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4 Ways to Make Talent Management Work in a Virtual World

Monday, July 20, 2020
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Virtual work is here to stay. Estimates say upward of 91 percent of companies have implemented work-from-home arrangements since the outset of pandemic. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, Capital One, Amazon, and Microsoft have already announced their intent to extend their work-from-home programs. Others are considering some kind of resumption of office life by 2021, but a recent Gartner analysis shows that 48 percent of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time post pandemic.

While there are many logistical, leadership, and policy issues to consider when migrating your company to effective remote work, there are also significant talent implications. Here are four ways your organization can win the war for talent in the expanded virtual world of work.

Recruit From the Broader Talent Pool

Remove geographic constraints. It opens up a new talent pool for your talent acquisition team. You can recruit that rock-star leader in another city who isn’t prepared to uproot her life but would welcome an opportunity with your company. Or redistribute your call center employees strategically so service delivery can, to coin a technology term, “follow the sun,” or span across time zones. In addition to the broader geographic reach, people who need flexibility are now in the talent pool. In my former HR leader roles, my team regularly encountered candidates who refused offers due to lack of flexibility. One study showed that, among younger workers, 68 percent said they heavily weigh remote options in determining whether to work for a particular company. Changing policies changes the hiring landscape and opens candidate doors that may have previously been closed.

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Create a “Skill Economy”

Leverage skills across boundaries. Remote work comes with new ways to use skills across the organization. It can create more porous teams, departments, and functions. By having a more fungible network of skills, companies can better manage available resources. A select group of companies have begun to make strides toward this by documenting each employee’s skills and subject matter expertise (professional services, for example, where staff are assigned to projects based on expertise), but few have truly created an efficient system of supply and demand when it comes to skills.

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Drive Outcomes-Based Performance Management

Teach leaders to manage to results. HR leaders have emphasized this for some time, but it’s easy for leaders to get involved with process and look at less relevant (and sometimes discriminate against those with childcare, eldercare, or other personal responsibilities) things like face time, hours worked, and relationships when they are in the office with their teams. While HR leaders report the most common complaint during the coronavirus outbreak has been from managers who are concerned about the engagement and productivity of their teams, some studies show significant productivity increases when work goes virtual. Talent leaders can take proactive roles in educating managers about the potential for bias toward on-site versus remote workers and migrating from focusing on how people work to managing results, such as project completion, customer success metrics, revenue goals, and so forth.

Reimagine Career Pathing

Promote without borders. Removing relocation requirements gives those candidates unwilling to move more upward mobility and the company gets a broader base for promotions and succession planning. When I worked with a large retailer, geography consistently challenged us. We had strong talent in the field and opportunities at the corporate office, and we knew that moving people between HQ and the field made for more seamless connection between the two. But because corporate staff was required to work at headquarters, we were unable to fill roles with some of the best candidates. Eliminate that barrier and you substantially increase the internal talent pipeline flow.

As businesses adapt their strategies and workforce to the changing needs, leaders must tailor their talent management practices to maximize opportunities presented by the new virtual landscape. Those who can quickly identify the needs and opportunities that virtual work creates and strategically adapt their approach to talent will help improve business value and position their organizations to attain their objectives.

About the Author

Patricia Carl is an executive coach and consultant, and former chief human resources officer for both public and private equity backed companies. She partners with leaders, teams and organizations to drive business outcomes, and has worked with clients across industries, from companies such as Microsoft, Target Corporation, Deloitte, Citadel, and Silicon Valley start-ups. She has guest lectured at academic institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, and her insights have been regularly featured in Forbes, Real Leaders, and other publications. She holds leadership roles with not-for-profit boards and organizations and is an angel investor in multiple technology companies.

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