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Introspection and Hypersensitivity: Talent Attraction and Upgrading Capability

With many companies in the midst of RIFs, furloughs and facing considerable degrees of uncertainty as to how they will operate and compete in this evolving landscape, it may seem an odd time to speak about the importance of hiring new talent. But the time is now! History tells us that in times of flux comes great opportunity and a chance to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes. It has certainly been a sobering 2020 thus far as we witness our norms and comfort levels being stretched, pulled, and twisted in all sorts of ways that have led us to think and act differently.

What is Driving the Need for HR Talent Right Now?

HR is Under the Spotlight

If there is one word that sums up 2020, it is “introspection”. From employers to employees; to husbands, wives, partners, siblings; everyone has taken a hard look at all aspects of our living and working lives. In workplaces all around the world, HR has been central to helping us understand where we are and where are headed — there is no better time to be in HR than right now. No better time to bring new ideas and meaning to your teams and organizations. Be it leading return to work strategies, reorganizing the workspace, building in new remote learning and engagement tools, the need for quality HR leaders who are curious and drive innovation is evident. HR 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 is happening within spans of months, not years, and so harnessing and attracting talent which can thrive in this new ambiguous world is essential to the very survival and prosperity of a company and its people.

The Importance of Strong People Leaders

It is clear that having the right people in leadership positions is key to engagement, productivity, and promoting a culture, whether it be one of performance, collaboration, both, or even something else. This is the case whether we are talking to first line managers or sitting atop a team of 200. The ability to communicate clearly as a conduit between the business and team, set achievable goals and manage process to achieve these is under the microscope now.

In tough times, we revert to getting the basics right and this is important. What we are also hearing is a need for a blend of inspiration, resilience, and a track record of managing through significant change. The impact of adding seasoned people managers, particularly in a remote environment, can have a noticeable and positive knock-on-effect to future hiring decisions. These individuals often make better talent selection decisions that can directly impact the business and push for engagement with search partners and key internal stakeholders during the hiring process, which all links back to driving team and organizational performance.

CHROs should therefore be looking to add leaders who are not afraid to make bold decisions but can back this up with tried and tested methods of stretching their teams and influencing business partners. Having tough and open discussions is what is needed right now. There is no place to hide.   

People Want Meaning

Countless polls over the last few months continue to point to one thing: people are looking for greater meaning in what they do and who they work for. Employees become candidates very quickly when goalposts move, cultures change or there is the absence of a clear direction. Questions they are often asking themselves are:

  • How has leadership managed through this period of change?
  • How have we treated our employees?
  • Do I still believe in what we are doing?
  • Is this where I want to be long-term?
  • How do I want to be remembered?

We are seeing a noticeable uptick in passive candidates becoming active applicants to job postings on the rise and (while security for family and career are paramount still) a higher tolerance to risk. This is particularly the case if a new opportunity speaks to a personal connection, a goal or mission they want to achieve. Again, introspection is driving a willingness to step out into the market and turn over stones that were previously unchecked.

Should business and HR leaders be doing more to entice this ever-growing group of individuals to consider a move to their companies? Thinking about who you are as a company or a team, what you believe in, and the overarching mission is critical. And not just thinking about it but taking action on how to share that message with the market. 

Changing Business and HR Models and Structures

We have written before about the evolution of the HR operating model and how our long-range plans have in fact become tomorrow’s plans. The pace of change today is frightening and is forcing us to act and move the needle quicker than any time in the history of work. What I would like you to think about is the factors driving these changes in HR structures.

The need to manage costs is always key, ever more so now. This, combined with a laser focus on efficiency and effectiveness of processes, has led to an increase in companies rolling or building out existing Global Business Services capabilities. Candidates with deep Service Delivery, HR Operations and Shared Services experience are in demand. As is often the case, investment in HR Technology follows suit and we expect to see hires at the top of house in both areas.

Consider two other drivers: control, and a need to lean on experts. We are seeing an increase in key decision-making roles pulled closer to the center, and an increased investment in subject matter experts across CoEs—this is not surprising. In the case of control, as we continue down the path of increased remote working, there is a reaction to a feeling of losing control if your key decision makers are spread far and wide and there no longer exists the comfort of that the ELT and HRLT being physically closer together. In times of challenge we also want to lean on experts, those that because of deep specialization are pioneers who can help us navigate these murky waters of uncertainty.

What is the Impact on the Hiring Process?

Implications on Employer Branding

Clarity of message is so important right now. Understanding who you are as a company and how you are facing and communicating the myriad of health, well-being and equality challenges now shape your future successes or failures. However, what requires greater focus if you want to hire the very best of talent that is dipping its toe into market right now is understanding what makes that candidate tick… What is it about your company, brand, mission and purpose that will resonate? Are there policies that are working now? Innovations around working practices, physical working environments, a seismic shift in culture or awareness that is taking place?

The most progressive HR teams right now are tying these pieces together, working with PR and Comms teams internally, or consultancies to better understand how to get the right message out which speaks to a candidate’s passions and ambition. As a result, we have seen several organizations go out into the market and source new Heads of Talent Acquisition. There is an awareness at just how critical new talent will be to get ahead of the competition and the need to hire a leader of this function who can deliver this future state.

