The impact of COVID-19 on talent strategies

By Georgia Wilson
Business Chief APAC explores the impact COVID-19 has had on talent strategies and how to develop an effective solution...

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, organisations around the world - whether big or small - have been impacted by the virus, and HR talent strategies are no different. 

“As the pandemic continues to disrupt operations and objectives, the skills required to maintain business continuity are likely to remain in flux,” comments Andrew Duncan, Partner and UK Head at Infosys Consulting. “Consequently, we will need to equip our employees with an all-purpose skill set – one that will be useful no matter how their specific role evolves in the aftermath of the pandemic.” 

With organisations being thrown into a new era of technology due to COVID-19, Duncan adds that, “improving and enhancing digital and data literacy is central to this. Businesses that have delayed their journey to digitisation in the past will need to transform quickly. Employees must be equipped with the skills and the tools to cope with these rapidly scaling initiatives. Equally, companies will need to focus on building flexibility and agility within teams to work faster and better than ever before, to match the dramatic shifts in customer expectations.” 

Agreeing with Duncan, Charles Pfauwadel, Vice President, Asia, Airswift highlights a shift in focus from a hiring point of view. 

“Prior to COVID-19 conversations were centered around how an organisation can hire and attract the best talent,” says Pfauwadel. “Now the focus is less centered around hiring, rather it is about retention - how do I keep my best people? How do I keep them engaged and provide flexibility? the answer to these questions in terms of technology tools, business strategies and culture is going to be key.”

When it comes to widespread disruption, one element born out of it is innovation. With the outbreak forcing many organisations to rapidly transform their operations to suit a remote and/or socially distant environment, both Ducan and Pfauwadel have seen innovations emerge in talent strategies as a result of COVID-19. 

“When it comes to technological innovations in talent strategies, I’m particularly interested in the use of AI to both virtualise and personalise L&D initiatives, moving away from the one-size-fits-all programmes of the past,” comments Duncan. “I anticipate increased development and investment in training platforms that learn your strengths, weaknesses, learning style and working preferences. These insights can be used to automatically suggest suitable training courses and modules to match your role, as well as adapting the way your training is delivered. With these tools, organisations have the ability to automate employee training programmes, saving significant time and costs in a difficult economic climate.”

Adding to innovations seen by Duncan, Pfauwadel explains that “talent strategies have evolved a lot. We used to think that we needed to meet people face to face. However many companies are working full remotely at peak performance and experiencing an increase in productivity. For example, organisations have deployed automation for their onboarding processes which has allowed companies to onboard new employees while maintaining social distance and increased productivity due to taking less time to complete.”

Reflecting on the future of talent strategies, Duncan details that “with an evolving workforce and workplace comes a shift in defining, measuring and incentivising success – an important part of a talent strategy. Consequently, there may be a readjustment in productivity measures and personal KPIs. Lag indicators and traditional feedback mechanisms will likely be replaced with outcome-based performance metrics and measured personal development. For example, rather than looking at time spent in the office, leaders can track the changing digital footprint of someone’s skill set evolving over time. Which means transparency is key. Business leaders should be clear about the new performance metrics and revised targets, so their team can anticipate their role in the COVID-19 recovery. Many employees are being asked to change direction; don’t ask them to do it blindly.”

Best practices for developing a talent strategy

When it comes to the best practices for developing a talent strategy, Pfauwadel explains that there are two key components for developing an effective talent strategy, “the first pillar is developing a genuine workplace culture within the organisation, in developing a solid culture organisations can drive good recruitment and better engagement with employees. The second pillar is aligning the talent strategy with a clear businesses strategy.”

With this in mind, Pfauwadel details some of the key features required to implement an effective talent strategy: 

  • High quality onboarding process: which sets the theme for success and gives employees confidence in the company they have joined
  • Structured two-year succession plans for employees: which helps to improve retention
  • KPIs that measure retention: which allows companies to evaluate the effectiveness of their talent strategy

Reflecting on the evolution of talent strategies over the years, Pfauwadel says that “the main difference we see is that a few years ago, we were very much focused on benefits. In terms of how can we attract more people through money, additional benefits and flexibility. Now we are seeing this change. It's less about the benefit, but more about being the right fit, as well as the culture and diversity, which have become prominent in today's environment. As talent strategies evolve I envision that there will be less based on money and benefits and more based around culture.”

For more information on business topics in Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief APAC.

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