The 2020 pandemic, even with its devastation and the enormous changes it has wrought, is a finite event. In its wake will come an economy on the rebound and companies scrambling to hire the talent they need.
Businesses don’t have to wait for restrictions to lift or for the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine. By building a strong talent pipeline now, an organization can ensure it has the talent it needs when it’s time to hire. Choosing the right technology can help build that pipeline.
Hiring and the State of Recovery
Some companies have responded to recent events by pushing for more talent, rather than by scaling back. Lockheed Martin, for example, sought 5,000 new hires nationwide in the early months of the pandemic, according to executive chairman Marillyn Hewson.
Some industries have also increased hiring because their work is essential to managing and eventually defeating the coronavirus. Life sciences companies were among those who sought more talent during this time, as demand for pharmaceuticals, testing, and vaccines rose sharply, writes Karla Talanian, director of talent and workforce development at MassBioEd Foundation.
Others significantly reduced hiring. Overall, available jobs decreased during the pandemic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “job losses associated with the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on the U.S. economy in the spring of 2020 were the largest in the history of these data.” Small businesses were particularly hard hit, but were also among those that recovered the fastest, quickly bringing workers back as soon as their doors reopened.
Yet not all jobs that existed before the pandemic are likely to exist afterwards. Some will have changed into different types of positions; others may be absorbed into adjacent roles or have become obsolete as companies integrate the radical shift to the digital environment that accompanied the pandemic.
Overall, about 42 percent of pandemic-related layoffs are expected to become permanent, says Steven J. Davis, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. And the longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense its effects on jobs are likely to be.
Job seekers are aware of the challenges the pandemic poses to hiring. A July 2020 survey by Barnes & Noble College Insights found that while 56 percent of recent graduates believed they’d find a job in their chosen field, nearly one-quarter of respondents (24 percent) aren’t so certain. Well over one-half (62 percent) expected to find full-time employment within six months of graduation; however, only 15 percent predicted they’d be searching for a month or less.
COVID-19 poses a number of challenges for hiring. Choosing the right tools and methods to build a talent pipeline can help ensure that companies have the candidates they need when it’s time to hire again.
Digital Tools for Better Talent Pools
COVID-19 differed from other major pandemics because it occurred during the digital era. Rather than shutting down businesses and social events entirely, many moved to online formats.
Crunching the Numbers for Better Insights
The digital era also provides a number of tools for companies seeking to attract candidates, educate them about job opportunities, and keep them interested as openings appear. Gathering and analyzing data with the right digital tools can make a profound difference in the quality of an organization’s talent pipeline.
In discussing competition between metro areas for major businesses like Amazon’s HQ2, Davis Carlin and fellow researchers at McKinsey urge cities to rely on data for a more accurate picture of available workforce skills.
“Objective insights from analytics can help create visibility—a critical advantage when seeking to gain consensus from the diverse set of stakeholders involved in talent development, attraction, and retention,” they write.
The same methods that work for metropolitan areas seeking to attract businesses also work for companies seeking to fill talent gaps and find better candidates. Using data can reveal both strengths and weaknesses in a company’s existing workforce. That information can be used to generate interest among qualified candidates and seek the talent needed.
Getting Together, Apart
The COVID-19 pandemic forced most employers to get comfortable with video interviews. Whether they had been screening candidates remotely for years or had to learn on the fly in 2020, employers today are much better-versed in the nuances of communication in virtual environments.
This includes things like how to read body language over a webcam, or how to demonstrate a culture of collaboration and teamwork, even when people share neither an office nor a ZIP code.
Some companies, like media investment company GroupM, were already exploring how to refine their digital recruitment options when the pandemic struck, says Michael Wright, GroupM’s global head of talent acquisition.
In the face of the pandemic, GroupM “immediately adapted our [artificial intelligence]-driven video interview tools to be more empathetic and more contextually aware than they were pre-COVID,” he explains. The organization also uses what it calls “video handshakes” to build relationships with candidates and explore their potential.
Digital tools have made it possible to reimagine a number of workplace situations during a pandemic, including how companies find talent, build relationships, and ultimately hire. These tools also make it possible to build a stronger talent pipeline.
How to Build a Robust Talent Pipeline
Digital tools provide insights that can bolster a talent pipeline. For best results, integrate these tools with your hiring managers’ skills and with creative ways to reach out to promising candidates.
Integrate Digital Tools and Hiring Expertise
Digital tools are merely one way to build a strong talent pipeline. While these tools should be among those offered to hiring managers and others responsible for recruiting, they should be just one part of an overall package.
At Netflix, for example, a commitment to inclusion pushed the company beyond merely investing in digital tools. Rather, available tools became part of an overall move toward better hiring.
“A good chunk of [our inclusion recruitment team’s] job is to actually embed the skills, de-biasing, sourcing techniques, and networking techniques directly within the recruitment teams, and then helping connect them to the communities, the organizations, the individuals that will help them expand their natural networks,” says Aaron Mitchell, director of HR for Netflix Animation Studios.
The ability to analyze massive amounts of data is quickly becoming a necessity rather than a luxury for companies seeking to hire the best talent. Hiring managers who can use data insights within a larger context of hiring goals, however, can build a pipeline and make decisions to benefit the organization as a whole.
Think Outside the Pipe
To deal with their talent needs during the uncertainty of a global pandemic, some companies have become creative about sourcing and relationship-building.
For example, one way companies are dealing with changed demands for labor during the pandemic is by creating partnerships that allow organizations to share talent and keep workers occupied. For instance, “grocery chains are creating labor exchanges with hotels, and retail stores are pairing with gig companies, among other creative solutions to move workers to where they are needed,” says Davis.
Partnerships like these can create cross-training opportunities for workers, strengthening their skills and each company’s resilience in the face of change. Building relationships with workers in your talent pipeline, even if they aren’t yet employees, is another way to expand opportunities and create resilience.
Reaching out about once a month with an update is one way to deepen these relationships without overwhelming potential candidates, says Lauren Saunders, the head of talent attraction at LinkedIn. Virtual events can also help candidates stay in touch with the company, while also learning more about their own field or simply engaging in some needed socialization.
As the months go by, the COVID-19 pandemic may feel interminable. Yet the pandemic and its effects on the economy will come to an end. Choosing the right tech tools now can help companies build the robust talent pipeline they will need when they have openings to fill.
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