Meeting the challenge for talent amid the COVID-19 pandemic

We are still in the war with COVID-19 and variants of the illness. Most of the news is negative, with plenty of talk about people sick and dying. Yet the decision to get vaccinated or not is seemingly a daily news story.  You can’t dismiss on any level the effect this has had on our families, friends, community, nation, and the economy in the U.S. and around the world. 

Some of the effects of the pandemic include a mass exodus of women from the workforce who chose their families over their careers. Working from home has certainly opened the eyes of employees and employers. Traveling to an office every day is not a necessity for many companies and employees. Yet others have discovered that they are not as productive while working at home and appreciate going to work every day. Managers and leaders have been forced to deal with policies and constant changes based on healthcare professionals’ advice. It seems that never in the corporate world has the HR department and leadership been more important to the company’s survivability than during the past year. 

Many of the mandated changes are now part of the fabric of the work environment moving forward. Hybrid employee attendance is going to be a fact of life. Companies that want and need women to come back to work full-time may consider providing child care as an important strategic hiring tool to be competitive. Family leave and more flexibility with employees to take care of family issues will also be an important benefit people seek. 

During the last 12 months, MRG’s search practice has been the busiest we’ve ever been during 33 years of business. The pandemic and difficulty recruiting may have something to do with this, but truthfully, it is also due to the mass exodus of retiring baby boomers. People have warned companies about talent-related risk management, but very few considered this an issue because they just recruited new senior leaders or promoted internal people in the past. In addition, many people who decided to retire early were affected psychologically by the risks of simply going to work. Between the pandemic and retirements, the one position we have conducted more searches for in the last year has been for Chief HR professionals. Companies have come to the hard realization that the war for talent is critical and that talent is the major ingredient for future success. 

One of our clients acknowledged the strategic nature of HR: “If we are going to compete, we need to ‘out people’ our competitors.” Therefore, companies need competent HR leaders to develop new ideas and strategies for recruiting, leadership development, training, systems and processes. At this point, it is critical to retain the right people, identify people who are ready and prepared to move into executive roles, and develop recruiting strategies designed to attract qualified talent. 

In the book The Executive Guide to High-Impact Talent Management by David DeLong and Steve Trautman, they outline these areas:

  1. Accurately diagnose talent-related risks that threaten performance 
  2. Efficiently evaluate and measure workforce and leadership investment 
  3. Ensure your staff is aligning talent processes to support business strategy 
  4. Accelerate leadership development and the transfer of critical knowledge 
  5. Communicate cultural principles that will drive recruitment, development and retention programs 
  6. Assess the talent management IQ and capabilities of your leadership team 

The challenges outlined are not always easy to manage without some support and advice. An experienced consultant can assist with many of these initiatives so you can create a talent strategy with confidence. 

Lauri Flanagan is president of MRG-Management Resource Group.