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It’s time to simplify your priorities

by Steve Preston

How to approach the next phase and support growth and success for the rest of 2020

After months of uncertainty, many industries are beginning to see the economy reopening and are revaluating their priorities. With the extension of the furlough scheme, the question on everyone’s mind is ‘What talent and skill sets will I need for the future in the face of further uncertainty?’

It is clear that many businesses are assessing their talent requirements, and despite some of the negative news, the latest statistics from the CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook show:

  • 19% of employers are still increasing net headcount and 49% plan to maintain levels
  • 40% of employers are still planning to recruit, whether to add additional staff or replace departing employees
  • Healthcare and public administration sectors are seeing net gains

Unemployment is still on the horizon for some, with 22% of organisations still planning further redundancies, up only 6 percentage points from the winter quarter, a modest figure that is likely masked somewhat by government schemes. While businesses are still taking some cautious steps amidst ongoing uncertainty, there are some green shoots appearing as pent up demand and the delay of hiring in some sectors means that businesses are again starting to plan their recruitment strategies.

How will this affect recruitment?

When it comes to recruitment, companies may initially be pleased by a perceived respite from the war for talent, however, while there may be more candidates, it is not a clear indication that the actual talent pool – including those with highly sought-after skills and experience – will get wider. With furloughed or even reduced HR and internal recruitment teams, businesses may struggle to screen increased numbers of candidates, which could impact time frames, project development and even product delivery lifecycles.

Recruiters are best positioned to efficiently screen and select candidates who best match the role by using a combination of skills and AI to deliver recruitment solutions. As they typically focus on niche specialisms, they’re able to curate communities of professionals within their network, allowing them to identify talent that may not be actively seeking a job nor applying to specific roles.

For those 49% of businesses who have paused their recruitment plans, this presents an opportune time to invest in the talent you have, through training and professional development, employer branding and communications and even in adding on-demand contingent resources and fully ensure that the business is up to the task at hand.

What can you do to fully utilise the talent you have?

With the idea of the ‘return to work’ becoming a more and more flexible idea for many companies, companies have adapted how they engage and communicate with employees to ensure that employee motivation and morale remains intact, even remotely.  This means that employees are able to time manage and are responsible for their own output, sufficiently providing for themselves and their teams using remote technologies.

Whilst that in itself is a weight off many leaders’ minds for keeping productivity levels high and output strong, it may be time to examine what you’re working with. This is the ‘new normal’, and certain skills and strengths may have come to light amongst your employees that had not presented themselves in the office environment before.

This presents an opportunity to examine what’s working right now and look at ways that this could be carried over either in the ‘return to work’ and the traditional office space or in a new flexible and agile working model. Have some strong leaders emerged? Have any of your employees invested in additional trainings since the lockdown? Have you invested in any new software or technology that facilitates a more virtual or remote experience? These factors could have a place and value in the next phase of your company’s evolution.

How can you plan for the ‘next normal’?

If you know what the ‘next normal’ is going to look like for your staff and your organisation, assessing the skills you currently have available will help you develop the right talent planning strategies to achieve your goals. This could mean developing your current employees’ skills by investing in additional training or capitalising on their new skills and competencies learned through the lockdown period.

However, for some organisations there may be the need to acquire additional skills through recruiting external talent but not the means to achieve this in the short term. While hiring plans are stalled, it is still advisable to scope out your future hiring needs even if you can’t fulfil them in the immediate. This will help you identify existing employees who may be able to fill gaps or enable you to access on-demand contingent staff, through the use of contractors or interim managers.

Isolating what skill sets and competencies you’ll need for the future of your business will save you time and money when recruitment plans are restarted. Touching base with a recruitment agency or a trusted consultant at this point could help you further identify your talent requirements when the time comes.

Having a recruitment plan scoped out and ready to go will not only speed up the hiring process but also facilitate the delivery of your future projects, deals, investments, or whatever the future holds for your company!

Share your plans for the ‘next normal’!

One mistake many leaders are currently making is letting their employees struggle with the uncertainty. Whilst the future is difficult to predict, if you do have a plan and know the building blocks you want to lay for the next stage of success or stability, let your employees know.

The Office of National Statistics recorded a 30% increase in anxiety from those who experienced uncertainty at work or whose work was impacted by the pandemic. Leaving employees in the dark about the future is clearly damaging to their health and wellbeing.

By sharing your plans for the next phase via email or video call, even if it’s just in the short term,  will reassure your employees not only that there is a future for your organisation, but that they will have a place in it. Employees who feel stable in their roles and trust their leaders are usually more productive and are better able to cope with stressful situations.

With even more change on the horizon, it is going to be interesting to see how the economy reacts and how this affects business decision-making. A balance will have to be struck between continuing to manage output with remote working in place, and forward thinking to assess required skill sets and talent needs to meet future business demands. Development and growth are dependent on talent, and although many organisations and even markets are in a difficult position at present, the facts remain the same: people are every leaders’ priority right now.

Strong leadership, compassion and imagination will be the cornerstones of success to guide businesses toward growth in the coming months.

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