The War for Talent (and the Pandemic) Has Transformed Employer Recruiting

The pandemic and ensuring Great Reshuffle are intensifying the War for Talent. But other, related, changes are actually making it easier for many savvy employers to access and land candidates.

Whether executive leadership teams and boards of directors are seeking replacements for people who have left, or whether, seeing the startling leadership challenges the pandemic triggered, they are reshaping succession planning to ensure they have the right leaders for a post-pandemic environment they can benefit from these four major shifts:

  1. The recruitment process is swifter. The widespread acceptance of virtual communications for even the most important conversations slashes the time to interview and hire a candidate by one-third, in our experience. A meeting for a potential employer and employee to hear each other out has moved from a full day requiring travel (and often related hassle) to an evening video session. The whole process can shift from taking weeks to taking days. Plus, a candidate gets to talk to more people inside the prospective employer via video conference.
  2. Target candidates are more interested in talking. As the pandemic has led so many people to reflect on their current and future career aspirations, many more are willing than ever before to take a phone call and discuss a new opportunity. It’s become like dating. Their hesitation has dissolved and over video, they’re more eager to see if it’s the right fit. On the flip side, the strongest candidates today are likely considering two-or-three different opportunities at once.
  3. The talent pool has broadened. Employers are more willing to consider a wider range of job candidates. First, with more jobs at every level and in most functions able to be remote, the likelihood increases that a leading candidate who would have rejected moving pre-pandemic will accept a position. Second, companies are more often will and able to reach cross-sector talent. That’s because the pandemic and other seismic shifts it helped generate–such as the Great Recession and a renewed commitment to delivering on talent diversity–proved exceptionally disruptive to workforces, corporate cultures, customer/client relationships, and operations. So, in filling critical jobs, CEOs, company directors, and CHROs are weighing different leadership values and qualities more heavily, including focusing more on leadership capabilities and less on specific skillsets. They are more willing to hire people who are proven leaders even if they have role-specific things to learn.
  4. New corporate positions (and acronyms) have emerged or become more significant. More employers want to secure fresh leaders who can be the standard-bearer for issues from cybersecurity; DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion); ESG (environment, social, and governance); enhanced chief human resources capabilities in hybrid work environments; and fast-emerging data and artificial intelligence technology. Our new 2021 Route to the Top report found that one-third of global CEOs with previous C-suite experience and appointed in this year’s first half came from a role other than CEO, chief financial officer and chief operations officer. Twelve percent were formerly risk, strategy or technology chiefs, up from 3% in the 2020 first half. Plus, boards want more diverse directors.

What’s the bottom line for recruiting in this transformative time? Employees have wrested more control from employers. As the demand for quantity–in searches and in pools of candidates–and quality (to develop a diverse candidate pool with the full range of skills companies need today) climbs for employers, more employees find themselves in demand.

Considering the fierce talent war and the shift in the power balance, the hiring landscape will remain intense. Here is what employers, particularly CEOs and CHROs, can do to gain a leg up as they look to 2022 (and beyond) to lure–and retain–star talent:

  • Align senior executives with the new employment reality. Leadership must grasp and accept that the high performers they seek to hire and retain have the upper hand. They must be flexible in allowing those people to choose the career path and working conditions that will keep them satisfied.
  • Take risks and be flexible in the hiring process. Broaden your talent pool to include attractive cross-industry and more diverse candidates. Look at first-time candidates and assess their readiness for the role you envision for them. Be open to a promising talent’s location preference. Don’t reject out of hand the attractive YOLO–as in, you only live once talent who exited a previous employer but may find you the perfect next career chapter.
  • Link your internal health and wellness efforts to the external market. The pandemic convinced Generation Z and younger employees they favor lifestyle and well-being perks that mirror their values and also their pastimes. Review your benefits to see if some fresh initiatives may lure or retain star talent.
  • Freshen your company’s allure. Determine what it will take to make your company and its culture more interesting and compelling. Reshape how you talk about and restructure your work environment.

The world of work, of course, will continue to evolve. Yet, the pandemic likely has changed for good how most employees look at what they want from life. For CEOs, CHROs, and other leaders this type of future calls for a fluid hiring pathway that allows star talent to best blend their professional and personal selves.

Gustavo Alba