Post-Pandemic: What’s the Next Talent Battle?

In the pre-pandemic world, companies were scrambling to find candidates who could develop skill sets that aligned with business objectives and rapid innovation. That need relates to a “war for talent” that had been going on longer than anyone could even remember. Back in 2013, Deloitte reported that the war for talent was “shifting” and become the “war to develop talent.” A few years later, Deloitte went on to talk about the “war for Millennial talent.” The reality is that these deviations are more akin to battles, contributing to the larger war to improve the time, quality and cost of each hire.

By the beginning of 2020, low unemployment rates made skilled talent the fixation as employers worked to understand which skills would be needed in the years to come.The big consultancies and industry experts worked diligently to make sense of the “war for skills,” analyzing how certain roles and industries would evolve. Some went so far as to say skills were the only war that matters. And then the global pandemic arrived, and the whole world hit pause.

During the initial shutdowns, companies quickly realized that the last several years of fighting battles in this war was nothing compared to what would come next. Now, as companies begin to reopen, the landscape has changed dramatically, with the balance of power moving from candidate to employer. Recognizing that this is a very different market, employers are left to wonder what recruiting, hiring and retaining talent will look like on the other side. Where will the focus lie? What’s the next talent crusade?

Despite all that’s happened in just a few months, the answer goes right back to skills, but this isn’t the same as before. With employers having a higher number of candidates to choose from, the focus is on operationalizing skills and quickly. Time is of the essence, and that’s because even with more candidates on the market, four-fifths of CEOs are still worried about looming shortages of the right skills.

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Having found their footing after the initial shock of Covid-19, companies need to move forward and who they employ will determine their success in doing so. Skills correspond with business outcomes in a way that sheer headcount does not. Here’s how to find, develop and operationalize skills now:

  1. Look at in-house talent. Start by assessing the skills and knowledge of those employed within the company. Get to know the current workforce. Explore motivation, performance and career development as part of this process.
  2. Solve for something specific. Identify skills that are missing or underrepresented, whether that’s hard or soft. Align around what is needed most and plan accordingly. That might require reskilling or recruiting.
  3. Maintain momentum. As skills get put into action, support the workforce by creating opportunities for learning and training. Keep current with business objectives to ensure sustainability.
  4. Adapt along the way. Covid-19 proved to everyone that there isn’t always a definitive roadmap. Take a broader view of skills to allow the company to adapt and build resilience, no matter what the future holds.

In the continuous campaign for qualified talent, battles must be tackled one by one. By putting skills upfront, companies can filter on what’s most important first.

Nicola Hancock

Nicola Hancock
Nicola Hancock is managing director – Americas Region at Alexander Mann Solutions.

Nicola Hancock

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