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Industry Insights | 12 minute read

Talent acquisition: Adjusting to the new normal

June 11, 2020

WilsonHCG recently hosted a series of roundtables with talent acquisition and HR leaders to discuss the rapid changes many organizations have made during the COVID-19 pandemic and to review their strategies for a return to “normal” operations (even if it’s a “new normal”). One of the main topics of discussion in all the roundtables was the unpredictive nature of recent changes and the need to remain agile and adaptable as circumstances surrounding the pandemic and economy progress. 

In terms of recruitment, many have significantly reduced hiring or paused it for the time being. And, with this time and the resources, they’re using the opportunity toprepare for when business demand and hiring return. Many participants felt that demand would happen quickly and in significant volume. 

Our expectations ahead of the roundtables were that we would see a few core themes coming out across the various groups, but we saw a much broader set of challenges, observations and predictions.  

While there were many points covered, we’ve summarized the top nine themes companies reflected on as they face adjustment to the new normal. 

Working virtually 

Most of the participants said their employees, where possible, are still working from home. And they revealed this will likely become a permanent feature moving forward, even when lockdown restrictions are lifted. (You’ve heard Facebook and Twitter come out publicly to say they’re allowing their employees to work remotely permanently. And, according to a study we conducted recently, 86% of respondents said their organizations would be more likely to adopt flexible and agile working practices even after COVID-19 is under control.) In addition to working from home, participants mentioned having to onboard remotely and even hold virtual career fairs. Organizations are making sure training is in place for virtual interviewing processes and managers understand how best tolead their teams in a remote working environment. Those with employees who can’t function virtually, such as manufacturing firms, had to act quick to ensure their work locations were safe enough for employees to continue working or return to work by providing PPE, screens, designated floor markings and staggered lunchbreaks, for example. Are you planning to offer remote working as an option to employees after the pandemic ends? Do you have the technology required to do so seamlessly? Do you have suitable cyber security in place? Have you outlined the methods for measuring the success of homeworking? What safety measures have you issued within your organization in reaction to the pandemic? 

“Continue to utilize your networks – new and established, internal and external – to gather feedback on the challenges others are facing as the business and employment landscape continues to evolve. Don’t look at what was prior to the world changing. This is an opportunity to bring change to processes and systems, while finding new ways to do things. And certainly, as the changes occur, ensure there is an effort to educate all involved, both end users and stakeholders, about the opportunity for change.”

Joseph Kotch, VP, Talent Solutions, WilsonHCG 


Being agile 

Typically, a company would have designated timelines to implement new changes, such as working from home, but the pandemic has forced everyone into change overnight. The luxury of having six months to implement a new process is long gone. Instead, change management  timelines have been accelerated and many must pivot quickly. This is where agile organizations  succeed. They can read the market and act swiftly. Is your organization set up to pivot if required? Do your processes allow for flexibility when it comes to reacting quickly to a market situation? 

Revisiting budget 

Budget was a recurring theme throughout all the roundtables. Many participants said they’ve considered their budgets in terms of reducing costs. Even those from organizations that have continued hiring had to do so more efficiently, especially those that incurred an initial rise in the costs associated with going virtual. And another point raised was the need to reinforce the ROI of talent acquisition functions and associated spend. Have you had to cut costs? Are you thinking about how to make your talent function more efficient? Have you incurred additional costs associated with remote-working technology? Have you budgeted for that as you move into the new world of work? 

Pipelining takes center stage 

It was abundantly clear that everyone is pipelining. Because some organizations have hiring freezes in place, they’re keen to grow their talent pipelines and have access to qualified candidates when they’re ready to ramp. (In fact, a study we recently conducted revealed that 67% of respondents are actively building talent pipelines.) But what are you doing other than “collecting candidates?” Candidates are consumers and expect regular engagement using personalized content. It’s key to maintaining interest in your employment brand. Do you have robust processes in place to pipeline talent? What about an engagement strategy? What does it look like and how you can tell it’s working? 

Adapting metrics 

The usual metrics that demonstrate ROI in talent acquisition may no longer be adequate. That’s because data will be skewed as hiring volumes fluctuate – rapidly. For example, quality of hire will become more important than ever. Additionally, benchmarks will need to be adjusted to account for talent activities that are occurring in the current state. There’ll inevitably be more candidates to screen over the coming months, but applications won’t necessarily be from the right candidates. More people will be looking for work and some will be applying to roles to meet legislation related to unemployment benefits. Have you considered the best metrics to use in this changing talent landscape? 

Managing employment brand 

Many participants acknowledged that employment brands will be tested (particularly for organizations that were forced to reduce their headcounts) during this time. Organizations need to remember that what they do during a crisis will have an impact on their employment brand in the future. Take this time to evaluate and adjust content, recruitment marketing campaigns, career sites, job descriptions and job application processes. You want candidates to have a thorough understanding of what your company does, its values and culture. When was the last time you assessed your employment brand? Have you made organizational changes as a result of COVID-19, that need to be reflected in your employment brand? For example, if you plan to implement remote working on a regular basis, make sure you highlight this in your employment brand. 

“The organizations that are adapting at a faster pace are the ones that have adopted integrated video as the new ‘standard’ across their entire business practices. When video conferencing is a part of the day-to-day, it becomes the ‘new’ normal; as a result, it makes the hiring decision without requiring onsite/face-to-face more comfortable and acceptable.” 

Doug Banks, Director of Operations in Global Delivery, WilsonHCG 


Continuing diversity and inclusion efforts 

Organizations said they have not lost sight of existing diversity and inclusion initiatives; it’s still a key issue for many. With the reduction in hiring, they have been able to focus time and efforts on these more strategic initiatives in the pipeline. Many have implemented new diversity goals and have altered processes to ensure goals are still met. Have you determined how your diversity and inclusion efforts will change in the future of work? Can you start building new relationships now that will help you achieve your goals? 

Soaring technology usage 

Many of the participants said they’re looking at how they can maximize the technology they already have in place due to budget restrictions. Some reported escalating costs regarding talent acquisition technologies, while others said they’ve brought forward digital transformation projects to ensure employees have the tech they need to work from home effectively. Have you reviewed your tech stack recently and optimized it based on future considerations? Are you providing the right tools to your workforce to ensure they can do their jobs effectively? 

Workforce planning is vital 

Talent functions are playing more of a strategic role when it comes to supply and demand. There’s been an increased interest in internal mobility programs because of the need to use the talent you already have in place to keep moving the company forward. Talent teams have been encouraging leaders to look at transferable skills and talent from different business areas to avoid incurring additional cost. The consensus is that workforce analysis should be a department priority to help meet business goals. Participants expressed they will be looking at the hires their organization has made historically, what critical hires they’ve temporarily placed on hold and what the workforce will need to look like for future success. Have you conducted a strategic workforce planning exercise yet? Have you worked it into your business processes for ongoing consideration? Do you know what skills your company will need to move forward during the new normal? 

If you’ve not started already, now’s the time to prepare for talent acquisition's "new normal." 



About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent workforce solutions, talent consulting and talent intelligence.