Even as the pandemic wears on, companies are looking toward recovery and questioning how to navigate a changed landscape that requires new agile approaches.
On last week’s episode of Talent Experience Live, Susan Slater, Vice President of Global HR at Phenom, shared how HR professionals can adapt their talent strategies for success in this rapidly evolving environment.
An industry veteran who has led teams through previous recessions, Susan shared her perspective on how to ramp up virtual hiring practices, encourage employee agility, and preserve employee engagement, even through furloughs and layoffs.
For HR, how do today’s circumstances differ from previous challenging times?
TA professionals have always needed to be agile for many reasons, Slater explained, such as during growth stages, or when critical skill sets are in high demand. But the amount and pace of change brought by the pandemic has been breathtaking.
“Change management didn’t have to be a year-long process. Change management actually happened over a weekend,” she pointed out, more quickly than anyone ever thought possible.
It’s crucial for TA and HR leaders to fully grasp their organizations’ vision and strategy (and remain flexible to change), Slater said. Take a conversational approach with internal and external talent. Examine your campaigns and career site to ensure you’re telling your story in a way that showcases what a day in the life is like right now at your company.
Slater encourages leaders to trust their teams and have confidence in their ability to do their job. “Empower them to make decisions,” she says, adding that hesitation in this area can stifle progress.
What has remote working taught us, and how has that impacted human resources?
The pandemic has disrupted the commonly held belief that many employees may not be as productive working from home. “We learned we can still have great teamwork and honor our company’s culture,” Slater said.
Other HR lessons the remote work experience has taught us include:
- Frequent, transparent communication with employees is essential in times of uncertainty.
- Recruiters need to check in with the talent community and keep candidates updated. Dedicating a landing page to this is a key strategy, Slater said.
- Employers must show empathy – check in with remote workers to help preserve the employee experience in challenging situations.
What are some virtual hiring best practices?
Virtual hiring will be the way to quickly acquire candidates during recovery, and HR and TA teams need to prepare for a smooth process. Key takeaways include:
- Examine current processes to determine how they need to be adapted, and identify goals for virtual hiring.
- Make sure everyone knows what to expect, including hiring managers, recruiters and candidates. This requires thorough communication that answers basic questions such as, How will the interviewing process be different? Learning new technology is a big part of change management here, Susan says, pointing out that initially people had to come up to speed on using Zoom.
- Emphasize to teams how quickly things are moving right now, particularly hiring managers, who typically get very busy day to day. Empower them with the right tools to enable quick action.
- Finally, gather feedback and adapt procedures accordingly. Find out how the virtual hiring experience is from the perspective of the candidate, the hiring manager, and the recruiting team.
What is employee agility and why is it so crucial right now?
Because the pandemic has proven to be an unpredictable entity requiring constant course-correction, companies are looking at how to grow their in-house talent.
“Understand your internal inventory of skills,” Slater advised. Employee gigs – where employees take on temporary assignments in different departments – are a growing trend, Slater says. This strategy allows companies to fill skill gaps and it also builds employee engagement, promoting career development within the company.
HR and TA leaders interested in growing an employee gig program should consider using an internal landing page where employees can learn about the program and sign up for gigs. Showcasing employee testimonials about how they’ve benefited from gig opportunities is an effective way to get the word out, she said.
As with all HR efforts at the moment, transparency regarding open roles and the hiring process is more important than ever, as is gathering feedback and adapting the program to make sure employees are benefiting from it.
What are best practices for handling layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic?
The pandemic has taught us that no employer is immune from having to lay people off. It happens, Slater says, and it doesn’t mean you’re a “bad” organization – especially when you treat furloughed or laid-off employees with dignity, empathy and transparency.
To that end, it’s important to communicate to employees that the company still values them. Ensure they understand that under normal circumstances, they’d have a home … and when things return to normal (or as close to normal as it’s going to get), that you hope they’ll come back.
“I think a lot of companies are not doing this,” Susan said. HR teams can create an alumni community to keep laid-off employees engaged. Send updates, and make alumni feel like they’re still part of the family. When jobs start opening back up, inform former employees first.
Is the amplified role of HR technology & AI likely to continue?
As workers went and stayed remote, HR technology platforms took on new prominence. But as recovery and the prospect of in-person working becomes reality, will it taper off as more face-to-face interaction takes place?
Slater doesn’t think so, partly because many companies are finding that remote working is more effective than they thought it would be and are moving away from leasing office space to save on expenses.
She also foresees companies permitting a hybrid model of working, with employees being able to choose whether they work from home or come into the office. “I think HR tech will always play a big role,” she said, although she noted that developments such as a vaccine could change the outlook.
Compassion, empathy and transparency—are we detecting a theme?
Most definitely, Slater said. The need to treat employees with respect and empathy is paramount, as is transparency in communication and intent. Employers need to keep feedback loops open so that they can adapt and deliver what employees and candidates need.
“It’s a great time to review your EVP and ask, right now, are you empathetic? Are you living up to your EVP?” Slater says. The benefits of high-level technology and strategy can be fully realized only when employees and candidates are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Adapt and thrive with the HR Resiliency Playbooks
Phenom’s HR Resiliency Playbooks serve as a guide for companies as they embark on recovery from these uncertain times. “This is something I wish that I’d had as a resource earlier in my career,” Slater said, adding that they function as a blueprint for success, with straight-forward how-to advice.
Covering virtual hiring, employee agility, and talent recovery, each playbook outlines the steps HR professionals can take as they re-route their plans for this new era of talent.
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