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Why Talent Acquisition Teams Can't Freeze When Hiring Does

Why Talent Acquisition Teams Can't Freeze When Hiring Does

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe and Dipak Sundaram

Story Highlights

  • Downtime in a hiring freeze is an opportunity to prepare for future needs
  • Talent acquisition teams can review and refine current practices
  • Focus on building relationships and expanding capabilities

Under normal circumstances, business moves fast. There is rarely time to reflect deeply or maximize fully.

But for some companies and some talent acquisition teams, the pandemic has changed all of that. While some recruiting teams have quickly shifted into high gear to meet increasing consumer demand, other teams are faced with the opposite scenario: a hiring freeze.

But even in a hiring freeze, there is a lot of work to do. Now is the time to take stock of current processes to maximize them for the future.

Take the following actions to be ready when the typical hiring pace returns.

1. Optimize Existing Hiring Practices

  • Audit the effectiveness of your current hiring process. Are you satisfied with the quality of your screening process? Analyze whether recent candidates have aligned with what the organization is looking for. Consider your processes for all role types and levels, and optimize them by removing unnecessary complexities.

  • Reimagine the candidate experience through a candidate's eyes. Are there any unnecessary or cumbersome steps that may turn off top candidates? If so, eliminate.

  • Up your game by building out virtual hiring experiences. Next, envision how current events may affect the hiring experience for future candidates. Online interviews and virtual company tours may become common practice. Are in-person interviews still necessary? If so, for which roles? Consider how processes and guidelines will change for interviewing remotely. Take time to test everything carefully, so that when the floodgates open again, you can deploy new systems effectively.

  • Review your job ads and job descriptions. Either condense them for efficiency or enhance them. If possible, make time to conduct stakeholder interviews with role incumbents to learn more about any challenges. Incorporate what you learn to update everything -- including job ads and descriptions. Also, take this time to clarify your messaging to candidates to ensure it is congruent with attracting top talent and effectively reflects the culture and value of the organization.

  • Identify your most effective sourcing tactics. Review past successes, and identify where sourcing of talent has been most successful so that you can focus more energy there in the future.

  • Check your performance. Use performance data to show your return on investment for hiring and keeping top talent. By the way, are you collecting performance data on your hires? Collecting this performance data is critical. Are hires staying? Are they performing? Are they growing? How do you know if you aren't measuring this? Make sure that you have metrics in place to manage this moving forward.

Now is the time to take stock of current processes to maximize them for the future.

2. Strengthen Hiring Manager and Stakeholder Engagement

  • Take this time to build relationships. Interview your best hiring managers and other key stakeholders to get feedback on your team's performance in terms of quality of hires and turnaround times. Jointly envision future expectations of talent. This is a good time to ensure you are aligned on current role requirements -- will they stay status quo, or are they expected to change for the future?

  • Be a partner in onboarding efforts. Partner with onboarding teams for more effective handoff, participate in updating onboarding content, or help deliver part of the onboarding process. Little things like this can be a huge help and can ensure that your employment brand for candidates -- who are watching -- stays intact.

  • Conduct stay interviews. While this may seem an odd choice for an activity when companies are considering layoffs and furloughs, stay interviews can help assess engagement and career aspirations among those in critical roles that companies intend to retain. It seems like now is the perfect time to interview your top stars to learn how they feel, what they want and what they expect.

3. Ramp Up Talent Acquisition Team Capability

  • Consider what your talent acquisition team can do to expand its capabilities. Check the usage of your applicant tracking system. Is everyone using it to its fullest potential? If not, ensure that everyone has the capability to use it (and that they are using it). Look at this as an opportunity to lead your team into the future. What can you learn about upcoming trends that may affect your hiring strategy and process?

4. Persist Through Disruption

  • Don't get rusty. Are there roles that you can continue to interview for, with an eye to either talent-banking candidates for the distant future or for a quick pivot -- when you may need to hire again? Consider continuing to interview for strategic roles.

  • Refine talent spotting. Identify potential talent to attract in the future, and create blanketed communication aimed at attracting that talent (example: a LinkedIn message). During a hiring freeze, there may be some movement in top talent within other companies that organizations can capitalize on.

  • Plan for succession. If you are using talent-based hiring assessments, now can be a good time to conduct a study of your incumbent population to learn more about the potential that exists for succession planning needs. Beyond assessments, there may be other nonintrusive ways of evaluating your current talent pool for succession planning, development, retention and workforce planning efforts -- such as analyzing existing engagement data, business performance results, customer data, etc.

  • Know that the future is now. "This too shall pass" -- and when it does, you'll want to be ready. This may be a good time to consider whether the management jobs you currently have are the right ones for the future. We know based on Gallup's research that local managers influence 70% of team engagement. Are you hiring the right managers for your future needs?

Although the workplace has changed, there is still work to be done. Now is the perfect opportunity for talent acquisition teams to do some "spring cleaning" as they polish and sharpen current processes to get ready for future needs. This means reviewing what they have, strengthening key partnerships, expanding capabilities and preparing for the next talent marketplace. The coming business climate is full of uncertainty, but if there's one lesson to be learned from the pandemic, it is this: Being prepared counts.

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Iseult Morgan and Kristin Barry contributed to this article.


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