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Recruiting and Retaining: COVID-19 Drives Shifts in the Pool of Available Talent

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Working From Home

One of the big insights from COVID-19 for people who lead and manage is that the dynamics of hiring and keeping talent has changed dramatically.

As Claudio Fernández-Aráoz writes in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “The pool of available talent is suddenly both changing and expanding, and visionary leaders can make the most of it, preparing the ground for post-crisis recovery and growth.”

This is both a Good thing and a Not-So-Good thing for talent management professionals and people leaders.

Here’s what I mean.

On the Not-So-Good level: In the past, we likely viewed our competition for talent as bounded by geography -- the other clean tech firms in our region, for example, who might compete for hiring the same highly skilled candidates. Or even (gulp!) hire our current highly skilled talent away.

But COVID-19 and the shift to working remotely has upended that geographic competition dynamic. More workers are expected to continue working at home post-COVID-19, as research from Global Workplace Analytics shows.

But on the Good level, it means the market for the people we could hire for roles has expanded.

Geography may not be the barrier that it once was. It opens up the market for qualified talent beyond the area or region that previously required people to physically travel to an office.

In fact, recruiters like Mark Bradley with The Recruiting Consortium, LLC, recently said that the ability to work remotely has in recent times become a negotiating factor among highly sought after candidates. This is a hiring factor that is anticipated to continue post-COVID-19.

However, this also means that our competition -- inside our region and outside our region -- is also trying to take advantage of this shift.

So as talent management professionals and people leaders, how can we make the best of this situation? Here are several strategies and tips to consider:

  • Update your job descriptions to include remote work options. Do you include an option for Remote Working for all or certain positions? Should you include this in future job opening announcements? Discuss this question with hiring managers and consider how this fits into your overall Talent Management Strategy.

  • Revisit your Retention Strategy. If you don’t have one, this is a good time to establish one. It’s always a good time to think about ways to minimize turnover, given that the average cost per employee turnover – which includes recruiting, hiring, and training a new staff member -- is 21% of that employee’s annual salary. As Merle Weghoeft notes, that’s “21% above what you would otherwise pay to keep the same employee a happy member of your team. Add in a pandemic that stalls the global economy and forces physical distance between you and your potential new team members, and those costs are likely to rise.” Check out a number of retention tips in times of COVID-19 here.

  • Look for ways to demonstrate caring on behalf of the organization. Research by Limeade Institute indicated a connection between perceptions of care and employee retention. They define care “as the provision of what's necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance and protection of something. It's looking after and providing for the needs of someone or something.“ When employees feel cared for, more than 50% more plan to stay at their company for three or more years. Further, more than 80% who feel cared for are likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work.

  • Consider job redesign. What are the ways you can build in more opportunities for growth, autonomy, and choice into the work experience as a way to keep High Potentials and High Performers on your team?

  • Be aware of potential Work From Home impacts on your employees, and ensure you’re offering flexible options that diminish stress from caregiving for children or family members. Recent articles such as “Why Work From Home Isn’t Necessarily Good for Women” and “HBR Readers on Juggling Work and Kids…in a Pandemic” can illuminate the challenges that workers are facing today.

  • Review or develop policies for continuing to ensure employee success/productivity and wellbeing post-COVID-19, and start to plan for it. Some organizations, for example, may have a flexible work schedule with employees working from home most days and time at the office on a staggered basis to ensure social distancing. For example, Alternative Work Arrangements might be a plus. Also, check out “Rethinking Work Schedules? Consider These 4 Questions.

Bonus: Toolkit from SHRM on “Managing for Employee Retention

Can we help with attracting, engaging, and retaining the valued team members in your organization? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching or Talent Management services are right for you. We work with organizations of all sizes and types whose missions focus on sustainable objectives. All services are customized to your needs.

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