Attracting and Onboarding Remote Talent

There is a hypersensitivity attached to this process nowadays. Think about one of the most impactful reasons for joining a company: visiting the office, getting a feel for the atmosphere of the place, the culture that many companies spend millions of dollars to create in a physical setting. For the large part, this just does not exist right now. This key tool of attraction is now rusting in the toolbox. So, what is the effect? It is a hypersensitivity to the other key senses of sight and sound… What messages are we hearing from the hiring manager and stakeholders? What is visually attractive about this company? What does their messaging tell me about a culture that I cannot touch or taste?

It therefore becomes even more important to get comfortable with and excel in how you interview virtually, the importance of having the right stakeholders in the process, the importance of consistent an clear messaging and delivering actionable feedback that enhances the candidate experience. Companies who were quick out of the gate and comfortable making offers virtually have leap-frogged many of their competitors to the best talent.

The decision to set a firm expectation on a final round face-to-face meeting, however, does not mean that you will not secure the right talent for your company. It is also important during these times that companies are proud of their cultures. If a company values face time, and it is core to how they have been successful in attracting and retaining their best talent, then this should also be respected. It presents a nice filter to those candidates who in the end would not be a fit.

Go Where the Talent Is

An interesting development (forced to a great extent by the pandemic and travel restrictions) is the willingness for HR leaders to go where the talent is. More progressive companies are not insisting on relocation but understand that thinking ahead it is important to secure the best talent, wherever it is.

Where relocation longer-term is necessary, we are seeing a good amount of flexibility on relocation timetables. In part of course due to uncertainty surrounding return to work schedules and phases. There is a greater sense of awareness on family planning coming to the fore. We are seeing plans to shelve full relocation until the end of the 2021 school year. Things may change but right now it is sensible and easier to plan when there is a stake is in the ground and so forward planning and being comfortable working that far out make sense. This certainly leads to an incredible amount of trust on both employers and candidates that plans set now will come to fruition and be adhered to.

Strategic Partnerships

Talent pipelining and having a keen awareness of where the best talent sits and when it may come into the market, and what drivers effect this decision is essential. How can this be achieved while the focus of many companies right now is internal? The key is to leverage those trusted external partnerships with executive search firms and consultancies who have a pulse on a specific talent set. This is where specialist search firms like ChapmanCG can offer the best lens into the market and help companies with their strategic hiring decisions. Cementing these partnerships now will be key ensuring that you are seeing the very best talent when candidates move from passive to active search mode.

Active Industries

Many industries are reeling and will be for some time. We look at hospitality, travel, aerospace, automotive and heavy manufacturing sectors and know that it will take 18-24 months, and in many cases longer, to even return to some semblance of profitability. As a result, we have seen some of the best talent in these organizations look out into the market. Some of these are known for best-in-class HR in certain aspects of their work, e.g., talent and performance management, learning, analytics, continuous improvement. Are you as a hiring manager keeping on top of this talent?

As is life and the Hymn of the Big Wheel “one man struggles while another relaxes”. Other market segments such as E-commerce, Life Sciences, Consumer Goods, Online media, and entertainment are performing exceptionally well and breaking records, not that it is tasteful to shout from the rooftops about this right now. But pockets exist, green shoots are out there and the most in-tune candidates know this and are actively searching for their next opportunities in these sectors.

Skills in Demand

This is a quick snapshot of those skills we are currently seeing the most demand for:

  • Capability Development: We are seeing an increasing number of large global multinationals create new positions aimed at delivering a more progressive enterprise-wide organizational effectiveness and capability strategy. Individuals with skills set in talent, OD/OE, learning and development and analytics are being sourced. 
  • Org Design and People Analytics: A sharper focus on the HR structures are operating models are highlighting the need for high-quality people and data analytics specialists. Individuals who can bring data to the table and help make key business and talent decisions.
  • D&I and Diverse talent: The D&I / DEI function in of itself is evolving and there is recognition from business and HR leaders that more action needs to be taken to keep driving this important issue. The source of talent into this area though is starting to broaden with an acceptance that new ideas from HRBPs, Talent and Analytics leaders might bring something different to the table. Diverse talent is in high demand. And by diverse we are not necessarily using its broadest definition—gender and ethnicity are the two major gears for change.
  • Total Rewards: Even against the backdrop of COVID-19 related impacts, 2020 has seen a consistent need for global rewards leaders who are able to harmonize, innovate and excel in areas of executive compensation, recognition programs and wellness offerings.
  • HRBPs moving into Talent Acquisition: Whether it be rotating internally or joining a new company, business leaders are calling out for stronger and more credible partnership to help grow their markets and become more competitive. HR Business partners are increasingly being sourced to lead TA functions, with the premise that they can build credibility quicker within the business, understand key people and business drivers and link new talent to bottom line performance.
  • Executive Recruiters: Talent Acquisition leaders are adding executive recruiters to their teams. Not only to work more closely with business leaders internally but also to foster closer relationships with search partners. As we discussed earlier, this is with a longer-term view to develop key talent pipelines and an understanding of how to attract these individuals.

What Now?

As we continue to move into periods of uncertainty and opportunity, both business and HR leaders will first need to adapt themselves and then guide their teams and organization to adapt to and embrace a new world of heightened introspection and hypersensitivity. Those who think ahead with an equal measure of realism, positivity and curiosity will be invaluable to their current organizations and consequently an attractive option for another. 

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