There is no debate that we are living in uncharted and unsettling times. The speed at which our world and our expectations for it have changed certainly reminds all of us that there is a good reason we’ve been talking about living in a VUCA world! Our current state is unique and offers little comparison to past events in any of our lifetimes.
There is no playbook to turn to as a guide!
The current economic impact has been global, far-reaching, and has resulted in loss of roles across nearly all businesses and regions. In addition, when there is a black swan event — that is, something that is unpredictable and beyond normal expectations, with potentially severe consequences — and the market flips like it has, it tends to mean that TA jobs are at risk. And sure enough, based on what we’ve seen, that risk has been significant (shout out to Recruiters Recruiting Recruiters).
As I’ve spoken with TA folks over the last few months, there is a great deal of stress and fear of the unknown. Still, there are some things about which we can be confident when assessing our current state.
- We can proceed with certainty that data is still the most valuable commodity in the world.
- We can be sure that adaptability is still the most valuable skill set for professional employees and leaders.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and it should be good news to TA, since data and flexibility is our stock-in-trade. Additionally, these two pieces of information are critical toward ensuring that you and your team are positioned to add value in your organization.
What’s more, it’s easy to cut transactional TA functions, since such teams do not truly add value but are instead simply a cog in a machine. It’s therefore so important not to fall into the transactional trap. I get that that is easy to say, and harder to do, but it’s got to be done. Here’s how.
Leverage the Right Data
A key to being invaluable is not just being a data source within your company but knowing which data really matters, who needs to see it, and how to get it in front of them.
There is an overwhelming amount of data that we can report on in TA — but so much of what we currently cite has little or no interest to our business leaders. Things like time to fill and requisition aging are out the window for most organizations right now. This means you can’t roll out your usual dashboard and expect it to get any attention. You need to find new reporting factors that will fall into the two buckets that matter to your leaders:
1. Competitive Data
What are other companies doing right now around hiring? Are they cancelling reqs? Rescinding offers? Putting roles on hold? Pipelining? Furloughing? Cutting? Your leaders want to know what everyone else is doing in your space. In the absence of a playbook, we must look around us to gather and assimilate information to make decisions. (Of course, such details should inform, not necessarily dictate, your actions.)
Fortunately, there are numerous sources of data for you to pull from, whether it is government data or more real-time stats on sites like Candor, a hiring site with information on over 8,000 companies. Additionally, there are multiple avenues to network with peers to discuss what is happening and what they are seeing. [Editor’s note: Check out ERE’s Facebook Group!]
2. Candidate Market Data
I’ve been through more market ups and downs than I care to count. What makes TA valuable isn’t just filling positions. It is positioning your employer to be better prepared than your competitors. Right now, it is safe to say that hiring is pretty much down, to the point of being completely stopped at some organizations. As we come out of this downturn, the companies that are have an immediate hiring strategy will outperform those that don’t.
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In TA, we are in a very unique position to be on the frontlines of the candidate marketplace. We know how the pandemic has affected that marketplace, which companies are in trouble, which candidates are taking a “wait and see” approach to job change, and what types of questions and concerns prospects and candidates will have in a post-COVID world.
This is intelligence that your company leaders want to know at the highest level, and they want to be confident in the people they have on their team to deliver immediate impact when it’s needed. I truly cannot stress how well this information will be received. And I can’t stress enough how this can instantly change the perception of your TA function from being a reactive, on-demand service into a forward-looking business function.
Focus on Adaptability
It takes time to transform TA from transactional to strategic, so what if your TA function is stuck in the former state for now?
You can still add value and protect your employment. This is where the breadth of skills that encompass your role comes in. We have all seen so much internal resource redeployment over the last several months, moving talent to where it can have the most impact. Too often TA is overlooked in those talent assessments, and although we have no one to blame but ourselves for that, we are also the ones who can fix that immediately through:
- Relationships with hiring managers across the company
- Knowledge of which skills determine success in roles across the business
- Expertise at matching candidates to roles
Ultimately, your breadth and your understanding of the skills to be successful in other roles is your greatest strength.
Additionally, you can find and secure opportunities to internally redeploy yourself during the hiring slowdown, because you have valuable skills that can translate to HR, marketing, communications, customer service, etc. So ask about projects that are happening. The key is not to be passive and wait for someone else to approach you.