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Recovery Phase 3: Reimagining Success

If you look at just the numbers, things still look pretty bleak with more than 33 million Americans unemployed, millions more workers underemployed, and predictions for possible unemployment rates above 10 percent continuing into next year. I don’t believe that’s the story of our future! We’re capable of doing great things and I’m seeing it happen every day. 

In phase 1 of Covid recovery, we concentrated on keeping our people safe; in phase 2, we overcame challenges from every direction. Phase 3 gives us the opportunity to enter a new world—and make it amazing. Now is the time to reimagine your recruiting process so you can be flexible, innovate, and pivot to meet the major challenges sure to come, with the best and brightest people at your side.  

As HR guru Josh Bersin puts it in speaking about Covid: “… a lot of positive outcomes are likely to come from this—so start thinking about your stage 3 as soon as you’re ready, and you’ll see that the economy and our customers and friends are still there. We just need to reach them in creative new ways. And that’s what companies are doing.” It’s not just customers we need to reach in new ways, we need to innovate our recruitment processes so that we can see that top talent is also still there for us. 

In a recent study (Gartner, May 2020), more than 60 percent of companies identified quality hires as the top challenge they face over the next year. This concern shows that no matter what the economic conditions are, you still have to compete for people. You need to ALWAYS be recruiting! 

If you had an effective recruiting process before Covid, you may have had to sacrifice it along with some of your team during the pandemic. In the aftermath, the same strategies and practices you used when the economy was humming and employment was high may no longer work. With so much change hitting you at once, where should you focus? I suggest you start planning your phase-3 recovery by rethinking these foundational areas of recruiting: mindset, skills gaps, and working virtually. 

Changing Your Mindset 

Leaders have historically thought “business first, people second.” What the pandemic is reinforcing is that the right way to think is “people first, everything else second.” Now, keeping our people safe and healthy will forever be our first priority. That’s transformative in terms of setting new priorities and new expectations in the workplace. 

With people first in mind, reimagine what will change. As a start: 

  • Cultures will shift to integrate more empathy, listening, and compassion.
  • Budgets will be cut, and spaces reduced so we’ll need to learn to do more with less. 
  • Fewer people at work (not necessarily less headcount) and less commuting will mean spending our days differently. 
  • New processes will be needed for everything related to work. 
  • Partnerships will be reevaluated: will you need fewer, more, different ones? 

Overcoming Skills Gaps 

There have always been skills gaps and as long as we keep creating change, they will be a concern. Right now, they’re a top concern. In 2019, 69 percent of U.S. employers reported talent shortages—a 23 percent jump from the previous two years. An updated April 2020 study shows that the pandemic has shifted but not fundamentally changed the skills gap. There is even more demand than ever for skills in some areas, like healthcare and compliance, and demand hasn’t reduced for skills in operations, analysis, and innovation. 

When closing the gaps, it makes sense to first look inside at the workers you currently have and already know and reskill the ones ready for or capable of changing their role. As part of the process, and with “people first” in mind, evaluate how you can improve that role to make your employee’s life better. 

When hiring new employees, make sure they are a fit in terms of both skills and culture, and train them well so they feel confident and at home from their first day on the job. 

Working Virtually 

If you are one of the majority of business leaders who hasn’t trusted employees to actually work while at home, you may have finally changed your mind. During Covid, and long before, workers proved they can be even more productive working from home than from the office. Working remotely is now normal and widespread, with estimates that there are currently more than 50 million people working remotely. We should ensure the experience is positive, productive, and satisfying for every worker. 

The first step is reinventing your recruitment so that you can find and attract top candidates using remote technologies and processes. Many companies have been doing it successfully for years. 

Innovative tools to support remote workers are pouring into the market and we need to develop new processes as well. They should include setting clear expectations, training virtual employees on how to be productive at home, explaining how to be part of the team and live the company values from afar, and making the virtual experience enjoyable and meaningful. Most of all, we need to listen to what’s working and what’s not. We’re all learning as we go, and the first thing to learn is trust. 

None of us wanted this pandemic. However, it’s possible that we can use the experience to bring long-needed change to our workplaces—making work easier, more humane, more compassionate, and more inclusive. Ignore the numbers. Focus on reimagining everything to make us better people at work and at home. Begin by making sure you have the right people to create that new world. 

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