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Six transformational ways your pre-COVID people strategy must change

Six transformational ways your pre-COVID people strategy must change

While organisations in China continue to brave against the hurdles presented by COVID-19, successful containment efforts have resulted in most businesses operating at full capacity for some time now. But while professionals are back at work, it is vital that organisations understand that their expectations and perceptions of organisations have been transformed by the COVID-19 crisis. In order to attract and retain the very best talent in the new era of work, businesses must adapt their approach to attracting, engaging and motivating professionals, says the CEO of recruiting experts, Hays.

Potential and existing employees will now expect different things from organisations, and this shift will require businesses to change their existing people strategies. Hays CEO, Alistair Cox, states that while it doesn’t necessarily mean a complete overhaul of current strategies, the way in which companies’ look to attract professionals will need to be altered in a number of fundamental ways.

Alistair provides examples of how the talent attraction and retention landscape has changed due to the crisis. For instance, how firms have treated employees during the crisis has been closely scrutinised and their employer brand may have suffered consequently. The availability and access to much needed skills has also changed and many existing roles have evolved, with entirely new ones being created. Lastly, it could be harder to convince people to switch jobs, as those who were previously considering changing jobs may have decided to stay with their current employer for the foreseeable future instead.

Alistair shared some of the of the trends that have been bubbling away in the background for quite some time, however, as he says, “The coronavirus pandemic, and the monumental changes that have come with it, have spurred the acceleration of these trends. So, if you haven’t given them much thought or focus before, now is the time to focus your attention.”

1. Living and breathing your organisational purpose will become even more important

A company’s purpose is their reason for being and even before the pandemic there was a growing need for brands to define, articulate and embed their purpose into their business to attract and retain the best talent.


Alistair explains, “Even before the crisis, we were seeing a marked shift in professionals feeling increasingly compelled to join purpose-driven organisations that were aligned to their personal values. After all, while there was a lot of good in the world before the pandemic, there was still a lot that needed to be fixed, and, increasingly, we as humans felt personally accountable to play our part in the solution. This inclination has only got stronger over the past few months.”


The crisis has caused people to re-evaluate what really matters to them and as a result Alistair urges organisations to consider whether their purpose needs to shift in light of the crisis, including realigning their brand messages, and clearly demonstrating how they live their values both internally and externally.


Alistair advises, “A strong, clearly articulated, ‘lived’ organisational purpose will help ensure the best people choose your organisation, not another. It can also bring your newly hybrid teams together and form a ‘rallying cry’, reinforcing a feeling of togetherness that will be so crucial in engaging and retaining talent in the next era of work.”


2. Elements of your organisational culture will need to be accentuated

The culture of an organisation is its personality, it’s what makes it different from others. It’s what attracts talent and makes people want to stay with businesses. However, Alistair says company culture is fragile and requires employees to keep it alive.


Many organisations will have put culture at the centre of their COVID-19 strategy, Alistair offers this example, “I firmly believe that it’s been our strong Hays culture, which we’ve built over many years, that has helped to get us through this. It’s given us a “North Star” to guide our actions in a fast-changing and uncharted world. It’s been at the core of how we have taken decisions, asking ourselves whether those decisions fit our values of who we are. It’s given freedom to our people around the world to act and react as circumstances change so much and so rapidly.”


There will be key elements of a company’s culture that may now need to be accentuated, especially as many organisations move into a hybrid way of working. This will include demonstrating an even stronger commitment to continuous learning and upskilling, ensuring the voices of all employees are heard, prioritising health and wellbeing of your people, and addressing any trust issues a company may have.


3. Ensure current and future employees see a secure and confident future

Many professionals will be worried about their jobs post-crisis, which has the potential to negatively impact their health and work. Alistair says businesses must make sure their employees see a secure future with their organisation.


Alistair advises, “Where possible, don’t neglect or put any pre-crisis promotion plans on hold. Revamp your traditional performance metrics and what ‘good looks like’ in a post-COVID world. Be transparent about your strategic plans for the future and make it clear how each person fits into the bigger picture. Give your people the freedom and autonomy to craft their roles and pursue their passions. Over time, all of this will build confidence in you as an employer.”


4. Remote working should no longer be seen as just a ‘perk’

Lockdown and the need to work remotely has shown organisations and business leaders that their employees are capable of working from home. Alistair says that he expects to see a permanent shift to more remote working where physically possible, providing professionals with the freedom to work from wherever they want to. However, there is extensive research that shows humans often operate better when together in a physical community.


Alistair says, “The trick for smart employers then is to navigate a fine balance between these two extremes and find the right way for the business and its productivity, with the needs of each individual employee. If you’re not prepared to - or can’t offer that balance - then you will be on the backfoot from a talent attraction and retention point of view, post-pandemic. Important too, is the need to provide resources and equipment for your people to be able to work healthily and productively remotely, so this is another piece of the puzzle that needs considering.”


5. Pre-pandemic benefits packages might not be relevant anymore

Organisations must also consider that some of the traditional employee benefits they offered prior to the pandemic may not be possible to deliver anymore, and others just won’t be seen as valuable. A prime example of this is business travel, as the frequency in the new world is likely to decrease considerably. Financial incentives may not be possible in the same way either, as businesses manage their cost base.


Alistair offers this advice, “Think about the types of benefits that are possible to deliver, and will resonate in the next era of work. As we work our way through this crisis, we have started to see this movement happen already, with some businesses extending benefits to dependents and loved ones, providing access to mental health and wellbeing apps. It’s likely this trend of revamping existing employee benefits packages will continue as organisations battle to attract and retain talent in the next era of work. As individuals reassess what’s important in their lives, business class travel, company car schemes and money might start to play a subservient role to wellbeing, freedom and accountability to run our own lives, or opportunities to learn and better ourselves.”


6. Remote hiring and onboarding will become the new normal

The pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of the workplace as everything has been done remotely. Alistair says that within Hays, that has included interviewing candidates, accepting job offers and onboarding new employees into clients. This trend is only expected to increase as we enter a new hybrid working world.


Alistair says, “This presents some challenges to you as an employer, as you strive to attract the best talent to help you navigate an uncertain world. But these challenges can be overcome with some careful thought and planning.”


Alistair says businesses must consider how they can ensure remote interactions actually give a fair representation of the organisation, whether virtual reality technology can play a more prominent role, and how they should assess candidates on their ability to work remotely.


Alistair closes by saying that just as professionals have been transformed by the pandemic, so must the approach of businesses in order to continuing to attract and retain the very best talent. “They might be the same physical people, but they now need something different to before, and do you know what that is? And can you give them it? After all, your organisation is nothing without its people, and no earth-shattering crisis will ever change that fact.”


This content was originally published as a LinkedIn Influencer blog.