Navigating the Talent Market Post-COVID-19

July 13, 2020 • 5 min read

Navigating the Talent Market Post-COVID-19

Dario is Employer Brand Manager for Virgin Australia and was previously Head of Employer Brand for one of Australia’s most recognised brands, Flight Centre Travel Group. Dario led the creation of Flight Centre’s EVP and employer brand strategy, helping sustain some 10,000 roles nationally in both high volume retail as well as specialist and corporate divisions. In 2019, Dario was featured on The Employer Branding Podcast and was a delegate by invitation at Indeed Interactive in Austin, Texas. Over the last 15 years, Dario has worked both client and agency side in general and specialist marketing roles for the APAC region.

It’s no secret that the employment market has changed drastically and rapidly since the beginning of this year. COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through economies around the globe, with many industries grinding to a complete halt.

As customers vanished within a matter of days so too did business resources. Budgets were slashed, advertising pulled, employment contracts withdrawn. If you were lucky you were temporarily stood down from your duties simply because there were no duties to carry out. Casual workers and those with no redundancy entitlements on the other hand were often dismissed.

As businesses have sought to cope with the sudden loss of revenue, we’ve been left with millions of displaced workers looking for work. The employment market goalposts have suddenly shifted; where in February 2020 there was an undersupply of candidates looking for work, by April there was an oversupply.

…we’ve been left with millions of displaced workers looking for work.

The perks of an employer-driven talent market

At no point in history has such a sudden switch from a candidate-driven market to an employer-driven market occurred. The current landscape means there’s a good chance of acquiring highly skilled – perhaps even over-skilled – talent that wouldn’t have otherwise been looking for work. There’s also a very good opportunity to reduce wage costs, as job market competition makes candidates more willing to accept less pay for a role than they may have demanded prior to the pandemic.

There’s also a very good opportunity to reduce wage costs, as job market competition makes candidates more willing to accept less pay

But while organisations looking to hire might be excited about being in the driver’s seat, this sudden shift in power needs to be managed carefully.

Why employers must proceed with caution

The sudden swell of candidates means we can expect to see a surge in interest in job openings, as global economies begin to return to pre-‘Rona’ times. How long that process will take we don’t know, but it’s fair to say that this employer-driven market won’t remain the status quo.

While recruitment and employer branding functions represent some of the wisest investments an organisation can make, they haven’t been spared from the recent cost-cutting and downsizing that all business departments have faced as organisations have looked to reduce operating costs. With smaller recruitment teams dealing with a huge rise in applicants, it’s more important than ever to drive efficiencies in our hiring processes.

It’s also about maintaining a good candidate experience. Candidates are often customers too, and how an organisation conducts itself during the hiring process contributes to how people feel not just about its employer brand, but its commercial brand too. In times when we’re saying ‘no’ to more people than ever, we need to mitigate the risk that those no’s we’ve said to candidates, don’t translate into no’s from future customers.

Candidates are often customers too, and how an organisation conducts itself during the hiring process contributes to how people feel not just about its employer brand

The two key elements are candidate volume and candidate experience. If we can keep the candidate volume down to a level that is manageable, then we can ensure their experience moving through our processes is a positive one. One of the ways to do that is to hyper-target only the most suitable candidates, and actively deter those who won’t get the job.

This actually isn’t advice that is regulated to a post-pandemic world; it’s actually the same advice I’d give pre-pandemic: smart recruiting makes sense in any economic climate.

The keys to hyper-targeting the best talent

When you try to be everything to everyone, you succeed in being nothing to anyone. This is true for many aspects of business and life but is particularly the case for employer branding. When you don’t know who you’re trying to speak to, or you try to speak to everyone, you end up with a brand that stands for nothing. You end up spreading your budget so thin that you don’t get cut through with any of your target audiences.

Great employer branding is about knowing your talent segments and crafting your value proposition to speak to them. Almost every time I’m asked to help promote an unfilled role it is failing because it doesn’t offer what the talent supply wants. Often, it’s a simple cut and paste of a job description written in uninspiring language featuring too much needless detail.

Great employer branding is about knowing your talent segments and crafting your value proposition to speak to them

Most job advertising platforms offer insights and planning tools that can be used to understand what drives different talent segments. Using those insights to support our strategies can pay huge dividends. If you want to increase your hiring efficacy by hyper-targeting the right candidate, invest time in tailoring your message.

In reality this extends far beyond job ad content. Ideally, we want candidates to be engaging with our brand even when they aren’t actively looking for a role. A great way to do that is through content. The same process of aligning market research to our brand message is the way that great brands build highly engaged social networks, and thus the star employees of the future. Create short, medium and long form content designed to appeal to candidates and to grow their relationship with your brand over time.

When it comes time to hire, they’ll already have a foot in the door.

Utilising technology to improve the hiring process

Technology plays a key role in the quest to hyper-target the best candidates and increase the efficacy of the recruitment process. I see a couple of major benefits in leaning more on smart tech:

Technology plays a key role in the quest to hyper-target the best candidates

Use technology to process a high volume of applicants smoothly and efficiently

Recruiters will spend less time on the early stages of screening and more time on the later and more human stages of the process. Tools like HireVue, for example, allow organisations to establish skill-based screening practices where the early stages of candidate screening are carried out automatically against pre-defined benchmarking criteria. Candidates move through the process efficiently and connect with the brand in a positive way; they’ll enjoy getting an answer quickly, no matter whether it’s a yes or a no.

Technology can drastically reduce the presence of unconscious bias

The use of processes that rely on benchmarking provides equal opportunities for all applicants as their movement through the assessment tool is based solely on data. Screening candidates in this manner translates to greater diversity in the hires that we make. As it’s been proven that diversity in teams brings about a range of benefits to business performance, it’s a no brainer that we should be embracing these philosophies and deploying more skills-based screening in our hiring.

The use of processes that rely on benchmarking provides equal opportunities for all applicants

The fallout from COVID-19 has certainly represented a huge challenge for almost every organisation. It has also offered up opportunities to enhance processes and strategies, and gain access to the most talent-rich job market of the last decade.

Making the most of these opportunities is up to you.

About the author:  Dario currently leads the employer brand marketing function in Australia for the Employment Services Group, APM.  In a career spanning over 15 years, Dario’s diverse experience in marketing includes both agency and client side at practical and strategic levels. A fantastic storyteller, Dario also has experience in managing teams across the globe including Australia, India, Southeast Asia, Middle East and Europe.

Dario is Employer Brand Manager for Virgin Australia and was previously Head of Employer Brand for one of Australia’s most recognised brands, Flight Centre Travel Group. Dario led the creation of Flight Centre’s EVP and employer brand strategy, helping sustain some 10,000 roles nationally in both high volume retail as well as specialist and corporate divisions. In 2019, Dario was featured on The Employer Branding Podcast and was a delegate by invitation at Indeed Interactive in Austin, Texas. Over the last 15 years, Dario has worked both client and agency side in general and specialist marketing roles for the APAC region.

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