Among other disruptions, COVID-19 reversed on one of the tightest talent markets in U.S. history. Even with millions of people thrown out of work and the pandemic’s second wave advancing at full force, the country’s business fundamentals remain strong. Many economists predict the recession to be short-lived. Most industries already have overcome supply chain challenges, helped newly remote workers ramp up their productivity, and refocused on core competencies. Once the economy gets the jolt it needs, the hiring frenzy will resume. Businesses will want to make up for lost time. Once-stagnant industries such as hospitality, travel, and live entertainment, will spring to life. Businesses that flourished during the pandemic will leverage those lessons and revenue to expand and integrate.
And all companies will need talent. While there will be a surplus of skilled workers early in the next bull market, this deep pool will evaporate quickly as companies scramble to lock in top performers. Ensuring that your organization can access and employ the people who can lead you to sustained growth and profits will require planning, assessment, and revised approaches to assigning and accomplishing work tasks. Here’s how you can make sure your company wins its share of battles when the war for talent erupts anew.
Learn from the Pandemic
Much has been made of the COVID-19 shutdown and social distancing as a social and economic experiment. Circumstances have proven the viability of a remote workforce, the value of an agile workforce, and the importance of digital communication and project management tools. Even when employees resume on-premises work activities, these lessons will inform successful companies’ strategies and workflow. Organizations should focus on tuning their hiring strategies to match the demands of the post-COVID environment. For instance, if you successfully organized and motivated work-from-home staff during the isolation, you might want to increase your workers’ telecommuting opportunities. More likely, they will have become convinced that not all project tasks must be performed in a centralized location. That could spur you to take a more serious look at using freelancers and contractors, thereby eliminating geographical challenges to talent acquisition.
You might also look at streamlining and fortifying your technology stacks. These powerful tools can solve a host of challenges related to traditional and contingent labor management:
- Keeping dispersed project team members up to date on action steps and milestones
- Simplifying and reducing the time spent on reviewing employee and freelance candidates and conducting interviews.
- Tracking total labor costs and accounting for each worker’s status, hiring source, contract end date, and more.
These tools will help you take advantage of the contingent workforce to make your enterprise more adaptable to demands in the product and labor markets. During the first months of the pandemic, employers shed twice as many part-time workers than they did full-time employees (28 percent to 14 percent). It is much easier, both logistically and morale-wise, to scale production or reduce talent costs and workforce size by manipulating part-time, freelance, contract, and other non-full-time employees.
Even before COVID-19, companies were beginning to categorize work projects in terms of tasks and to qualify and quantify the skills the organization would need to marshal to accomplish each task. Rather than work by the job titles responsible for their execution, this method would allow your company to assemble human assets from throughout – and outside of – the organization. Teams would no longer consist of representatives of stakeholder departments, but individuals possessing the abilities each marketing campaign, training plan, database upgrade, product development, or other project demands.
Moving beyond departmental silos will facilitate the taking of an inventory of capabilities within your company. Comparing your future skills needs with your current access to them will help you plan for the economy’s resurgence:
- Build in a level of redundancy for critical skills you need to mobilize quickly, to cover for employee absences or sudden demand increases.
- Highlight areas of possible talent risk so you can train, hire, or ensure outside sources of people with the abilities you will need.
- Establish a relationship with a managed service provider or individual suppliers to ensure sources of talent not available in-house.
With a “shopping list” of tasks to be completed and a menu of available skills within your organization, you can cross-reference people (regardless of their department or title) with assignments for each project your company undertakes. Unfulfilled tasks will have to be filled with freelancers or independent contractors. Or, if the vacancy is in a critical area or one that arises often, you can endeavor to bring on permanent employees whose repertoires include the missing skill.
For your talent strategy to work, it must be managed from a central command post. Only by channeling all hiring decisions through a workforce management clearinghouse can you ensure the most efficient operation. Centralized control should track every worker – full-time as well as contingent – in order to collect data that will drive future decisions and constant refining of the system. Off-contract, out-of-system hiring robs planners of the insights a coordinated procedure can deliver and wastes the efforts you put into assessing your organization’s skills and tasks.
Eliminate rogue hiring and gain the transparency you need to employ contingent workers only when they present the optimal option for accomplishing needed tasks:
- Determine project areas and future tasks that need to be fortified, expanded, and improved. Rank needs based on criticality, skills availability, and frequency of need.
- Identify the skills at your disposal, including staff, freelancers, and contractors currently working for you. Consider offering contingent workers with critical skills full-time positions to reduce your talent risk.
- Gauge which of these needed skills are not available among your employees and, if they are available in-house, which could be obtained less expensively, at higher quality, or with fewer resources, through contingent talent.
- Explain to managers the necessity of hiring only through the central office. Rogue hiring increases costs, forfeits strategic data, and exposes the company to compliance and security risks.
Metasys can help your firm develop and implement a hiring strategy for dealing with the surge when the economy reopens. A total talent solution will provide a blueprint for deciding which types of talent fit best with the specific project tasks your company will be undertaking. We will leverage our insider knowledge, industry contacts, and robust data sets to create a strategy for optimizing your access to and employment of full-time and contingent talent. Contact us for more information.
Register for our upcoming webinar on COVID-19 and the Great Rehiring: Get Ready to Hit the Reset Button on Your Contingent Workforce.