June 24, 2020 – If there was ever a moment in recent history where human capital leaders were challenged to play a strategic part in their organization’s survival and growth, that defining moment is now. In just a few short months, the once-thriving global economy has been toppled by the pandemic. Helping organizations safely return to work sites will be critical to their survival, as well as economic recovery.
“This is why human capital leaders are more crucial to their organization’s well-being than ever before,” said Cindy Keaveney, chief people officer of Randstad Sourceright, in a new Talent Trends report. The study identifies trends that will be key for companies to thrive in a post COVID-19 world.
“Remember when talent scarcity and skills gaps dominated the attention of your talent leaders?” said Ms. Keaveney. “Today, HR and procurement leaders are scrambling to address much more pressing needs, such as safely operating in a post-outbreak world, preparing for new waves or a sudden spike of the virus, identifying what resources they must retain, and informing and responding to the C-suite’s recovery plan.”
“Meanwhile, many of the workforce challenges that were priorities at the beginning of the year have not disappeared; they’ve only been moved down the list,” she said. “And as more businesses and markets begin to reopen, it won’t be long before human capital leaders have to address those challenges again. For example, talent scarcity may re-emerge as sectors that continue to operate during the shut-down — including some technology leaders — look to expand their workforces. The healthcare sector, whose services have been most critical during these times, acutely needs more skilled workers in hard-hit countries, such as the U.S.”
So far during the crisis, human capital leaders have clearly risen as star performers, Ms. Keaveney said. “They have determined how to communicate with talent, what policies would help keep everyone safe and enabled, and how to upskill talent in a hurry,” she said. “They have created clear guidelines and reacted quickly to the virtualization of their workforce where possible. They have uncovered ways to keep workers safe, assured and engaged. But as the crisis enters a new phase — one in which the focus now shifts to a safe return to work sites, instead — how will HR step up again?”
Organizations that build an agile workforce and make strategic investments in human capital during the coronavirus crisis will be best positioned to gain market share and overtake competitors, said Ms. Keaveney.
Build an Agile Workforce
No one knows for sure what is around the corner, and that is what’s keeping human capital leaders up at night. According to Randstad Sourceright, “Uncertainty also means businesses have the opportunity to emerge stronger, remain in the pack or risk failing all together. For this reason, your workforce should be ready for any changes the markets will bring your way in the months and years ahead.”
Pandemic’s Lingering Effect on Recruiters: Client Activity Down, Interim Hiring Up
NPAworldwide recently released the results of a special COVID-19 survey documenting the pandemic’s effects across the sector. The survey was completed by owners and managers of independent recruitment firms that are members of the NPAworldwide worldwide network. Participants were asked to document business conditions related to their business, their clients’ businesses, and their exposure to the recruitment market as a whole. The results are a good indicator of what recruitment firms across the spectrum might be experiencing on a global basis.
At the end of last year, human capital and C-suite leaders around the world were already tempering their expectations about 2020 economic conditions. Randstad Sourceright’s 2020 Talent Trends research revealed that 47 percent expected slight growth in the 12 months ahead, while 22 percent expected growth to be flat. What’s more revealing is that only 31 percent of those surveyed said their organization was completely prepared for a downturn in the economy. At the same time, a mere one percent said the business climate was their biggest concern for 2020; it’s clear the crisis caught virtually everyone off guard.
Data Defines the Labor Market
One of the most important exercises corporate leaders have been conducting during the pandemic is following data, the report said. During this exceptional time, they’ve quickly learned to understand and respond to everything from infection rates to unemployment figures to sales and bookings. For many executives, following macro and local numbers has been a nerve-racking yet necessary part of their daily routines.
Even before the crisis unfolded, employers around the world reported that they wanted to invest more in data competencies. In Randstad Sourceright’s 2020 Talent Trends research, nearly half (47 percent) said they were spending more on predictive talent analytics. Additionally, 64 percent indicated that they were already investing significantly or moderately on analytics capabilities. The vast majority (81 percent) viewed analytics as critical in their ability to acquire talent — a sentiment that has been steadily rising since 2016.
