It’s Time for the Biggest Sourcing Change in Two Decades

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Jun 22, 2020

The world has changed in the past three months, more than what most of us have seen in our lifetime. Covid-19, the impending economic fallout, and the police brutality that took away George Floyd’s life have had a profound impact on our society. More than eight million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 globally. More than 40 million in the U.S. have lost jobs. Millions have marched globally to end systemic racism.

These incidents have a deep impact on how organizations think about talent, from hiring to developing to growing. HR leaders have an opportunity to play a critical role in solving these challenges and shaping a new future that addresses economic resilience, people, and equality. One area of the talent life-cycle that is deeply impacted is talent sourcing. The context for sourcing has changed dramatically. We need to rethink the function through the lens of current challenges and what should be done differently.

The four fundamental shifts that shape talent sourcing:

  1. The highest unemployment rate in the century
  2. A heightened need to address diversity
  3. An adjustment to new ways of working and “talent everywhere”
  4. Operating with the new fiscal responsibility

Highest unemployment rate in the century

Over the past three months, we went from the highest employment rate in decades to the highest unemployment in the past century. Forty million people in the U.S. have lost their jobs, as of June 2020. Globally, half the working population is at risk of losing their jobs or at least having them negatively impacted.

The past decade for talent acquisition was challenging, a rough war for talent. The tides have changed now. The current socioeconomic situation changes the equation for talent supply and demand. The 40 million (and more) people who have lost their jobs will be looking for work. We are transitioning from a candidate market to an employer market. Each employer will have more inbound candidates than ever before. The ability to manage large application volumes and screen candidates based on their skills and potential will be the new measure of success.

Furthermore, each one of us knows several friends who have lost jobs because of the current crisis and will welcome an opportunity to refer them to find their next jobs. We feel great when we help others, and organizations have an opportunity to give that opportunity to their employees to improve their employee experience, engagement, and satisfaction in a time of crisis.

Heightened need to address diversity

Over the past five years, diversity did become an important topic. The Chief Diversity Officer role was coined, and several companies did some good work in building a more diverse workforce. Unfortunately, we have not done enough collectively. There is more we can do to end the systemic racism and create a more equal society.

A large number of the 40 million who lost jobs in the U.S. are from African American and other under-represented groups. A large part were already in low-wage jobs. The true impact of unemployment reaches far beyond the cost of government benefits and extends to such things as mental and physical health. The unemployment of this population further increases the divide in our society. Addressing it must be a priority as we march towards ending systemic racism and creating more equality.

CEOs need to make diversity a top priority and cultivate a culture where people are hired based on their skills and potential, irrespective of their gender, race, and ethnicity. The Boards, CEOs, and CHROs need to relentlessly focus on understanding the status quo on diversity, and continually working to take corrective actions. A bold step CEO-CHROs can take today is to move to anonymized hiring through the screening and initial evaluation cycle. It’s also an opportunity to take affirmative action across various populations to boost current organizational diversity.

Adjust to new ways of working and talent ubiquity

There has been a long-standing discussion about gaps in the distribution of talent and job opportunities, with some areas experiencing double-digit unemployment while others had rates half as high. In the pre-Covid world, where being in an office or co-located has created major constraints for sourcing, the continued work from home during the pandemic has brought a new perspective among HR and business leaders. The increasing trend for prolonged as well as permanent remote work changes the equation when it comes to talent location and opportunities. The flexibility to work remotely for almost all jobs makes talent ubiquitous, opening up new frontiers and talent pools for sourcing.

Businesses can go after the best talent irrespective of their location. The ability to stack rank individuals based on their skills and potential will become far more important than sorting the talent by location. The ability and data to understand an individual’s willingness and strength in working in the office vs. remotely will help companies determine which individuals to engage with.

Operate with the new fiscal responsibility

The economic impact of Covid-19 is real. The level of unemployment and disruption will impact business demand in almost all sectors. The new reality will require new fiscal prudence for HR/ talent acquisition teams in doing more with less across all operations. The cost pressure will also drive talent redeployment and transitions; there will potentially be impacted employees looking for work across the company.

Sourcing can be very expensive, especially when companies look for talent beyond their existing Talent Network (past applicants, candidates, employees, and alumni). Looking outside became necessary in the past decade with the war for talent, especially for companies  who did not make concerted investments to build their own networks. These expenses were generally justified on the back of continued business demand. With the current changes in the labor market (more than 40 million people looking for work) driving inbound applications, combined  with the ability to harvest and build existing Talent Networks (even if that means starting with employees, employee referrals, and resume books from universities ), companies have an opportunity to transform their operations and outcomes while driving significant efficiencies.

With these major changes in society impacting sourcing, companies need to adjust their strategy and realign their spending to adapt to the new normal and solve for more systemic challenges. A few additional areas that will help companies better execute on talent sourcing with new socioeconomic  and market realities:

  1. Building employer brands through personalized experiences, not just with recruitment marketing, to attract the active talent
  2. Unifying sourcing channels  (past candidates, past applicants, employees, alumni, inbound applicants) to create a single view of a talent pipeline and see individuals from different channel through a consistent lens
  3. Improving HR team capabilities through training and enablement to embrace diversity-first, skills-based hiring

The Covid-19 pandemic has elevated the role of CHROs in driving employee experience, engagement, and health. The CEO-CHRO have become a prominent team in navigating the organization through the crisis. The more recent incidents create an opportunity for CHROs to push the envelope further and be the change agents than transform organizations, careers, and society. It’s time to rethink talent sourcing.