How can talent acquisition prepare for a future that is so difficult to define?


For the past few years, industry reports on “the future of HR” forecasted new technologies that would change critical aspects of the recruiting process. In response to the needs of a new generation of candidates, we’d be adopting technologies like AI and chatbots that would communicate on our behalf, essentially replacing much of work being done by humans. Industry experts even offered predictions on what roles in the talent acquisition space that would become obsolete.

HR was preparing for what they believed would be a game changer. In addition, many hiring organizations were addressing the need to upskill their workforce through education and on-the-job skills training—which was top of mind for most CEOs pre-coronavirus.

But now we’re halfway into 2020, and we simply could not have seen how dramatically and quickly experts are now touting recruiting’s NEW future based on the events that have unfolded this year.

Crystal balls have a poor track record

The world we all knew came to a screeching halt as the pandemic began to develop. It sent businesses scrambling to move employees to safe working environments and forced many of them to shed employees by the thousands.

As the dust is settling, it is becoming clearer there are going to be setbacks for hiring. Training, too, will likely need to be delayed at many organizations due to budgetary impediments and, given the disruptive nature of the crisis on companies’ operations, upskilling efforts have been refocused to support a new remote workforce.

As businesses step into the post-coronavirus future, they will need to find a balance between what worked before and what needs to happen to succeed in the next normal.

Even as they deal with the challenges of the here and now (which includes finding and protecting mission-critical talent) HR’s focus must be to help their CEOs define the post-COVID makeup of the organization’s workforce and working environment to meet the safety requirements and the business needs.  


My take on how this changes the future of recruiting

At least in the short term, HR business leaders may be facing a transformation never seen before and a real evolution in our labor market is about to emerge. Which means recruiting will need to change with it. This goes without saying; recruiting is an area that will always need to morph itself based on market conditions. 

Create a Bulletproof Business Case for Sourcing; Download our Free WhitepaperIn my last blog posts, I wrote about how outsourcing your recruiting can be your edge during a market’s disruption, and why organizations need to start building an effective talent pipeline now before the market turns around. As neither of these topics are novel, understanding how both are essential for the future of organizations (and their HR leaders) should have been a given, rather than having to wait for a crisis to see their value. But here we are, mapping out where recruitment will go next. Hear me out:

HR is about to have its “pivotal moment” – it is in the position to influence how the business strategy retools itself, so it is ready for when the market fully opens up for business again. HR will also be pushing business leaders to adopt a more holistic operational outlook that is well planned and that values attracting and recruiting the right talent as an investment in the company’s future. 

As a result of COVID, a new “work order” is emerging that may require HR leaders to broaden their strategic focus to understand:

  • New workforces will be emerging
  • The need to build a workforce plan that involves a mix of FTEs and contingent workers
  • The technologies needed for work continuity
  • The skills that will be needed based on the learnings from the market disruption
  • How to manage a remote and distributed workforce

With the right outsourcing partner, one that understands the depth of the new strategic focus, HR leaders can redirect their efforts on areas they traditionally have not had the time (or budget) to focus.  These include the vital functions of improving workforce capability, facilitating change management, and boosting work execution/performance to keep their organizations on track. 

The reality is that HR professionals cannot build strategic resilience by themselves. They’ll need to hire experts with a broad array of resources and tools that can expand their ability to attract and hire top talent.

Recruitment needs a holistic approach

Talent Acquisition has a lot of moving parts. I’ve worked with HR Leaders throughout my career to help them solve problems—big and small— and the experience made it very clear that a holistic approach to their challenges made the results that much better.  And as part of our RPO engagement, I knew taking this approach was essential.

Holistic is not is not a metaphor or part of an advertising message we use to promote Newton Talent. It means we consider all aspects of talent acquisition, including the business, the organization’s employer brand, all parts of the recruiting process, and leadership’s commitment to talent.

We harbor no illusions of “fixing” anything. We believe the client knows their company best. Instead, we work with them as a partner toward improving the overall quality of talent acquisition. Unlike plug-in solutions that attack one problem at a time, a holistic approach ensures they see results faster, because the hiring experience gets better for candidates and hiring managers alike.

Holistic Approach

Partnering with an RPO that has a holistic approach to recruitment—one that provides support across the entire talent acquisition ecosystem—is not just smart, it’s cost effective. For example, it might be tempting to internalize market analysis to help you drive talent direction. It would require added FTEs at a time when finance is tightening the belt and talent across the company is being furloughed or laid off, not to mention that a lack of data analysis training could lead to biases and more questions than answers.

RPOs that take a holistic approach, not only provide their customers with expertise in areas like market analysis that aid in strategic decision-making but provide a whole lot more. They also provide more control over the progress of their talent strategy than relying on in-house resources alone.

We’re betting the future is more human, too

A holistic approach to recruiting means we design solutions based on the lessons we learn, good and bad, about the current hiring experience and what talent is needed to move the business forward. Many times, companies can derive greater value simply by creating an environment that puts the human back into recruiting. In a digitized, networked world, with more automation replacing the connected recruiter, the candidate experience is often impersonal and fractured. If you think otherwise, consider how frustrated and powerless you feel when battling a company’s automated attendant when all you want to do is talk to someone.

Walmart founder Sam Walton once said: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

From a behavioral perspective, he might as well have been speaking of candidates. Because for all the technologies that were designed because they thought they understood candidate needs, those were quickly replaced after the economic disruption caused by COVID. How you meet those candidate needs going forward will have to be assessed—and responded to—very quickly. There will be a need for the human touch, a consistent and seamless experience, and the need to feel valued throughout the candidate experience.

There is no magic that any one organization can offer and no prognosticator who can tell you how the future of recruiting will look tomorrow. But something I feel certain about is that we’re working to ensure your recruiting experience is one that readies you for what is ahead.

Our holistic approach will continue to help organizations identify their potential for creating a “good to great” recruiting model, road-mapping a process to get there, and developing initiatives that help them drive the engagement they need to achieve their hiring objectives. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me - I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic.

Written by Patty Silbert

President of Newton Talent since 2018, Patty Silbert has over 30 years of experience developing the innovative solutions that help HR professionals just like you meet their most pressing recruitment challenges and their companies achieve their talent acquisition goals. She is a regular writer and speaker on the subjects of recruitment strategy, employment branding, HR technology, and leadership.