Digital Transformation Reshapes Workplace Culture
The Randstad Sourceright report also said that “if there is one lesson all businesses have learned during the pandemic, it’s how critical digital transformation is to business continuity. Whether transformation has been accelerated to enable remote working or to provide service to customers virtually, organizations have embraced digital workflows and solutions as a lifeline, while those that have hesitated are falling behind.”
In Randstad Sourceright’s 2020 Talent Trends research, just 45 percent of human capital and C-suite leaders said that digital transformation was moving too fast and that they were unable to keep up. This was a significant decrease from its 2019 research, when 60 percent were troubled by the pace of change. “With demand for online and digital services likely to rise in the months and years ahead, HR leaders will need to understand and optimize how this trend will transform not only their business model, but also company culture,” Randstad Sourceright said.
HR Tech is Critical to Both Business Continuity and the Talent Experience
Throughout the crisis, the companies that have been most successful at normalizing disruption are the same ones that have had a sharp focus on technology enablement and training. The virtual workplace has allowed many companies to quickly ramp up their remote capabilities and achieve a degree of continuity that ill-prepared businesses have lacked.
Investments will not only focus on a strong employee experience, but on the candidate experience as well. Randstad Sourceright’s 2020 Talent Trends data shows that 80 percent of human capital and C-suite leaders plan to enhance their talent experience. With talent availability increasing and some markets shifting back to employers, many will lean on automation to help speed candidate screening processes without delivering a brand-damaging experience. In fact, 49 percent of those surveyed said they are investing in candidate assessment tools, while half are buying candidate relationship management (CRM) platforms.
Hire for Today; Upskill for Tomorrow
While hiring in general has slowed across the world as a result of the current economic climate, some sectors are still looking to attract talent. Walmart, for instance, said it has hired 200,000 new associates in the U.S. alone since March. Amazon planned to hire 100,000 globally during the crisis as a result of a surge in demand.
Executive Recruiters Roll Up Their Sleeves as COVID-19 Crisis Unfolds
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on every business sector, executive recruiting included. Kenneth Vancini of Innova International brings us the latest thinking after convening recent conference calls with 23 leaders from search firms across the country. Also, we have the initial results from the latest Hunt Scanlon Media ‘Pulse Survey’ of leading U.S. recruiters and fresh insight from Thrive. It’s a full docket!
Randstad Sourceright’s 2020 Talent Trends research showed that 48 percent were upskilling their employees, while 38 percent were reskilling workers for different roles. Two-thirds of companies have offered learning and development opportunities for fewer than three years, and just 16 percent have had a program in place for more than five years, indicating that most employers started their efforts recently.
Manage Your Employer Brand for the Near and Long Term
With millions unemployed around the world, why should you take extra care of your employer brand now? When the global economy was healthy and expanding, companies were forced to nurture their reputation or risk losing out on great talent. In the current labor market, where the balance of power has shifted again to employers, is it necessary to exert the same effort?
“Ensuring access to talent is a priority that has not gone away,” said Randstad. “In fact, during the global lockdown, essential businesses, big-box retailers and online companies have been expanding their workforces at a record pace. But while this has not been enough to make up for the loss of jobs, a rebound is on the way as economies everywhere begin to reopen.” According to Staffing Industry Analysts, one survey showed that more than 38 percent of recruiters expect to see a rise in job requisitions within 90 days. Among all sectors, healthcare recruiters are most optimistic about the recovery ahead, with 46 percent predicting a growth in job orders to come.
“COVID-19 has had an enormous and unexpected impact on the world’s health and economy,” said Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Global Businesses. “Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from a business perspective is that human capital and business leaders need to expect the unexpected. The only way to be able to thrive when crisis hits, and subsequently when things stabilize, is to be agile; agile in business strategy, workforce strategy, employee reskilling strategy and tech strategy. That mindset applies both to organizations that faced unprecedented demand during the pandemic as well as companies whose business came to a grinding halt as the economy slowed.”
“Companies will have to prepare their workforces to adapt to unpredictable market conditions in the future,” said Ms. Keaveney. “To do so will require embracing HR technologies that provide greater insight and the flexibility to deploy talent quickly based on demand and market factors.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media