The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we truly live in a globalised world and our actions, economies, businesses, and processes are highly interconnected. For businesses, it has also given an opportunity to leverage global talent, increase talent pools, and hire skilled experts. Before diving into the current trends and situation, it would be helpful to contextualise how we got here.
How did we get here?
Back in March 2020, there was extreme uncertainty about how businesses will carry forward their operations. Financial reports and results were delayed, projections and forecasts were lowered, wage cuts were implemented, and hiring was postponed. No one had a clear answer to how the restrictions would impact employees and customers, and businesses were operating with an all-hands-on-deck approach. Some countries asked organizations to furlough their employees so that they could retain basic pay and benefits. Experts had predicted catastrophic economic disruptions, large-scale unemployment, and unprecedented recession back then.
Cut to the end of 2021, and we are struggling to hire employees and make them stay. In the times of ‘The Great Resignation,’ it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 69 percent of employers are finding it tough to fill vacancies, and 76 percent of the workforce isn’t equipped with the right skills. According to global studies, 1.2 million global employment opportunities are expected to be available in new-age technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics over the next few years. But only 650,000 individuals would have the skills to work in these roles. In other words, 54 percent of the workforce will be filling 100 percent of the demand.
This has given rise to an employee-driven job market where candidates and job seekers have multiple offers, can demand higher salaries, and companies are going into bidding wars to hire employees. As the talent landscape becomes more competitive, organizations are forced to look beyond the geographical limitations of their city, state, or country and access a global pool of talent to fill open positions.
How did organisations respond?
Let us imagine a company operating in 2019 with $1.4 billion in revenue, a 12 percent operating margin, and a goal to reach $3 billion by 2023. Say that the company is in the tech industry and has all the values and ingredients for success and sustainability. It has a strong operating model, is slowly digitizing, improving efficiency, and innovating to meet customer requirements. Now imagine a disruption - in any form - that suddenly causes its workforce to stay at home, supply chains to become erratic, and consumer demand to drop. With no physical access to talent, and an almost-overnight transition to digital and remote working, how would the company sustain revenues and ensure business continuity?
Here is how this fictitious company, and many other companies in the real world, responded to these challenges:
- Equip teams to work remotely: Companies in the service sector operated with more than 90 percent of their workforce working remotely. In many cases, this figure was 100 percent for the greater part of 2020 and 2021.
- Ensure client deliveries are not disrupted: Prioritized most critical tasks, processes, and projects to ensure that crucial deliveries are not impacted.
- Provide safety to essential workers: Companies that required essential employees to travel provided them with facilities like accommodations, transportation, safety gear, and other resources to enhance their safety.
- Conduct company-wide meetings: The concept of town halls has become common in many organizations as the need to communicate with all employees, answer questions, guide them, and give assurances increased. The senior leadership became very involved in day-to-day meetings with all functions and played a crucial role in instilling employee confidence.
- Define their unique work environments: After auditing their processes and workforce, many organizations defined what work-from-home, work-from-office, and hybrid working meant for their specific requirements. An inflection point was when deciding who will come to the office, when will others come (if at all), what roles can be made permanently remote, and how do we plan the future of work in our own organizations.
Here are some other things that were considered in this process:
- Build for resiliency and not efficiency alone: It became abundantly clear that chasing efficiently alone can lead to short-sighted decisions that may not be sustainable and resilient to future disruptions.
- Embrace a truly global talent pool that is available to drive growth: The need to look beyond borders was a necessity to fill the talent gap.
- Build for addressing migration and bias towards self-reliance: Leveraging the socio-political discourse of self-reliance to build a resilient workforce.
- Meet employee expectations: Most employees want a hybrid work environment that allows them to work from the office and home. Organizations helped their workers strike this balance better.
- Retain the human touch and connection: Holding onto our unique cultures, practices, and ideas that make us more than our virtual meeting IDs and profile pictures became important.
Preparing for a hybrid future: Key take-aways
The question, “Are you willing to relocate for work?” has been rendered obsolete in today’s world. The flexibility and adaptability of human nature mean that we have used technology to untether work from location and made our virtual connections and operations seamless rather quickly. Going ahead, this is how organizations can leverage the changes and development of the past year in the talent landscape and build a hybrid working model that unleashes global talent:
- Recalibrate the workplace: Conduct skills requirements, design new work processes, create multi-hub and multi-point work models and build the ability to connect with different pockets of talent simultaneously.
- Leverage free movement of talent and information: Work with employees across the globe to make the most of talent and movement between countries. Be mindful of the immigration, taxation, and compliance issues.
- Build workplace culture outside the workplace: When managing a dispersed workplace, ensure that they have the same experience, opportunities, resources, and set of tools.
- Create a transition strategy: Train for the jobs in the future, create a roadmap on how to transition from roles and technologies that are becoming less relevant, and identify the critical skills that everyone needs.
- Design a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture: While video calls are a great leveler as it is no longer important to be the most vocal or be physically present, be aware of the challenges that employees of different backgrounds and identities face.
- Rethink rewards: Rewards are no longer about one aspect of progress or success but cover the entire gamut of overall wellness, support, career development, and fluidity.
The bottom line is that talent will be the new global currency, but organizations will have to change, adapt, and innovate to make the most of it.
(This article is based on the session, “Case Study: Globalizing Talent: A Gamechanger,” by Sukanya Ramachandran, Rewards Head - Americas and LATAM at Wipro, at Total Rewards & Wellness Conclave 2021 on 25th November 2021.)