April 2, 2021

As Businesses Seek Long-Term Growth Over Short-Term Efficiency, Talent Teams Are Stepping Up to Drive the Transformation

For all the damage it has caused, the COVID-19 pandemic has also sparked a mass awakening across business sectors. In fact, according to a recent Forbes survey, almost 80 percent of executives feel the pandemic has actually revealed their organizations’ strengths. These companies are now in a position to reset and reorient themselves, and many executives are prioritizing long-term growth over efficiency and cost-cutting going forward, Forbes found.

I like this opportunistic mindset; it’s a good sign for the workforce. Why? Any business transformation that leans into organizational strengths and focuses on long-term growth will start at the people level. Whether its transformation requires new technical skill sets, new market knowledge, or new leadership philosophies, the business must focus on talent as the foundation of the change.

Unfortunately, according to new research from my company, Beamery, there are significant gaps between the way C-level executives and the boots on the ground view talent transformation priorities. In fact, for some organizations, there’s a lack of understanding around what “talent transformation” itself means.

For our report, “The Missing Link in Talent Transformation,” we surveyed more than 400 global leaders navigating workplace transformations spurred by the pandemic. Our results tell us that teams tasked with executing talent transformations still have significant hurdles to overcome moving forward.

The Talent Function Itself Needs Reskilling Before It Can Execute Talent Transformation

Nearly half (48 percent) of the VP-level talent leaders we surveyed report a lack of digital skills in the talent function is preventing true talent transformation. As organizations work to reorient themselves toward their strengths, talent leaders need a clear understanding of the skills they already have on their teams and the skills they need to build or buy in order to drive a successful transformation.

For example, organizations that prioritize digitization, automation, and data analytics in their talent strategies may need stronger internal skill sets around digital storytelling, recruitment marketing automation, data science, and analytics. To that end, talent organizations would be wise to audit their in-house skill sets today. Understand what skills you have on tap and what skills you can quickly train for; work on recruiting against any gaps you identify. Check in across internal teams, too, to identify whether any new roles within the talent function align with roles existing employees already aspire toward.

Whose Needs Are Driving Strategy?

It’s clear from our research that the C-suite and VPs of talent have different opinions on which stakeholders’ needs should be prioritized during transformation and what is responsible for an organization’s lack of progress.

Seventy percent of CHROs and more than a third of CEOs say job candidates are the primary stakeholders whose expectations carry the most impact when it comes to driving the company’s overall talent strategy. In contrast, 71 percent of VPs of talent look inward, reporting that hiring managers are the top stakeholders whose expectations drive the talent strategy.

Where does this leave recruiters, the stakeholders who are actually executing against talent strategy day in and day out? Again, we find misalignment. CHROs prioritize recruiters’ efficiency over their experience, and barely more than one-third of organizations say they are focused on improving the recruiter experience. These results contradict the Forbes research cited above, which suggested the majority of executives are prioritizing long-term growth over efficiency and cost-cutting measures. Clearly, that prioritization doesn’t translate to the recruiter level, and that’s a problem.

If recruiters loathe their daily experience, it won’t be long before they burn out. My recommendation is to stop treating strategy like a zero-sum game. Instead, understand there are multiple prioritized audiences depending on what the specific business goals are. To that end, organizations should focus first on building alignment among teams on what the business’s goals and key metrics are. From there, set clear expectations on who the key stakeholders are and how progress will be measured. Finally, let technology help you scale multiple goals at once. Lean on automation to simplify how you build highly personalized campaigns that put the right audiences at the center of the experience.

The Talent Function Must Define Transformation in the Business’s Language

Whether they asked for it or not, 2020 gave talent leaders a chance to grab the mic as they advised the C-suite on any number of challenges, from implementing universal remote work to humanely furloughing workers.

It’s not time to drop that mic just yet! Talent leaders still have the C-suite’s attention, which means now is the time to define talent transformation and convey the value of strategic talent investments in a language the business will understand.

Let’s unpack a common challenge in talent acquisition: proactive sourcing. Convincing the C-suite your talent teams need yet more technology to reach candidates can be a tough sell. However, using language the business already understands can improve the odds your message will resonate.

For example, you could make the case that proactively sourcing candidates is much like attracting eCommerce consumers. Success in eCommerce is about keeping up with rapidly shifting expectations and answering questions such as “What ad should we serve?”, “When is the right time for an interaction?”, and “What product does the consumer want to see next?”

When you explain the science of talent acquisition in the same terms, its value becomes clearer to executive leaders. By bolstering your case with a familiar context, you change the conversation. Now, it’s less about buying new technology and more about acquiring the capabilities you need to understand candidate expectations.

As talent leaders and their teams continue navigating workplace transformations, they will have to overcome hurdles to make progress. By reskilling their teams to adopt digital and data-driven approaches, aligning with the C-suite on talent transformation priorities, and clearly articulating what talent transformation looks like, talent teams can drive organizational resets that truly value long-term growth over short-term efficiency.

Abakar Saidov is cofounder and CEO of Beamery.

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Abakar Saidov is cofounder and CEO of Beamery, the leading talent operating system.