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Assure | Protecting While Going Forward: 4 Smart Moves

Protecting While Going Forward: 4 Smart Moves

by Kate Beach, Global Head of Strategy Consulting & PMO and Katy Grainger, Solutions Architect

Throughout this series we’ve focused on how to align your talent attraction and engagement to the post COVID era, how to adapt your sourcing processes to attract niche skills in today’s market and cope with an influx of applicants, and how to amplify your efforts as you leverage technology and assessment to cope with that influx. But what about the people in your TA function?

Assure Quote copyAs organisations quickly restructured and adapted to reductions in hiring volumes and pressure to reduce costs, recruiters have not only had to acclimatise to exclusively remote ways of working with hiring managers and candidates, but many have picked up additional responsibilities within leaner teams. TA teams have shown great agility and resilience—they have quickly redesigned processes, expedited the implementation for digitalisation and automation and embraced different ways of working. Whilst some of these may been conceived as short-term sticking plasters, many have proved concepts and brought benefits that should be retained for the long term. 

Now that the initial rush to simply “figure it out” has died down, it’s time to stabilise these foundations and protect the gains you have already made, as you assure your team’s readiness for an unpredictable future. As TA leaders we need to prepare for every eventuality but after the leaps we have made, more considered steps may now be required. How do we decide what are the best, “smartest,” moves to make when there’s still so much uncertainty in front of us? Here are four of the smart moves we believe will help you set your team up for future success. 

Smart Move #1: Business partnership to plan for the unplannable Smart Move #1: Business partnership to plan for the unplannable

The only certain thing right now is more uncertainty ahead. So how, as TA leaders, can you possibly support your business stakeholders to plan for the future? Speaker and writer April Rinne has advocated development of a Flux Mindset. According to Rinne, a Flux Mindset “demands that we make plans with the assumption that those plans will change. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans, nor does it mean that nothing will go according to plan. Rather, it means getting used to continuous change—as the rule rather than the exception.” It’s likely that workforce and demand planning will include the need to build for different scenarios but understanding these potential variances will enable you to ensure your team is structured and prioritised to be able to adapt to the different paths ahead. Embracing a Flux Mindset will ready your team to accept the changes rather than feel frustrated or concerned when they will no doubt arise. 

The only way to proceed is to strengthen your business partnerships in order to deeply understand the potential scenarios for the year. As business planning and budgeting season is nearly upon us and our commercial finance teams start preparing for 2021, get close to the process and interrogate the likely impacts on the workforce and work in partnership to create meaningful hiring demand plans. Consider whether there are planned growth regions, or new skills that need to be hired, and begin to assess what the hiring profile for 2021 might look like.  

For many businesses organisational planning scenario includes downsizing for certain business lines. Consider how TA teams can pivot their focus to support these changes. Can your recruiters and sourcing specialists provide greater support to impacted employees by providing a higher touch internal recruitment service? And how can you partner with business leaders to understand the capabilities and transferable skills from other teams that can be built on as an alternative to external hiring to ensure top talent is retained? The remaining months of 2020 are the right time to supplement any gaps in your TA team with upskilling, refocussing or additional hiring, cross skilling team members to provide greater flexibility, and be ready as we look to the future.

Smart Move #2: Create Agility and Scalability Smart Move #2: Create Agility and Scalability

To deliver against changing plans, creating a structure to enable agility and scalability will be essential. Many of our clients are asking how best to ensure that their leaner recruiting teams can maintain the business line or geographic alignment essential to business partnering and relationship management, whilst still being able to quickly deploy resources to focus on the markets and functions that need it most. An emerging option is to segment your recruiters into a layer of specialised advisory relationship managers, underpinned by a cross-functional delivery team. 

In a recent article, Alexander Mann Sector Director Jim Sykes challenged us to consider how we will evolve from a position of fixed TA costs to variable costs as we manage fluctuating demand. Whilst many organisations still may not have the time or inclination to think about their longer-term outsourcing strategies, it is imperative to think about how your current lean team would cope with sudden spikes in hiring volumes or an influx of candidates were beyond their collective capacity.  

TA leaders need to explore opportunities to buy in additional resources at short notice, build skills and capability with their existing team, and borrow additional capacity through partnerships. We are seeing a growing trend from organisations who are looking to modularize components of their HR / TA models and are exploring ways to inject support with some the component parts like sourcing, screening and administration services. If the tide turns suddenly, consider the impact on your team and explore ways to augment a variable and flexible cost base. 

Smart Move #3: Invest in your people Smart Move #3: Invest in your people

Budgets remain tight, and investment still feels like a luxury. However, the chances are that your current team has been on the journey with you through 2020 and, as TA leaders, you need to retain talent whilst supporting them in adapting to each day’s new reality. 

