TalentTalent ManagementTalent management in a post-COVID climate

Talent management in a post-COVID climate

What should HR professionals be considering as they plan their talent management strategies for the future? Offering some pointers was Brigitte Crawley, HR director, ManpowerGroup UK

Though devastating, COVID-19 has unified people in a way that nothing else could have. Quite simply, it’s the fight for survival (both literally, and in terms of employment) that has brought people together.

People have been at the heart of business’ responses, continually adapting to change and restrictions, becoming accustomed to remote working and demonstrating a level of resilience that has scarcely ever been required in a corporate setting. Crucially, the workforce has also experienced wellbeing challenges, and as a result, expectations have been formed as to how people may want to work in the future amid continued uncertainty.

It may be optimistic to think the end is in sight, but with vaccination programmes well underway, there is room for some positivity. However, as we move back towards some kind of ‘normality’, HR professionals need to keep talent management front-of-mind. What was normal in the workplace before may not be appropriate or welcome now. Employers need to adapt and rethink what normal looks like, building on the positives from this experience and addressing some of the challenges that still exist.

Compassionate talent management

In executing successful talent management in a post-COVID workplace, managers will need to be sensitive to people’s needs and show understanding of the ongoing challenges faced by their workforce.

Leaders need to consider that employees are likely to expect continued flexibility around working arrangements that help them to meet personal commitments. They must also bear in mind the flexibility that employees have shown during a time where businesses needed this most, and what could be done to employee engagement if this is not reciprocated further down the line.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck, but a rigid approach that may have been adopted before may not be appropriate now, and a more compassionate style may be what people are looking for.

By extension, employee wellbeing should remain a focus area. Wellbeing programmes have gone from being something companies have available to employees, to being actively developed at pace, and specifically engineered to meet the needs of the workforce.

But whatever the individual response, it’s clear that on the whole, rolling back on wellbeing post-pandemic will not be welcome among the workforce. And crucially, the impact of COVID will not necessarily subside once the virus itself dissipates. Unfortunately, the longer-term impact of isolation, bereavement, loss of security and financial concerns will linger on.

In particular, a recent challenge has been the blurring of home and work boundaries, and the sustained extreme focus combined with long hours. These have all increased the risk of employee burnout and it’s vital that leaders remain conscious of this.

In order to conduct successful talent management, leaders need to have regular check-ins with their employees, monitoring excessive working hours and recognising the signs of burnout. What’s more, managers must be conscious of how burnout can be avoided, using simple tools such as time management strategy, frequent breaks, reducing workload, and coaching to help with resilience. And above all, in order to truly make an impact with this, employers must be compassionate and sympathetic towards the circumstances of each individual.

Future focus

In 2021, it will be key to business success to shift the focus away from COVID and towards the future. The power of having a common purpose is no secret, and many businesses have recently seen first-hand how this has manifested as a focus on surviving. However, this focus now needs to be turned towards thriving. People need to be able to envision the future and leaders have to be able to paint a compelling picture of what that looks like.

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Having a common purpose is key, but its power cannot be realised if people are unable to connect to it. So, leaders must first make sure that the company’s purpose and values are relatable to its employees. These need to be clear, engaging, and align with the internal culture.

This is not enough on its own though. People have to understand the part that they play, on an individual basis, to truly connect to the purpose and get maximum motivation from the work they do. This is a step that can be difficult for leaders to achieve. It’s important that connections are made on a regular basis between the work people do and what the company is trying to achieve.

Investing in the future

In a dynamic world where uncertainty remains, it will be critical for employees to take ownership of their career. Employees who are invested in their future will be able to shape what that looks like, broadening their skillset to enhance their employability and thus directly impacting their job security.

But crucially, managers should support their employees with this. After all, this is not just beneficial for employees: it can also uncover hidden talents, strengthen succession plans and positively impact engagement.

Many employees have used lockdown as an opportunity to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill, so now is an ideal time for managers to expand on that self-motivation by helping employees take responsibility for their career. This can be achieved by managers conducting substantial career conversations with their employees, exploring what their motivations are and helping them identify where their strengths and gaps lie.

One thing the new normal is likely to be is ever-changing, and the employers that can successfully connect their employees to their aims, manage them with compassion and help them broaden their skills will be well placed to adapt to that change.

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