The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in near-record unemployment levels and nearly every business sector is still adjusting – so is this any time to be talking about fine-tuning your hiring process? It sure is – and the most strategic and aggressive organizations are gearing up now for when hiring starts again in full force. In fact, now’s the time to up your game – and to explore how best to fine-tune your hiring criteria for a changed world.
Though growth is down, the economy has been regaining jobs. And as hiring starts to heat up, it’s vital to be ready to make good investments in new talent. Second, solid planning now will prepare your organization to get the best talent when the economy inevitably begins to recover.
Two questions to keep top of mind as you look out in the near term:
- What changes are most likely here to stay that will have a major impact on your workforce?
- Given those changes, what kind of talent is most likely to succeed in this evolving workforce?
Understanding Shifts in Hiring Criteria
In my work helping clients set hiring criteria, I urge them to look both backward and forward. You want to understand what competencies made people successful in the past, but also what is likely to change in the future that will affect the competencies most predictive of high performance.
I typically urge clients to think three years out, but these are not typical times. Change is right here, right now. Certain competencies – i.e., the characteristics and capabilities that define success – have surged to the top of the priority list given current times. One of them is resilience, which my Cambria colleague George Klemp recently explored in a piece on resilient leaders.
What are the hiring criteria considerations for the three biggest workplace shifts brought on by COVID-19?
Working remotely will be much more prevalent. Companies such as Twitter, Square and Shopify have already proclaimed that much of their workforces will be allowed to work from home permanently. For remote workers, the personal attributes of being accountable and self-directed are even more important than ever. Particularly so with younger folks who are new(er) to the workforce and haven’t necessarily had the time to establish all of their positive work habits. Using one’s personal initiative to pursue opportunities for impact is a “DNA” attribute, in that it’s not likely to change very much over time. Those types of competencies are particularly important to hire for. With management positions, I want to know if they have had success engaging and communicating with virtual teams without the benefit of being with them in person.
Virtual training delivery will continue its rise at an even faster pace. This is an offshoot of the above but deserves its own look. Organizations are ramping up their e-learning platforms, and in-person learning will be a much smaller part of most organizations’ learning curricula. Employees will expect to readily access the training they need when they need it. Being self-directed is again a requirement here, as is intellectual curiosity and learning agility. As training becomes less and less a formally managed process, employees will need the drive to search out the learning solutions they need and apply that learning on the job without a lot of handholding.
People will bring more of their whole selves to work. With remote work the norm in many companies right now, employees’ “real lives” are more visible and more integrated with work than they have ever been. For less experienced candidates, high degrees of professionalism and emotional maturity may be even more important than before. Senior leaders need to recognize this trend as well. Although traditional leadership competencies are all still important, they aren’t enough anymore without authenticity. Authentic leadership is an idea that’s been around for some time but, like resilience, now is it’s time to shine. Employees are feeling more comfortable both being their genuine selves at work and expecting this from others. As one of my clients recently put it, “Being ‘real’ matters around here.” This is especially important for younger workers, so the call for authenticity will only grow louder as we move forward.
Evaluating Your Hiring Criteria Now
As you continue to examine new workforce trends, here are three important questions to explore regarding their impact on your hiring criteria:
- How are these macro changes impacting specific functions and roles? Big, broad changes will affect different people in different ways. What is different about how the new work environment will impact a Software Engineer versus an Inside Sales Rep?
- Who is thriving right now? Identify who is standing out. Ask yourself – or, even better, ask them – how they have handled the unprecedented situations we are facing. What did they do differently than others? What qualities or characteristics did they demonstrate that has set them apart?
- What does the data say? Getting our hiring criteria right can feel like a moving target with things changing so fast. Remember to treat our educated guesses for what they are – hypotheses that should be “proven” with data. Follow up on hires made with the new criteria and identify the performance metrics that will provide the best feedback on the results of the revised process.
It has never been more important to prepare for the future before it gets here, because the future is coming faster than ever. As talent becomes more available in the marketplace, make sure you are ready to strengthen your competitive advantage with the talent that is most prepared to succeed in our new normal.