For many organizations, now is the perfect time to rethink how they hire top talent and help them succeed. The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated organizations and entire industries at an unimaginable intensity. With large scale lay-offs, there is an unprecedented pool of exceptional talent looking for new opportunities. It is safe to say that most in that pool of talent will be reassessing the types of work and organizations they choose in the future, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:

Remote Work: Our collective mindsets regarding many previously accepted norms and expectations have changed. We have all had a taste of what work from home is like and many (not all) are finding they are more productive and enjoy the integration with their home life. Many are finding more opportunity during the day to exercise, be in nature, connect with family, pet their dog, pick up their guitar, etc. and realizing it is increasing their energy and productivity rather than being a distraction. The fear many organizations had that employees would put in minimal effort from home and accomplish less has overwhelmingly not been the case. As a result of this new realization of at home productivity, efficiency and wellness, employees will be looking for this option from future employers.

Safety: New work processes and norms will need to be implemented for future employees to feel safe coming to work. While many are ready to get back to hugging and shaking hands, others are not, including more who are older or who have health concerns. In addition, there will be much less interest in or tolerance for the expectation of extensive air travel, both for reasons of safety, as well as the increased awareness of how effective remote work can be. Overall, employees will expect to feel safe in their work environments, particularly those who are more vulnerable. Creating a safe environment will require more than just new rules, processes and procedures, it will require a change in culture. To change a culture, there must be new norms established regarding social distancing, travel, working from home, greetings, etc. that are reinforced by top leadership. Organizations who provide safe environments will be more attractive to those who have safety concerns, which opens up a significantly larger candidate pool and creates a more inclusive environment.

Connection: While social distancing will be the norm, employees will also be seeking opportunities for meaningful connection. We have become creative about finding a way to connect with one another during lock down. Curiously, many have found a greater rather than lesser sense of connection in this time. The weekly call to grandma is now daily. Reaching out to past colleagues, friends and family has become commonplace even for those who have not previously had this habit. Work teams have become closer by coming together on the unique challenges of the time and creating solutions. Remote work has offered a glimpse into colleagues’ personal lives, providing an understanding of the human side of those with whom they work. All of this creates a new expectation to have a human connection with team members, managers, and senior leadership in the workplace.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: 2020 has also experienced unprecedented racial tension, as well as an opportunity for new awareness. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a wake-up call for many white Americans and businesses regarding the oppression and discrimination that still exists in America. This has been incredibly painful but also provides an opportunity to do better, as individuals and organizations. Future employees will demand not only equal treatment but proactive efforts to include and value all voices and perspectives. Organizations that expand hiring practices to recruit in creative ways will open up the candidate pool to talented minority candidates that were not previously noticed. In addition, those that proactively shift their cultures to truly solicit, listen to and appreciate all voices and foster a sense of belonging, will benefit from increased input, innovation, trust, engagement and organizational effectiveness.

Purpose: The Covid-19 Pandemic and increased awareness of social injustice, has also given many a strong desire to have greater meaning and purpose in their lives and in their work. There have been countless examples of individuals and organizations shifting focus and sacrificing personally for a larger cause. Employees want to go to work believing their work matters and their organization cares, now more than ever. Those organizations that provide visible connection to meaningful causes will have a significantly more engaged and energized workforce.

Top 5 Solutions

Given the large pool of talent available and these new interests and expectations, now is a perfect time to make significant changes to your talent management strategies. Here are a few ways to begin:

Selection: Selection strategies of the future need to consider a wider set of selection criteria, and draw from a broader and more diverse set of candidates. When selecting leaders in particular, it will be important to include such qualities as openness, flexibility, optimism, adjustment and empathy as hiring criteria in order to choose those most likely to effectively lead under continually changing circumstances and employee needs. Skills such as listening, communication, and coaching will be even more important for leaders to possess. Recruiting strategies will need to be broader and more creative in order to proactively source high potential talent pools that have previously been neglected. Some ways to begin include enhancing your EDI brand, partnering with multicultural organizations, attending career fairs with an EDI focus, internal communication strategies that reinforce your EDI goals and requests for referrals from under represented employee groups.

Onboarding: Once you get the right talent in the door, it will be critical to provide the necessary support to maximize their chances of success. Various researchers have found that between 40 and 50% of new leaders and executives fail. An effective onboarding plan, that includes onboarding coaching, can drastically improve those odds. Some components of an effective onboarding plan include 1) clarifying expectations and success criteria from the start, 2) providing support for the new leader to assess current team members and team dynamics, 3) ensuring the new leader fully understands the culture in order to avoid missteps in approach, tone or style, 4) helping the new leader understand key stakeholders and their associated formal and informal power and decision making authority, 5) developing a communication and relationship plan with those stakeholders, including the leaders’ direct reports, and 6) providing the new leader with an onboarding coach to have the space to be thoughtful and creative about these strategies.

Succession Planning: Successful organizations of the future will need to be even more proactive with their succession planning strategies in order to laser focus their resources on those most likely to excel and become successful future senior leaders of the organization. They will need to look more deeply into the organization and focus on those with the potential to become future leaders early on, regardless of their current skills, roles, race or gender. While skills such as financial acumen, communication and strategic planning can be learned, the underlying qualities that allow some to learn these skills easier than others generally cannot. Those high potential qualities are those similar to those listed above under selection. Research clearly shows that leaders who possess characteristics such as openness, flexibility, optimism, and empathy, along with ambition and cognitive abilities, are significantly more likely to succeed. Organizations who are clear about their high potential criteria and have accurate ways to measure it will be better positioned to invest in such talent early on providing a huge competitive advantage.

Team Effectiveness: Connecting and collaborating effectively as a team will be even more critical in the future. The days of the individual contributor working in isolation are primarily over. While there may still be a few jobs completed with no team interaction, this will be increasingly rare. The world of work is becoming increasingly more interactive and team oriented. At the same time, that team dynamic is expected to be of a more remote nature. Therefore, a strong focus and investment in resources on team effectiveness will be critical for successful organizations. This investment can be offset by shifting resources away from expenses on office space and more generic training and development efforts that have been shown to be limited in ROI historically, and do not take team dynamics and culture into account.

Culture: Those organizational cultures that have successfully implemented a culture that could be called a learning culture, coaching culture, growth culture, etc. will be significantly more successful than their peer and have a strong competitive advantage. Now more than ever, associates need to quickly adapt, learn and grow to thrive under change and uncertainty. Joint research conducted by the International Coaching Federation and Human Capital Institute has found that those organizations who focus on creating a coaching culture have higher team effectiveness, engagement, and productivity among other business outcomes. In addition, a culture that embraces employee wellness, purpose and belonging for all, are the ones that will thrive in the 2020 world and beyond. It has been said by Peter Drucker that “culture beats strategy for breakfast”. The truth in this is that a beautiful strategic plan that is perfectly attuned to current and future business needs is only as good as the culture that has been created to embrace and implement that strategy.

2020 has brought significant challenge, disruption and upheaval. Yet, it also brings new possibility and opportunity for those who take the time to consider what is most meaningful to them personally, and seek out those opportunities and organizations that provide it. In return, it is those organizations that shift their talent management practices and adapt to these new interests and needs that will thrive in the future.