiter; hiring managers reluctantly agreed to home working for difficult to fill roles only with muted approval.
Hiring Managers have often worried about remote employees working less, mixing personal responsibilities with work as well as the decreased communication and collaboration among coworkers as well as the lack of informal learning/coaching that typically occurs every day in the office. We know that employees value being treated like adults and working remotely. They feel more valued balancing work and life, picking kids up from school or attending to their caring responsibilities. Moving closer to ageing parents to a location with a lower cost of living.

Leadership skills of the future 🏆
A new normal will bring about a new requirement to negotiate and manage a different set of expectations, skills and leadership. This means that TA teams will need to rethink their sourcing and assessment strategies among other strategies.
Previous tools may no longer be applicable for scale and a greater expectation will also be placed on recruitment processes to be technology enabled by candidates
TA will need to look very different and the adoption of technology to automate the entire recruitment process with a particular emphasis on attraction, engagement, assessment and onboarding will be accelerated
EVP, assessment and Onboarding will be vital focal points and triangulating these technologies together. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of tools we use online espousing new workspaces and cultures
A focus on pipeline and diversity; this is a Big Opportunity for every firm to seize the hard to reach talent pools
Talent Acquisition will need to identify Leaders that can manage complex virtual ecosystems in real time. This will require a new set of relationships between employee and manager.
Trust, Autonomy, Flexibility will be expected and pervasive. Future employees will choose those organisations above others that espouse these basic standards achieved by the new virtual reality.

There is no going back! How does HR respond to Covid-19?
For wider HR, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to sunset some of the unpopular processes such as yearly performance reviews or unnecessary mid-year recording of performance reviews, yearly employee temperature checks, in favour of the new less formal setting engaging with our talent at home – their pets, family and the warmer atmosphere. A new leadership capability will emerge that focuses on empathy, listening and compassion
Progressive HR teams need to design products that are virtually fit for purpose with regular temperature checks and interactive engagement to stay connected to their talent. This means that TA and HR will need to be Braver and strategically enabled and motivated, with reduced budgets things will need to be done at scale and differently. Organisations still hiring will need to re-define their talent strategy, vision and whom their critical hires will be. As the market shifts to an open talent economy, investing in talent programs will become essential to execute complex business strategies.
The above presents most organisations with good news, particularly for a large proportion of their existing workforce: Millennials (born between 1980 – 2000). They currently comprise half of the US workforce and by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce. They represent over half of the current workforce in each organisation as they have taken over other generational demographics as a majority. Growing up with technology, mobile apps and innovative platforms they will be digitally native and thrive in the new culture setting. Deloitte reported that nearly 75 per cent of all millennials want to work from home or remotely. HR teams will need to think long term about the side effects of homeworking and e-presenteeism on well being as many people may feel obliged to be online 24/7.

For Talent Acquisition teams, it’s a prudent time to think about the future impact to TA and review the current talent acquisition maturity model across your organisation. A new virtual layer will need to be added to existing operating models with respect to your organization’s maturity level. We will now need to think about the whole TA process from attracting, engaging, sourcing, assessing and onboarding and think about what aspects can be moved to fully virtual and inclusive solutions.

Some useful resources: