The COVID-19 pandemic has led us to reimagine the way we live and work, with work from home (WFH) becoming an essential for many of us. While the phrase ‘Digital is the future’ was a refrain that many experts including yours truly spoke about constantly, it has moved from the realm of the ‘may happen’ to ‘must do it now’. If we don’t transform today, businesses can be significantly impacted… as demonstrated by what’s been happening across industries. Businesses had to shift from a brick and mortar (B&M) model to WFH model in a matter of weeks to adopt social distancing and prevent spread of the disease. Initially, businesses struggled to adapt to this new normal, but are steadily adjusting to the new way of working.
Digital technologies have largely led the way in this shift. According to some analysts, there has been more adoption of digital in the last six months than in the five years before by both businesses and consumers. This is set to have a big impact on the hiring and talent acquisition (TA) scenario as well. I believe that enterprises must use this opportunity to reassess their TA strategy, both to overcome the current crisis and build a way for the future as well. WFH as a concept is here to stay; only the percentages may differ in future. This means that the job market will also undergo massive changes. Hence organizations should look at decreasing physical dependency through alternate ways of working. Already today, TA teams in many organizations are making effective use of technology and virtual management tools to ensure a good employee/candidate experience. They must build on this momentum to support future trends that would be aligned more toward a combination Office-WFH model.
Here are some ways that talent acquisition will change with the WFH concept becoming mainstream and technology impacting the entire recruitment life-cycle, especially for the services sector.
- Remote working policies: Most companies weren’t well prepared to shift to a remote working environment, but this pandemic made it happen in such a short time span. With WFH and the rise of the Gig economy as options, companies must revisit and recreate their policies and practices including HR and TA, keeping the new working model in mind.
- Rise of the Gig Economy: The pandemic is causing a lot of uncertainty in business; the global economy is expected to be significantly impacted and a recession is on the cards. A good way to ensure business continuity amidst lack of visibility beyond the near term, would be to leverage the Gig economy. This has twin benefits:
- Can open up new pools of talent, including women, PwDs, college students who can study and work, SMEs working for limited hours and for multiple companies – like quasi consultants, and workers in semi-urban or rural cities
- Ensure flexibility in the workforce at a lower cost, thus giving a competitive edge
- Tech-led info gathering and assessments: In terms of screening, organizations are adopting AI/chatbot-driven systems to improve their efficiency and curb the unconscious bias to a large extent. More proctored assessments for evaluating candidates will come into picture. I expect automated screening to become a mandate, even in a post-COVID scenario, at least for the initial stages of interviews and for volume hiring. These tools, with their ability to enhance job descriptions, assess candidate’s readiness to move, better background info and fitment analysis, will reduce the time that recruiters invest in making those multiple calls and improve productivity significantly. Some anecdotes suggest a 70-80% of time saved on initial calls done by recruiters.
With more and more TA customers (read as candidates) belonging to the Gen iY category, who are well versed with digital technology, Self-service tools and mobile apps by companies will gain prominence too. These will be typically used for initial collection of candidate profiles and routing data to one back-end channel for analysis, setting up of interview dates, etc.
- Virtual recruitment and onboarding: To ensure social distancing and manage the disruption by the pandemic, companies have started to leverage intelligent automated systems offering a virtual interviewing and engagement experience, instead of conducting in-person interviews. Video and audio-conferencing tools and text messaging have also proven their worth in recruitment and candidate/ new joinee engagement, with several organizations including HGS adopting these into their recruitment cycle.
While not directly related to the process itself, I would call out three technologies that TA teams will start using much more to help with virtual recruitment. Cloud, Data Analytics and Security solutions will be closely inter-connected with the TA system to enable multiple benefits such as cheaper and convenient storage of huge amounts of data, providing enhanced analysis of candidates, making the system secure and transparent, etc.
- Social comms and Digital sourcing: As people work remotely, social channels are increasingly becoming a much-preferred way of communication with the candidate community as well as to reach out to employees’ own social networks. The informal outreach and ability to reach the right audience with specific targeted campaigns certainly helps in driving better efficiency.
- Virtual story-telling: Some companies have begun to use immersive technologies or digital experience platforms such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and gamification to tell their story better and test candidates. Imagine a scenario where a candidate for a BPM job can plug into an AR/ VR app to get a sense of the Operations floor, the various aspects of how work happens here and the process, how agents take calls and respond to their customer. It gives candidates a better idea of the actual workplace in a personalized setting… It can definitely have more impact in persuading a candidate to choose your company and faster. So watch for more virtual workplace tours, virtual career fairs, gamification of candidate assessments, simulation platforms, etc.
- Demand for Digital skills: The changes mentioned here are not specific to COVID-19 period only. As digital permeates into the daily working model, there will a surge in demand for a digitally-skilled workforce, and TA will have to keep pace. Job descriptions will change and the ability to work remotely will be considered a key requirement. TA executives should be trained to manage this new scenario – from getting good hands-on experience with AI-driven tools that screen candidates and using online platforms or audio/video tools to conduct interviews, to identifying new parameters of skills required in candidates and moulding the recruitment process accordingly. With time on their hands as technology is used to handle the low-hanging responsibilities, they should focus on the strategic and greater impact areas of their KRAs.
To conclude, we must have faith that the pandemic is not going to be around forever – this too shall pass. Having said that, the new normal is here to stay. The sooner we strengthen our process and practices, and refocus our TA strategies, the better and stronger it will be for businesses seeking a competitive edge.