The Pandemic Offers Us a Chance to Reimagine the Talent Life Cycle. We Should Take It.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on nearly every industry, causing unprecedented challenges as companies struggle to adapt. As hiring freezes end and unemployed workers re-enter the workforce, the recruiting process has been particularly difficult to navigate. To meet the moment, employers must reconfigure their selection systems to efficiently handle higher applicant volumes.

Many look to 2021 as the year of recovery; for some businesses, 2021 will be the year of acceleration. Companies that used the shutdown as a catalyst to overhaul the entire employee life cycle are surely going to come out on top — and it’s not too late for your organization to join their ranks.

Here are some ways to revamp your talent pool and win the war for talent in 2021:

Attract the Best

Leverage technology to help the right candidates apply while discouraging those with a lower likelihood of fit. With the right tools and strategies, you can engage would-be candidates and help them understand their alignment with open roles in your organization. Here’s how:

1. Revisit Your Employer Brand

Does it accurately depict your culture, and is it clear to candidates early on in the process? Ensure your brand truly reflects what it’s like to work for your organization and includes insights into the culture, work environment, employee benefits, and employee value proposition. If you need a starting point for identifying or enhancing your employer brand, try surveying your employees to see what they love the most about working at your organization.

2. Share What Has Changed Since the Pandemic

Be transparent about what your organization prioritizes when it comes to workplace culture. Have you made changes to your workplace safety policies? What are your short-term and long-term remote work plans? What steps are you taking to further your commitment to diversity and inclusion? Has the impact of the pandemic shifted the ideal competencies for the job at hand? These types of details will help candidates determine whether this role supports their mid- and post-pandemic lifestyles.

3. Give Candidates the Option to Self-Select Out of the Process

Use realistic job previews and culture-fit assessments to help candidates who may not be good fits self-select out of the process. Job previews give candidates an idea of what it’s like to work in the job on a daily basis, while assessments help them evaluate whether they have the right competencies for the role. If they can identify early on that their working styles or expectations aren’t aligned with the organization or the role, candidates can decide to remove themselves from the process, thereby creating a more efficient talent pipeline for your hiring team.

The pandemic has caused high unemployment across the world, hitting practically every industry in some way. That means there’s more talent on the market, and not all of it will be right for your company or role. It’s more important than ever to manage efficiency by helping job seekers evaluate their fit before applying to your jobs. That ensures the candidate pool comprises people who have been introduced to the culture and understand their fit.

Measure the Right Stuff

Don’t just rehire! Consider what you really need now as you rebuild and then implement assessments specifically designed to measure the competencies that matter most to your organization in a post-pandemic context.

After COVID-19, the future of work now demands different competencies from top performers. Competencies like learning agility, safety compliance, and resilience are not unique to the post-pandemic world, but the pandemic did magnify the importance of these competencies. HR and recruiting teams need the right assessments to measure this broad range of job-related skills to pinpoint the critical predictors of success for today’s candidates.

Any assessment you are using needs to be up to date. Most importantly, that means candidates should be able to remotely take their assessments online with ease. If not, you may end up losing those candidates to companies with more painless methods of assessing job skills. Your assessment should also be highly configurable and contain only content that is relevant to your jobs.

Design an Agile Hiring Process

You will need to make critical hiring decisions while getting less face time with candidates. That requires remote-friendly hiring systems that are still robust. Toward that end, it’s important to consider how all the technology in your talent ecosystem is integrated to optimize your processes, from your applicant tracking system to your assessment tools and virtual interviewing platform. A modular recruitment tech solution allows organizations to configure seamless workflows for their specific companies, cultures, and roles, which is essential to providing an engaging experience for candidates and centralizing talent data for hiring managers.

Virtual interviews are already prominent, but make sure you have solid platforms that allow for remote interviews. Make sure, too, that all managers are trained to conduct virtual interviews properly. It’s likely the remote interviews will remain the norm even after the pandemic officially ends, thanks to their ability to remove scheduling bottlenecks, increase efficiency, and allow for a more tech-enabled hiring process overall.

Develop New Skills

The pandemic has been a catalyst for many of the workplace trends we’ve been discussing for years, necessitating some radical reimaginings of standard job designs. Organizations must either quickly adapt or perish.

For example, the shift to a fully virtual world means employers must now look for competencies that prove a prospective employee will be effective when working remotely, in addition to any competencies required for the specific responsibilities of the job itself. Meanwhile, the racial equality movements of 2020 have also thrown a spotlight on the already important topics of diversity and inclusion. Agility has also become even more critical, and employers and leaders are more focused on workplace safety and employee well-being than ever.

COVID hit some industries much harder than others, and many professionals from these industries are now looking at changing their career paths. These workers bring plenty of transferable skills to the table, but employers will also have to take steps to close the potential skills gaps that come with hiring career-changers. A blended learning approach that combines personalized developmental feedback, eLearning, coaching, and learning reinforcement is the most effective way to do so.

The most successful organizations won’t just invest in new hires — they’ll also help existing employees develop the skills they need to thrive in their new job contexts. Organizations that spend the extra resources to teach their current employees will be rewarded with an upskilled talent pool right in their backyard.

The world is changing around us, and it will continue to do so long after COVID. Employers that pay attention to the changes and make an effort to adapt will not simply recover from the setbacks of 2020 — they’ll come out stronger than ever as they build more agile teams, more effective leaders, and healthier workplace cultures.

Ted Kinney, PhD, is vice president of research and development at PSI Services.

By Ted Kinney