Post-Pandemic Traits of Successful Talent Leaders

As we emerge from over a year of shutdowns, lockdowns, hiring layoffs, or booms, it is obvious that the recruitment space has changed – and most likely permanently.

The post-pandemic economy and changing work environment are challenging talent leadership. Leaders need to respond to the realities of a more virtual, remote, and gig workforce. They have to find qualified internal employees and people who have the right set of skills no matter where they are. They need to find ways to restructure and automate their workflow. Data and analytics are central to success. For the most part, they have fewer resources and people.

Here are eight guidelines that may help talent leaders approach this future.

Rule #1: You are not a Recruiter Anymore

Leaders cannot focus on their technical skills and expect their functions to be great. Good leadership is much more about setting the stage for success, garnering support and resources, and assembling teams that excel than it is about using your expertise.

Most recruiting and talent leaders spend too much time doing what they are familiar with rather than building teams, expanding networks, and streamlining processes. It is always easy to justify jumping in to help out, to keep a few requisitions for yourself, to train recruiters in the skills you have.

But this is not leading – it is doing.

Rule #2: Keep it Lean

Successful functional leaders will need to find ways to do more with fewer people by improving efficiency and automating processes. Headcounts are not going to increase significantly, and cost pressure will remain. The only way to survive will be to reduce paperwork and process steps, implement technology, remove layers of management, and reduce reporting and meetings.

Functions that focus on these will gain respect and support.

Rule #3: Anticipate the Unexpected

If we learned anything over the past 18 months it is to expect the unexpected. Those black swan moments redefine our lives, as this pandemic has. But this is not an isolated event. We can expect more surprises as the world’s population decreases, geopolitical changes grow, climate warming changes lives, and people think differently about work.

Leaders must see opportunities, not obstacles. They must have a can-do attitude and the willingness and creativity to experiment with new ways of doing things, new technologies, and new skillsets.

Rule #4: Get Out of the Way

Micromanagement is a scourge.  You are a micromanager if you feel the need to hold regular meetings with a recruiter or group of recruiters to make sure they are making progress.  You are a micromanager if you require weekly/monthly reports or are not comfortable being gone for a few days, or feel angry when decisions are made without consulting you.

Great leaders set the tone; hire good people, provide development and mentorship and let them do their job unhindered. If a recruiter needs constant supervision, you should replace them. If you have established guidelines and hired smart, capable people, your job is to create an environment where they can thrive.

Rule #5: Embrace Teams – Not Individuals

Collaboration and teamwork are more effective in getting results than individuals. Don’t organize into functional silos with sourcers, screeners, recruiters, and so on.  If you have specialists, mingle them together to create cross-functional teams. Include hiring managers and business leaders on your teams whenever you can.

If you look at your job as providing the best talent – not as filling requisitions - then your recruiters and the hiring managers should discuss what type of candidates to look for and even work together on the best ways to find them.

Rise above the transactional mindset to one of making a strategic difference.  Challenge a team to identify better what kind of talent is needed and become efficient in finding and hiring these types of people. Make all rewards based on team performance. Encourage sharing, cross-learning, and leveraging each persons’ skills.

Rule #6: Accept the Limits

There is never enough of anything.  I have never heard anyone say they had all the money, time, or people they needed to do their job in decades in the recruitment world. And I am pretty sure I never will.

Rather than complain, use the limits to your advantage.  When there are not enough people, learn other ways to get a task done. Try crowdsourcing for new ideas and perhaps find candidates through your network.  Limits often lead to creative breakthroughs if you have the right attitude.

Rule #7: Build Internal Relationships

Relationships are the key to success and happiness in every social setting, and organizations are social settings. Getting to know and support your own leadership team will help remove constraints and perhaps even provide more resources.

Spending time chatting with business leaders, getting to know them and their problems and needs will help you focus your efforts, redirect priorities, and improve your relevance.

Good relationships clarify communications, help overcome misunderstandings, and streamline getting through the bureaucracy. I recommend talent leaders spend almost half their time building internal relationships, offering talent-related information and analytics, and showing how better candidates and better hires lead to greater profits.

Rule #8: Use Technology; Don’t Fall in Love with It

Using technology well is the key to increasing productivity, but do not forget that recruiting is a people-to-people business.  Relationships, virtual or face-to-face, are the basis for generating interest in a position and in getting hiring managers to accept candidates you send to them.

Technology helps immensely, increases productivity, expands your recruiters' reach and provides data and insights you would not get otherwise.  But, it does not replace the need for recruiters to continuously refine their ability to connect with candidates and convince them of the opportunity offered.  Nor does it replace the face-to-face conversations with hiring managers that build your department's credibility and improve candidate acceptance.

Technology is always advancing, and I advocate the practice of looking at each new app or solution and seeing where it might fit in a process flow.  What would it enhance? What would it replace? Does it seem useful in achieving one of the leadership goals I have mentioned above?

But remember that most of all, your job is to set the stage for success and do everything you can to make sure your recruiters have the skills, tools, and empowerment to achieve the goals of the organization.

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