COVID-19 An Unprecedented Time To Hire Great Talent

 In Business Strategy

While the Covid-19 pandemic hits and reshapes companies, industries, national economies, and our society in previously unthinkable ways, business leaders need to think beyond survival to the opportunities this crisis might create, not only for their own organizations but the greater good. Chief among these is a chance to hire talented people at a time when they might have trouble finding or keeping jobs elsewhere.

The pool of available talent is suddenly both changing and expanding, and visionary leaders can make the most of it, preparing the ground for post-crisis recovery and growth.

Eighty percent of CEOs worry about skill shortages, up from half in 2012, while outside hiring at the top reached record highs, causing business for large global search firms to increase by 9% to 15% last year. Just a few months later companies are laying off workers and downsizing and economic sectors are collapsing. It seems an unprecedented number of people, around the world, from new graduates to seasoned veterans, will be looking for employment. At the same time, a major force that had been fueling the intensity of the war for talent, globalization, might recede. As companies revisit their international expansion strategies and cross-border business practices, workers are recalculating their personal purpose and individual and family priorities, with serious implications for their geographic and work preferences and travel habits.

Seizing the Opportunity
How should visionary leaders go about capturing this once-in-a-century hiring opportunity? Through urgent and disciplined engagement in several initiatives:
These might be connections they frequently deal with (as suppliers, advisors, clients), or have assessed as past potential candidates. Set up a task force to source potential candidates from target sectors and companies who may now be either jobless or open to change. In your next team meeting, discuss everyone’s selections, rank them in terms of attractiveness for and to your company, and agree on who to contact. It is possible that many will now be open to considering an offer because their circumstances have changed.

Amazon, who has hired over 100,000 people since the initial outbreak, has repeatedly stated that the company’s high hiring bar is a critical factor in its success. All companies should bring this level of focus and discipline to sourcing potential candidates, especially during this period. Insist that your senior HR leaders step up their efforts and purposefully assign some of your top-line managers to scout for outstanding people in key functions, particularly ones coming from hard-hit sectors such as airlines, hotels, and recreation, or start-ups that might already be faltering in the face of recession.

Interview and check references remotely with the same rigor you would in person.
Thanks to modern technology, we can replicate all of our traditional hiring processes and procedures in remote, physically distanced settings. Telephone calls and video conferences are a must while following the same guidelines for great recruitment that experts have described for years.

Desirable Skills to Hire in a Crisis

  • Inspirational Leadership
  • Change Management
  • Collaboration
  • Ability to influence others
  • Ability to Grow and Adapt
  • Soft Skills

Such potential will stem from their curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination, on top of the right motivation. Ask behavior-based questions, such as “Could you tell me about a time you led your team through a big transition?” Record your thoughts and observations about how the person measures up to your initial metrics as soon as you are done. Bring in more than one but not too many interviewers and compare notes with them. And carefully check references. Social research has concluded that third-party opinions are much more accurate than individuals’ own views of themselves, particularly for soft skills.

Go out of your way to motivate the best candidates.
Once you are convinced that you have the opportunity to bring in someone you really want, arrange to have the person speak to senior leaders who can share their love and passion for your company and describe the value they hope to build with the new colleague. Pay can be important but research shows that what truly motivates knowledge workers is a high level of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In these trying times, flexible work arrangements will no doubt continue to be key, as will the chance to keep on learning and growing while working to build something larger than ourselves.

Don’t ignore the sourcing, retaining, and development of in-house talent.
This is also the time to carefully review your existing key players, stay closer to them than ever, assess their skills and knowledge in light of the revised outlook for you sector and company, and help them move from potential to success with targeted development plans including the right type of stretch assignments, which often arise from crises. This pandemic has created unprecedented trauma around the world. The economic fallout will be equally painful for many. It can be tempting to focus on the short term of crisis management. But when we emerge from this unfolding tragedy, it will be the long-term thinkers who not only survive but thrive. If your organization is well-capitalized and visionary enough to hire for lasting greatness, now is the time.



Sources: Fernández-Aráoz, C. (2020, May 1). Now Is an Unprecedented Opportunity to Hire Great Talent.

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