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Attracting, converting, and retaining talent in the “new normal”

Last June, Erin Douglas, Director of Sales Enablement at EASYRECRUE, sat down with Scot McRae, Co-founder, and COO of Candidate.ID to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world of recruiting so far. They compared key 2020 trends around talent acquisition and retention before the crisis, and if these trends had been altered, or not, and what priorities changed.

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The global pandemic has forced on us many digital practices and habits that, in some cases, met resistance from some leaders and managers. Among which, remote work, flexible working hours, quicker and more efficient meetings, and virtual hiring.

As Josh Bersin put it recently, “Now is the time to get on with it – and fast” when talking about digitalization. Yet, according to an iCIMS survey conducted in May 2020, only 16% of HR professionals reported feeling prepared to go fully virtual with their hiring practice. But employees know change is coming as 46% of employees say they feel their jobs will transform because of COVID-19.

How have companies adapted? What options exist for organizations and employers facing market uncertainty? How can you keep your employees loyal and embrace change? Read on…

#1 Hiring full remote: how have companies adapted?

The first part centered around a discussion on two main challenges we have noticed companies and customers go through around the world:

  • How to deal with increased hiring needs?
  • How to assess candidates in a global context?

We have accompanied companies who have had to quickly adapt their recruiting process due to unexpected and abrupt increased hiring needs. Among these clients, a major French supermarket chain that made their recruitment process 100% digital after the official confinement announcement. With extra security and sanitary measures or field employees making use of their right of withdrawal, the company had to react fast to fit new regulations. Thanks to the on-demand video and Live interviews, they could hire in large volumes in a short amount of time with the same HR team and without disregarding efficiency and candidate experience.

The same happened for universities that could not interrupt their admissions process but were unable to welcome students, and these students could not travel to test centers to complete their applications. Switching to online language tests with Easyspeaking allowed a smooth process on both sides.

Read more: iCIMS Customer Success Stories

Using digitalization as a short-term solution turned out successful but customers already discussed how pursuing the transition and implementing it in the long term can prove beneficial. With candidates ready to move to new cities or countries, or the increase of normalized remote working, going almost fully digital could also become the new normal. For this reason, the use of video beyond interviews is appealing to more and more companies. Videos are a great way to show what a company is about, and can be paired with other types of testimony, brand, or candidate experience in a scalable way.

#2 How to prepare for the upcoming wave of applicants

The pandemic has done considerable damage to job markets and economies everywhere. With growing amounts of candidates on the market, companies must be prepared for a wave of applications and having to deal with more CVs then they were used to, and in some cases, with smaller recruiting teams.

This is where automation comes in. With the right tools, HR teams reduce logistical constraints and enable greater social distance while shortening the time-to-hire cycle.

What automation tools can be implemented today?

  • A recruiting chatbot: this tool engages with candidates as soon as they enter a career website. It can automatically filter applications thanks to scored questions, parses CVs, and builds talent pools. Recruiters then only see qualified applications, saving them the long hours spent sorting out CVs.
  • On-demand and live video interview solutions: those solutions aim to replace phone screening, having to take meetings with candidates early in the morning or late at night, and get rid of potential time difference issues. With the on-demand interview, recruiters send candidates a link to the platform to let them record their interviews at the best time for them. Recruiters then view the recordings in the best conditions and decide who moves on to the next step, remotely or face-to-face.
  • Pre-hire assessments: digitalizing skills assessments tests, as various as language tests to technical quizzes, allows companies and universities to continue with their recruitment or admissions processes, no matter the situation.

Beyond using the right tools, being prepared also takes place in teams. This means working towards better collaboration between HR and managers to ensure the quality of the process. We have also observed that organizations have not cut down on employer branding budgets. This brings us back to the previously mentioned LinkedIn report that stated candidate experience as a top strategic priority for HR professionals in 2020. Despite the devastating consequences, the crisis does not seem to have impacted the fundamentals for now.

Read more: Post-COVID-19 recruiting trends: what do CHROs predict?

#3 3 steps to workforce transformation and internal mobility in a post-COVID world

87 % of executives recognize their organizations are experiencing skills gaps but less than half were clear on how to address the problem. The “new normal” has added extra upskilling needs influenced by people working from home. Here are 3 ideas to take the first steps.

  1. Soft is the new hard: communicate with empathy and retain talent

With a large bit of the population on lockdown and with layoffs and furloughs, we were reminded of the importance of healthy communication that was more or less well managed from one company to another. Managing with empathy has been at the center of challenges and teams that lacked caring and compassion have seen direct impacts on well-being and productivity.

Another thing that is now certain, there is no going back to normal. For many industries, working styles have dramatically shifted and the pandemic has sped up, when not forced inevitable digital transformations. Organizations that were reluctant to authorize flexible hours or home office were caught up by the reality of family life and employees’ priorities. Adapting to those new working styles becomes a main challenge on a business level to maintain productivity, but also to retain talent. Giving employees the opportunity to see themselves in your company for the long-term amid uncertainty and transformation will make the difference. Which brings us to our second point: how to adapt the workforce to new business needs?

  1. Adapt the workforce to new business needs

The first step to adapt your workforce to new business needs is to identify the key skills needed for a smooth transformation. Going digital and virtual implies using new tools, building new habits, communicating differently, in some cases altering how you work and giving up old routines for fresh new ways. All those changes naturally lead to the development of new skillsets. New skillsets mean opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to close gaps. This is when skills mapping comes in. Start by mapping these skills to understand and reskill to close the gaps

By re-engaging your workforce, you prepare employees to face new business challenges. By providing career paths for them, you retain talent.

  1. Making it easier through technology
    Through a skills-driven career pathing platform
    • Improve retention and internal mobility by giving your employees visibility on career options in your company based on skills matching
    • Simplify your strategic workforce planning with a skills inventory that builds itself

Through talent nurturing

    • Automated campaigns to keep talent informed and inspired
    • Identify and manage ‘flight risk’ while employees work remotely


Scot’s tips to staying in touch with talent:

  • Dealing with market uncertainty: Externally, ‘prioritize best-fit’ candidates is key, meaning grade A candidates that are highly engaged and understand how you as a company and the candidate are interested in each other. Internally, organizations are also concerned about how their employees are feeling. Being able to gather hard data on these feelings is the first step to concrete and effective actions.
  • Talent from anywhere: pipelining new talent around clusters or concentrations.
  • Understanding where to find a younger workforce: career recruitment fares are not canceled, they simply shifted online. Meet your candidates there.
  • Staying productive and efficient: get the tools that will allow you to hire the best talent, as fast as possible, at the lowest cost, with the fewest resources.

We can sometimes read that the Chinese words for “crisis” and “opportunity” are the same. While this is a wildly spread misunderstanding, the idea is interesting. Without denying the long-term damage this crisis will have on the world and people’s lives, innovation does strive in difficult situations. Perhaps companies could take this as a chance to rethink their organization and habits? Who they hire, how, and why? Use this time to stand out.

Watch the entire conversation around attracting, converting, and retaining talent in the ‘new normal’, view the webinar replay for free

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