Karina Townley, Managing Director, Client Services EMEA at Guidant Global, Looks to a Positive Future

The last few months have been tough for us all. The world as we know it has drastically evolved — both in and out of work. But with change comes opportunity, and while everyone would like to put some aspects of 2020 behind us, in the recruitment arena, interesting shifts are developing.

What we’re experiencing today will lead to more businesses embracing contingent workers

As the economy begins to reopen and businesses start to get back to work, many employers may need to ramp up hiring to get their businesses moving again, and to combat any losses accrued during the peak of the pandemic.

The difference to what we’ve seen previously is businesses will now turn to contingent workers where they would have previously sought permanent staff. Understandable, given the flexibility and agility contingent workers offer businesses. But for recruiters, this shift will lead to greater pressure to identify and source more gig and contract workers.

With more organisations now willing to allow remote working options, agencies will, in theory, have a wider pool of candidates to tap into. On paper, this is great news, but as we know, this also presents a logistical challenge for monitoring and engaging with a larger, more fluid talent pool.

Technology: the solution to today’s remote work problems?

The use of tech, AI and digital software has long been asserting itself in the recruitment industry, with many now relying on these tools to streamline and manage hiring processes. Over the years, staffing companies have tapped into technology out of a combination of natural evolution and end-hirer demand as more employers actively seek out digital solutions for their talent needs.

The Great Remote Work Transition is proving to be influential. Prior to Covid-19, some employers had the technology in place to successfully navigate towards the new normal. Others were less prepared and had to rapidly embrace digital transformation. But now that we’ve all had time to adapt, more organisations are factoring it into their future.

Take Twitter and Facebook, for example. Both have recently announced they will allow staff to work remotely on a permanent basis. And in the US, software companies like Dropbox Inc. and Elastic NV are preparing to extend remote working across states. Without technology in place, this simply wouldn’t be achievable.

For recruiters, the challenge moving forward is two-fold

Embracing this digital transformation in their own business to lead by example will require significant investment and training. It will also need to be carefully managed to limit disruption. Re-training consultants and managers to help maintain performance remotely and ensure the spirit of the office isn’t lost is no small feat, after all.

More importantly, recruiters will need to assist with the adaption of talent attraction processes for end-hirers to incorporate the right balance of on and off-line solutions. Just as before the crisis there were too few organisations ready to embrace digital as a means of engaging with new hires and managing staff, it’s crucial that after COVID-19 the scale isn’t tipped too far in opposite direction. If technology becomes too influential, the risk is we lose the personal, empathic elements of the hiring process.

Now more than ever, recruiters need to be strategic advisors to employers across the globe to shape the future

While technology will act as the enabler for successful attraction and management of remote and contingent workers, there’s more to this than software alone.

Recruiters might be able to find the talent that employers need, but if business’ hiring managers and HR teams aren’t trained on the nuances of engaging with ‘new’ groups, staffing companies will face an uphill battle. And if there’s too much reliance on tech as an all-encompassing solution for the new world of work, the potential longer-term impacts could be detrimental to a brand’s ability to attract high-value contingent labour.

Managing talent data

Technology does, of course, provide the added benefit of giving hiring managers and HR the data needed to successfully manage a flexible workforce.

As we see more individuals turn to contract, gig and contingent work as they adapt to the current economic milieu, having a database and technology that’s able to capture who is working where, and when contracts will come to an end will prevent anyone from slipping through the net (and off to a competitor), will be crucial to success.

For those without the systems in place to handle the level of contingent candidates that we expect to be managing in the short-term at least, now really is the time to push for greater transformation.

Some of the approaches seen prior to the pandemic will continue to grow

Talent analytics and strategic workforce planning will contribute towards ensuring fully optimised, compliant workforces. By the same token, Contingent RPO and direct sourcing will continue to ensure that businesses can hire and retain the best contingent talent at the best possible rates. Meanwhile, services procurement and statement-of-work management will save businesses money for complex and project-based work. Tech will, of course, play a part across each of these areas.

A (part) digital future

There’s no denying that the crisis of 2020 has sped up digital transformation in recruitment. But it’s crucial that we ensure that we aren’t misled by the ‘glamour’ of technology and lean too heavily on it as an all-encompassing solution to tomorrow’s challenges.

For the sake of our own businesses and those we work with, we must ensure that we correctly balance infrastructure with the right people approach.

Having the digital tools is one thing, but knowing how to make them work for us, our candidates and the employers we work with will be the crucial step for our own survival in the new normal.

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