The current Pandemic has caused many of us to reflect on what’s important in life and how we plan to live it in future. For others it has forced their hand to try something new, having lost their livelihoods. We know that consumers drive the economy. These changes in the circumstances and outlook of people are bleeding their influence into the world of business, and forcing a rethink in the make-up of the workforce; how companies get work done.
In this article we focus on one track of this seismic change in market forces, namely; What are the short-term talent sourcing priorities employers need to think about over the next few months?
Changes impacting on the workforce
Okay, so we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re not ‘post’ anything, but the new normal of a world living with COVID-19 is upon us. We now have to get used to walking around with face masks and practising social distancing wherever we roam. These visible signs of a world in panic are the tip of the iceberg were we to examine what has fundamentally changed.
A market shockwave styled more like a time machine
Unlike previous economic slow-downs, this one has been very targeted. For some industries, like travel, hospitality, airlines and the oil industry, the pandemic has been catastrophic in its impact. Other industries however, like gaming, home entertainment, DIY, musical instruments manufacturing, logistics and general commerce, the lockdown has represented a forensically targeted injection in consumer demand. We’ve seen shifts in consumer behaviors away from high-street shopping to shopping online. Many have argued, the enforced ‘new normal’ was inevitable anyway. So the only thing COVID-19 did was to speed up the demise of yesterday’s industries, already on their last legs. It performed like a time machine; to bring our society a decade into the future, in less than a year. Another way of looking at it, is the pandemic is an example of an external market condition that’s impossible to predict. Whilst we don’t know if and when the coronavirus will rear its head again, what business leaders do know is that there will be other shockwaves in the future. Markets are unpredictable.
A remote working society
At the height of the lockdown period, almost half (49.%) of the UK workforce was working at home. Over recent month, the expected return to the office hasn’t happened. Employers and workers have both realized they can get just as much done from their summerhouse or kitchen table as they can in the office. And it costs much less in time and money when you cut out the office rental and commute costs.
A herald to an era of agile business
When COVID-19 struck, we saw great examples of companies unable to adapt, and others able to thrive by redesigning their products and business models. For example, the Mercedes race team and Lotus both leveraged they engineering R&D competencies to helpUniversities produce new forms of medical equipment within a matter of weeks. A company famous for making hoovers and hand dryers, Dyson, began producing breathing apparatus.
While Amazon teamed up with pharmaceuticals retailer Boots to facilitate large-scale vaccine deployments. The pandemic has demonstrated the need for business agility; to adapt people, process, technology, and data to serve a new audience – not in months and years, but days and weeks.
Talent Sourcing and COVID-19
In the short-term then, how are talent leaders expected to digest all of this ‘new stuff’ and come up with a short-term plan? Here are some thoughts from our team.
1. Take advantage of the calm before the storm
We’ve seen a wave of job redundancies and depressing news about the state of the job market. If this slowdown is anything like previous events, like the banking crisis of 2009, we know the availability of top talent resulting from layoffs is short-lived. Companies looking to access the best talent know that now is the time to go looking for it, before the feeding frenzy begins as the market picks up. There remains a global talent shortfall, so good people won’t stay on the market for long. And don’t forget , with Donald Trump suspending several guest worker US visa programs such as H1B and L1 and employment based Green Cards until the end of the year, U.S. companies will no longer be able to top up their domestic talent with foreign workers like they could a few months ago.
2. Plan for a long-term shift in talent sourcing towards flexible workers
The reasons to move more work to contingent and gig workers is compelling. It’s easier to adapt a workforce when you don’t employ them directly. Additionally, modern staffing instruments – like Vendor Management Systems, Statement-of-Work contracting and Direct Sourcing – have made hiring and running a flexible workforce simpler and less costly than it ever was before. Bluntly, the affordability and flexibility of a contingent workforce outweigh the risks of employing people on full-time contracts.
The first step to setting out a flexible workforce program is to asses the state of ‘how you get work done’ in your organization today. Most businesses will blend FTEs with a mix of consultants, self-employed contractors, outsourcing firms, and contingent workers to complete the work. Conducting a root and branch review of how this is done, and the demands your organization has for contracted work, is a necessary first step to establishing an effective strategy.
3. Install the technology you need to do flexible working well
Trying to run a flexible workforce without a good technology platform these days is like climbing a mountain without equipment. It’s not that you can’t theoretically do it, but it’s so inefficient you wouldn’t want to. The people you want to hire are out there. And they probably have a mobile phone. You will have to find them, screen them, interview them, qualify their skills, perform background checks, and onboard them – all without the benefit of probably meeting them face-to-face. Technology has become essential glue to underpin every stage in the hire-to-train process with automated data processing and powerful data insights. It’s the eyes, ears, administrator and analyst of your recruiting discipline.
We’re a long way off from seeing our way out of the COVID-19 storm. And yet, the scene has been set. It’s now clear that the workforce of the future is going to need to be more flexible than it has ever been before. It will also largely work away from the office. We can get used to the idea of video conferencing and online office workplaces. This means it’s less important where workers live and work. What matters is they have the skills to get the job done.
Equipping your business to manage a flexible workforce, and underpinning those new methods and processes with technology, makes good business sense. And you might as well start now.