You may have needed to scale back resources or reallocate scope which led to your team having to quickly take on new responsibilities for different business lines, geographies and projects. However, this broader rangeof responsibilities comes with a risk of being perceived as a “Jack-of-all-trades” and master of none. It’s critical that your recruiters retain the expertise and credibility they’ve built as trusted advisors to the business. 

It’s time to be absolutely sure they have the right tools in their toolkit:

  • Access to knowledge, tools and data. They must be able to quickly gain insight and build an understanding of new markets to which they are aligned in order to provide informed advice on hiring plans and candidate dynamics.  
  • Remote relationship-building confidence. We have all adapted at speed to remote working but for many this has seen a shift to focusing on execution of core tasks. Networking beyond the transactional is harder for many without the opportunity for casual corridor conversations and having meetings to plan for future recruitment can feel awkward when many business leaders looking at downsizing and redundancy. Training and coaching your team on how to nurture key stakeholder relationships virtually and sensitively is key to ensure retain business connectivity as credible business partners. 
  • A volume and niche hiring action plan. As Stuart Brown and Carrie Brophy recently discussed in their blog, one thing we can be certain of is that we need to prepare for both an influx of candidates for volume role requirements and a greater challenge in engaging and persuading highly specialised talent to apply for critical roles. In addition to training to increase capability, take a look at Claudia Nuttgens and Annie Hammer’s tips on harnessing the benefits of assessment tools. 
  • Updated personal development goals. Whilst the impact of Covid-19 will mean that some 2020 objectives may no longer be relevant or possible to achieve, many of your team’s development targets and aspirations will still hold true but will also needed to be added to as you and your team identify additional learning and development opportunities. A meaningful conversation now will help you both pinpoint actions to expand your team’s skill set and empower them to face the challenges ahead for the rest of 2020 and beyond.  
  • Strategies to protect well-being. We’ve all heard and read many many headlines on the importance of physical and mental well-being during this time, but it’s important to remember that this subject is real and serious, so it bears repeating. Whilst our teams have shown great resilience there may also be underlying concerns—survivor’s guilt, anxiety about uncertain futures and for some an unhealthy work-life balance as work and life have become less separated. Create a safe environment for your team to talk so that you can together support the personal challenges they may be facing and keep morale and motivation. 
Smart Move #4: Revisit your TA roadmap Smart Move #4: Revisit your TA roadmap

The impacts of the pandemic may have acted as a catalyst to expedite some critical tactical HR and TA objectives, particularly in relation to technology and digitalisation, but other more transformative strategies may have been parked for future horizons. Now is the time to look at resuming work toward your goals with some modifications to reflect the current state of business. Three areas of particular consideration include:

  • TA Technology. Where decisions have been made quickly to redesign processes and technology ecosystems to support a virtual experience, it’s time to think through changes made to understand the benefits and evaluate their need for further futureproofing. For example, virtual interviewing, assessment centres and onboarding have been implemented with no alternative, but will they still be accepted as standard when restrictions are eased and do the tools you have selected offer the best experience for your candidates and managers? Furthermore, where TA teams have become leaner, are there opportunities to automate high volume tasks like screening and interview scheduling, reducing the administrative burden enabling your team to focus on higher value business partnering and candidate engagement? Challenge your team to think about what would make them more efficient and drive better results.
  • Total Talent Strategy. Many organisations have been considering for some time how best to embed this mindset for quite a while, with few yet to move to a structure that can really drive the potential of this strategy. Given future uncertainties and market instabilities, it is now time to revisit this aspiration, upskilling your recruiter’s capabilities to confidently partner with your business stakeholders to identify which resourcing demands are best built, bought or borrowed.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In addition to the COVID 19 pandemic, 2020 also brought the need to rethink diversity into focus. The definition of an inclusive organisation has changed—more action needs to be taken to be active allies and advocates in removing barriers faced by under-representative groups. Many organisations have publicly their plans and aspirations, and most of these have a direct impact on TA activity. As TA leaders it’s imperative that you translate organisational objectives and targets into a tangible action plan for your teams. Within this you will need to carefully consider how to support your team’s learning, invest in tools, and build partnerships to ensure you are proactively expanding your talent pools. 

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With such prevailing uncertainties, it is not possible to think of a return to business as usual. But a return is not what is needed. The focus now needs to be on identifying the smart moves you need to make to assure your team capitalises on gains we have made throughout these testing times and is ready and equipped to embrace the future purpose of TA in a world that is evolving rapidly.

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