Recruiting: Pivot or Perish

2021 will be a defining year for hiring managers. What has largely been seen as a function of business continuity has now been catapulted into a business-critical role. If there is one thing companies have learned from the ongoing health crisis, it is the need to run business with minimal resources and maximum optimization. This would mean hiring talent with skills to pull an organization forward from survival mode to profitability.

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The idea of pivot or perish in times of uncertainty is not limited to an organization alone; it also applies to its people. To surmount challenges posed by the pandemic, customer relationships and high-quality service delivery have assumed even greater criticality to sustain performance and growth. Moving forward, the success of an organization will be hinged on how employers hire, nurture, and retain critical talent.

As we look forward to a future that will be dictated by technology, leaders need to evaluate their people strategy to ensure growth. Can we Uber niche talent for specific client deliverables and focus on cultivating core service delivery talent? Will this help the company better manage its people-related expenses and improve its earnings-per-employee ratio? These questions are nudging companies to change existing mental models when it comes to their people strategy.

Creating a dream team of critical talent would require organizations to reinvent their hiring and onboarding process, invest in the latest learning tools, stress knowledge application, continuously monitor performance, and reward adequately. And while this might feel a bit overwhelming, there are some basic principles that can be applied to ease one’s approach to tackling this.

Skill Should Trump Credentials

Businesses are run by people. And to thrive in a challenging environment such as this, companies need to look again at how they hire, train, and retain people who can be trusted with the future of the business. While technical skills will be the number one priority for a jobseeker in a technology firm, identifying talent with a high learning quotient (LQ) should be on every employer’s agenda.

In the wake of the global health crisis, many white-collar workers found themselves out of jobs. While this could have been an immediate setback of the lockdown-initiated economic contraction, most companies and employees now realize they cannot go back to their old ways of working. While jobseekers must upgrade their skills to find relevant opportunities, employers must look for talent that possesses the right skill set for a job and not be limited by factors such as qualifications, years of experience, or even employment terms.

Let Your Talent Take Charge of Their Own Skilling

In the last 5 months, many companies have taken measures to assess their talent and have been putting processes in place that can help employees self-evaluate and put themselves on the path to upskill or even reskill. While digital skilling by itself is nothing new, the sudden acceleration toward everything digital is pushing employers to help their people learn wherever they are, whenever they want, and on any device. Most importantly, make learning a fun exercise rather than a tick-box exercise for mandatory hours of training.

Until not so long ago, the idea of fluid seating in the office was very fresh. The fact that you could belong to an organization so well but not own any specific seat and could move about the office floor and settle where you felt like was highly empowering. Today, this idea can be applied to a normal team structure. Not everyone needs to have a permanent or long-term team setup. Instead, cross-team projects could be a great way to ensure the right people are on the right task, even if they fundamentally don’t belong to a designated team.

Create a Culture of Continuous Learning That Is Leader-Led

Just like how transformation is a continuous process, so is learning. With newer technologies emerging faster than anticipated, employers need to create a culture that makes learning infectious. Organizations must look at developing their people professionally rather than just training them to be better at what they already do.

The first step toward liberating your people from archaic training methods is to allow your employees to chart out their own career trajectories rather than leading them on a predetermined path. Invest in digital learning tools that help employees plan their learnings around their own schedule, but have a thorough evaluation process in place to validate the applications of these learnings by giving challenging assignments that really put their newly acquired skills to the test.

Learn from Other Transcenders

There are several industry best practices that have transcended industries and gone on to improve the overall efficiencies of organizations that willingly applied these learnings. For example, the Toyota Production Systems, a methodology applied to improve manufacturing efficiencies, eventually made knowledge work lean, too, or even the famous Tribes and Squads model pioneered by Spotify that encouraged companies to experiment with similar models of agile working. If one looks beyond the confines of his or her preconceived mental models of how to approach transformation, there are several examples one can learn from and even apply.

Nitin Rakesh is Coauthor of “Transformation in Times of Crisis” and CEO of Mphasis.

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