Overcoming Talent Acquisition Difficulties During a Pandemic and Recession



David Rice
04/23/2020

Finding the right talent in a crowded marketplace can be tricky.

It wasn’t long ago that talent acquisition specialists were focused on making employers as attractive as possible to attract the best talent that they could in a market where job seekers had the luxury of choice.

The current crisis due to the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted life on such a scale that unemployment numbers have increased to the tune of 22 million jobs lost at the time of writing, essentially negating all of the progress made during the recovery from the Great Recession.

Of course, not all industries and companies are undergoing furloughs and layoffs. Some, be it healthcare, e-commerce, logistics or certain segments of the manufacturing industry are seeing increased need for their services and are beginning to ramp up their hiring processes.

HR departments playing the role of recruiter now have to scour the talent pool in a different way as they look for the right fit for their organizations. They find themselves facing an entirely different proposition than they did six months ago, one where resumes and applications come in flurries from job seekers who are sometimes seeking positions out of desperation and necessity rather than a desire to achieve personal goals.

This creates a much different hiring process and will require a different approach. On the one hand, there may never be a better time to expand your team as there are no shortage of candidates for any position and a lot of high quality talent looking to find their next chapter.

“Never waste a perfectly good recession,” says Jan van der Hoop, co-founder and president of Fit First Technologies. “There are millions of very talented, dedicated and loyal people either sitting on the sidelines, unsure what their future holds – or worrying they soon may be. There’s no better opportunity to trade up, ever.

On the other hand, van der Hoop also believes that a buyer beware approach may be necessary as the number of mediocre candidates floods the talent acquisition process.

“If you do plan to seize this opportunity to strengthen your existing team, or to engage in a little ‘weed and feed’, or trading up… be wary,” he says. “There haven’t been this many people on the sidelines facing as much of an existential threat to personal safety in more than a decade. Out of desperation, many will be willing to lie, cheat and steal – say or do virtually anything – to get a secure job, especially one with benefits. It is imperative that you screen all applicants thoroughly, not just education and experience from the résumé, but take a close look under the hood using a high quality behavioral assessment.”

Finding the Right People

The challenge is significant as the cost of a bad hire can reach as high as 30% of an employee’s first year salary.

Another challenge facing some HR teams is that due to cost cutting measures, the outsourcing of the talent recruitment process is no longer possible. This doesn’t mean HR teams take on all of the burden, but rather that they rethink the internal talent acquisition persona.

“The perfect recruiter doesn’t necessarily come from HR,” says Sebastian Girard, Senior Vice President of Workforce Engagement for Atrium Health. “The best talent acquisition consultants around the country are proactive with a hunter attitude (vs a farmer), results oriented with a data driven mindset, capable of offering best experience, strong continuous improvement approach and superior teamwork and multitasking skills.”

Through streamlined career sites, one button applications, text and video recruiting, video job posting and AI applicant mining, bringing recruitment efforts in house doesn’t necessarily mean a back breaking burden on talent acquisition staff, it just means a commitment to automation that proves effective.

Getting New Hires In and Up to Speed                    

There are some household names looking to hire right now, according to LinkedIn. Among those planning to hire 20,000 or more employees in the coming weeks and months are names like: Amazon, Instacart, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, CVS Health, Walgreens, FedEx, Pizza Hut, Kroger, Allied Universal, Dollar General, 7-Eleven, Papa John’s and Walmart.

For these companies and those attempting to compete with them, getting new hires through an onboarding process in a timely manner so they can address the growing need for services is vital.

Healthcare in particular faces a daunting challenge. For an industry that experienced staffing shortages coming into COVID-19, simply getting new staff in the door and able to help can be all the difference for patients.

READ: The Onboarding Process and Its Link to Retention

As outlined in a piece for talent recruitment site Monster, healthcare facilities have had to fast track the hiring process, adopt remote screening tools and get creative in recruiting talent from other industries such as school nurses for hospital work and former hospitality workers for to help out in senior care facilities. To say the least, there is a sense of urgency that we haven’t seen before.

Applicant tracking systems, video screening technology and online training systems that are compliant with industry regulations are an essential part of what HR teams need in these sectors so that they can empower new hires to hit the ground running.

Keeping Talent Engaged in a Hiring Freeze

For the industries that aren’t able to make planned additions to the staff due to an interruption in business and hiring freezes, it’s going to take some creativity to keep prospects engaged.

For those who had already gone through much of the process before things shut down, keeping a candidate you’ve identified for hiring interested in the position can be a challenge, especially if their situation becomes more desperate.

In some cases, this may present a no-win situation. The best that can be done may be to offer them access to the company’s professional development trainings or some temporary work that will help them get by until hiring processes open back up when the crisis eases.

If the prospect engages and can hang on, HR departments need to stay in contact on a regular basis to communicate the next steps and what’s happening around the company. Encourage them to chat with you before taking a new position. If you can’t convince them your organization offers a better path forward, perhaps they can offer a referral candidate.

The fact is, there are no easy roads forward for HR teams in hospitality, entertainment and industries reliant on tourism, such as airlines and cruise companies. However, when they do get back up to speed, the process of re-staffing will need to be properly supported, meaning those HR teams need to be working on automation and cost cutting strategies that will make the hiring process as efficient as possible when this is over.

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