Now that we’re packing up the last of the holidays and the new year is upon us—thank goodness—it’s time to think about something critical to every organization: what it’s going to take to be successful in 2021 in terms of talent.
Based on last year’s experience, the new year promises to be one of change and how well leadership adapts and takes advantage of economic and social disruption. As we saw in 2020, even with a global pandemic and extended economic shutdowns, some industries thrived. Unforeseen seismic changes became part of the daily grind. In effect, it was sink or swim with most freestyling. Manufacturing, logistics, online retail, and providers of enabling technology had a good year despite the unprecedented times.
So what’s ahead for organizations, particularly in essential sectors like healthcare, manufacturing, chemicals, and packaging? What do you need to do to stack your talent deck for success? Here are seven things on my radar:
- COVID-19 is not going anywhere. Yet. So keep it top of mind.
Even as we see millions of doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna roll out across the nation, COVID-19 will stay with us in 2021 and continue to impact talent recruiting and retention. It will take time to distribute vaccines across the country and achieve the desired herd immunity. And while this is bringing hope and optimism to Wall Street and businesses at large, economic shutdowns continue in some states, keeping uncertainty alive and well.
The best thing corporate leadership can do is stay laser focused on the big picture and the impact on customers, operations, supply chains, and current and future team members. Flexibility, being nimble, unflappability, and adaptability are all critical attributes leaders, managers and HR must embrace to thrive in the new year.
- Embrace remote Interviewing.
Talent remains a top priority. It’s likely even more important to people on board who embrace change. In 2020, we saw the rise of remote interviews using video conferencing solutions like Zoom. I know in my own world as a recruiter, Zoom became a noun and verb. “Let me schedule a Zoom and we’ll go over next steps” and “Not now honey, mom’s zooming” became common phrases in my COVID lexicon of home office and home schooling. Good thing because HR’s reliance on remote interviews via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and others will only grow in 2021. There are several reasons. Some candidates may still be subject to work from home orders. Others may be reticent to travel by air for in-person interviews. Finally, it’s just so quick and easy to schedule video conference interviews.
There are major advantages. The cost of interviewing will drop. (No travel expenses.) The pace of interviewing will accelerate. (Fewer scheduling hassles.) Candidates are comfortable with the technology and being in their home environment makes interviews more relaxed. And interviews will still cover everything done in an in-person meet-up. As a recruiter for private-equity-backed and privately held organizations, I really appreciated how quickly I connected with talent in 2020, created a rapport and was able accelerate filling key positions for clients.
- Engage talent the right way.
2021 will demand that talent engagement be more personal, far more immediate and tech-enabled. Looking at job candidates biggest concerns of 2020—employers not responding to applications, even after interviews; convoluted hiring processes; and no consideration for a candidate’s time—we simply have to do better by people. Website career sections, and even recruiters’ sites, have to be better and even more so, have to be monitored so candidates get a quick response to inquiries. Shouldn’t that be easy? Given the volume of interest in some positions, not always.
There are simple ways to make websites more engaging. Chatbots can immediately engage and collect key data points from candidates. Auto responses via email or text should be part of the solution, defining when the candidate can expect to hear from a person. A company called WorkHere will actually monitor company’s career sites and engage in a live SMS chat to prescreen applicants and pass along to HR those who meet the position’s criteria. Keep in mind how people communicate has changed dramatically. The vast majority of Americans – 96 percent –own a cellphone of some kind and more than 80 percent of those are smartphones. Candidates are far more likely to respond to text messages than a phone call or email. That immediacy candidates want? It works both ways. Recruiters would be wise to start texting talent or risk missing out on the best people.
The candidate’s experience continues with how interviews are organized and conducted, and how well and timely follow-up processes are executed. Do it right, and by that I mean not forgetting there is a real person on the other end and not simple a resume, and candidates will want to join your organization. In a competitive talen market, overall experience is crucial to attracting the best people available. One more thing—add a survey to your career site to get feedback on candidate’ experience to get real data on how you’re doing.
- Elevate diversity and inclusion.
America is a diverse nation; it’s what makes us unique. But some sectors of our workforce haven’t always reflected our diversity and fortunately, the tides are changing and this will impact talent acquisition and recruiting processes. Statistics show that businesses with a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace at all levels—leadership, management and frontline—have better productivity and profitability. As you recruit talent going forward, candidates are going to be very aware of an organization’s hiring practices and whether or not they believe they will “fit in” and be valued.
This can be challenging in specialized industries where the talent pool can be homogenous. Recruiters will be challenged to identify and bring a wider diversity of candidates into the talent pool for consideration. The flip side is striking a balance between achieving more diversity without neglecting highly suitable, qualified and experienced candidates. From my perspective, it can be done with a very mindful approach that includes the recruiter and company leadership doing hard work upfront to clearly define talent needs, candidate requirements and expectations, timing, and other aspects that go into making a great hire.
- Reignite company culture.
Employees working remotely has put a strain on companies’ cultures. But so, too, has the continued onsite work of frontline workers. In both cases, employees are stressed, depressed, and fearful due to the threat of becoming ill, the need for social distancing and loss of normal social interactions. As a result, companies in 2021, especially those eager to get back on a growth track, must pay more attention to their culture. And this is important when recruiting new people to the team.
What does this look like? From my perspective it means leadership and managers must be more empathetic, more transparent, but most important of all, lead the way back to organizational and interpersonal positivity. The current workforce and candidates need to see a plan for the road forward as well as strength and optimism from leadership. I know that’s not always easy, particularly in the wake of 2020’s craziness, but strong leaders and managers will find a way to reignite their culture and bring everyone with them.
- Be prepared to compete for the best talent.
If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that companies need people with hard technical skills and experience, but skills such as leadership ability, unflappable in the face of change, empathy for others, and able to drive transformation are just as important. There will be even more competition for experienced talent with a proven history of driving growth in key sectors such as supply chain, manufacturing, plastics, and tech. We will see this at the C-suite and management levels as private equity companies and others continue to consolidate companies, merge and refresh teams, and also redefine talent requirements going forward. If COVID-19 revealed a harmful overreliance on overseas supply chains. As companies continue to bring manufacturing back to the United States, demand for talent with operations, management and technical experience will be white hot.
- Choose your talent recruiting partner wisely.
Given the competitive landscape of 2021, it’s smart to think through your recruiting strategy and if you need to bring on an outside talent recruiting firm to ensure success in the recruiting wars. There are tons of firms out there—I know, my firm, Kaizen HR Solutions is one of them. My advice: choose wisely. Talk to others in your industry or in related sectors to find out who they have worked with in the past and found success. When you’ve compiled a list of potential partners, look closely at a firm’s industry focus, their talent recruiting process, past and current clients, and most important of all their results. Key performance indicators are: the number of candidates presented for a given position (keeping in mind more does not mean better), average time it takes to fill a position, and placement retention. The last KPI is a big one; no one wants to churn through people given the time and cost to identify, hire and onboard key people.
That is my crystal ball for 2021. While what truly lies ahead in 2021 is anyone’s guess, I am optimistic that this year will be better than last. COVID-19 revealed strengths and weaknesses in our economy. It also showed what we can do in the face of adversity—just look at our incredible pharmaceutical industry and the success of Project Warp Speed in bringing viable vaccines to market in less than 10 months. I am so encouraged by this and know we will get life and business back on track in 2021. If you enjoyed my insights and would like to discuss additional talent recruiting strategies for 2021, I’d welcome a Zoom, call or text from you. Start a conversation with me here.