Getting Leaders to Think Differently About Talent

By Caitlin MacGregor

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Take a New Approach to Hiring for a Post-Pandemic Workforce


This article originally appeared in BenefitsPro.

Although history contests the attribution of this quote to Albert Einstein, I think we can all agree there is no doubt in the essence of its truth: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Yet even with the lessons learned during the pandemic, many managers are applying the exact same hiring criteria that they did before: What technical skills does the external or internal candidate possess? How many years of experience do they have? Did they graduate from a prestigious university? It’s practically painful to watch the same tired tactics applied, knowing the outcomes will not be better.

The pandemic redefined the workforce

During the pandemic, over 20 million jobs were eliminated during a two-month period in 2020. In sharp contrast, ManpowerGroup’s latest employment forecast covering July – September 2021 found that 32 percent of more than 7,300 U.S. employers plan to increase staff in the third quarter. Employers in the education, health services, information, leisure and hospitality sectors are reporting their strongest hiring plans since they were first analyzed by ManpowerGroup in 2009. Meanwhile, the Achievers Workforce Institute found that 52% of adults surveyed in February 2021 are looking for a new job – up 35% from a year earlier. As voluntary turnover skyrockets, organizations will be faced with hiring for new roles and filling newly vacant ones too.

Where is the talent for these opportunities going to come from? And how are leaders going to attract talent in what’s forecasted to be the most competitive job market in a generation? Will the tired checklists of “desirable” credentials resonate with people looking to make their next move?

Logically look at talent through a data lens

When it comes to effective recruiting – whether for external or internal candidates – what you don’t know is far more important. Relying solely on obvious data points such as educational accomplishments and professional achievements, coupled with multiple interviews to ascertain “cultural fit,” is a flawed, subjective and potentially biased process. Putting a data-driven foundation in place can advance strategic talent functions. In fact, this approach can support not only great talent acquisition results; it helps drive other key talent initiatives such as performance management, onboarding and talent redeployment.

Integral to this data-driven methodology are the indicators from behavioral assessments that correlate with potential. Having this predictive data even before writing the job requisition can help clarify talent requirements and ensure a more positive, productive experience for candidates and hiring managers. Since performance and potential are tightly linked, measuring personality, social intelligence and problem-solving ability in advance can result in a dataset significantly more predictive than a resume.

The prospect of hospitalization or serious illness, as well as heartbreaking losses of loved ones, became painfully tangible for many working Americans throughout the pandemic. These realizations encouraged many workers to choose voluntary benefits during the 2021 open enrollment period to help protect their income when faced with difficult circumstances.

You are more than your resume

For years, industry luminaries have been touting the death of the resume; however, here we are in 2021, and the resume remains the basis for most talent acquisition decisions. It is no wonder that hiring managers – and the recruiters supporting them – hold on tightly to “we’ve always done it this way in the past.” They know of nothing else. And, for years, there was nothing else. Sheer volume led recruiters to fall back on what they knew, and hiring managers followed suit.

The natural occurrence of the skills needed no longer originates from educational systems or reacts to market conditions. Even the most basic hourly job requires multifaceted skills such as emotional intelligence, teamwork and the ability to adapt to uncertainty. As one’s career evolves, “soft skills” including conflict resolution, communication and managing others serve to determine whether a leader will inspire and unify or fall short of expectations. Train these behaviors into employees, you say? You still need the power of Industrial/Organizational psychology (I/O) talent science to inform talent decisions across the employee lifecycle; otherwise, time and learning resources will be woefully misdirected with limited results.

According to analysts at 3Sixty Insights, testing people for their proficiencies in soft skills uncovers strong predictors of potential success in a wide range of roles and interactions. Making this data available to managers helps inform both acquiring and promoting talent capable of carrying out roles in need of fulfillment, as well as achieving cultural match and productivity for team performance.

The pandemic disrupted everything in life. As we edge forward, we’re all learning that normal no longer exists and old ways need to be reimagined and redefined. Building for the future requires getting your leaders to think differently about talent. Instead of worrying about a candidate’s alma mater, they need to consider how data can be applied to all talent decisions. Benjamin Franklin said, “Involve me, and I learn.” Your business cannot afford to apply old solutions to new problems. The best way to forge a path forward is by energizing leaders through data-driven possibilities.