Two weeks ago, we began a new series of articles focused on in-house executive recruiters and the ways they’re evolving to meet the current crisis. In doing so, we outlined three strategies that could be adopted by all internal executive search teams, regardless of how their company or industry has been impacted by COVID-19. Since then, we’ve hosted a roundtable discussion with in-house recruiting leaders to find out exactly how these tactics are playing out at their companies.
We’ve found that the most important thing an in-house team can do in the pandemic’s wake is find ways to add value to their company. And one of those ways is to work hand-in-glove with their company’s broader COVID-19 strategy and scenario-based plans.
Assess the damage and steer towards tactical solutions
To get aligned with their company’s strategy, in-house recruiting teams need a clear understanding of how COVID-19 has affected their business and what their company plans to do about it.
Ideally, your company has created various scenario-based plans for 2020. Study them. Identify the business performance metrics that will directly impact executive hiring, and work with leadership to develop a series of contingent plans based on trigger points in the data.
In-house recruiters have found that strategy and hiring needs are evolving on a weekly basis. Having a handle on leading indicators in your company’s data will guide your team and help set the pace. Decisions to pull back on certain activities, double down on others, or pivot altogether should be backed by real-time data.
Know where you stand, then act accordingly
After COVID-19, most businesses find themselves in one of three basic hiring categories. Assess which one your company belongs in and have your in-house team react appropriately.
Business as usual
If there hasn’t been a significant change in your company’s hiring strategy, use this time to take advantage of the market and quickly source the best talent available. Look to your competitors or companies in adjacent industries—if they’ve been forced to lay off a ton of top talent, seize the opportunity to recruit some of their executives.
One in-house recruiter for a Boston-based company said their city’s job market has always been very competitive, so they’ve been keeping close tabs on their rivals. That’s allowed them to swoop in and grab talent from companies with less stable environments, letting them tap into a deeper talent pool than before.
If you’re in this enviable position, build a playbook for your team on sensitively recruiting during a pandemic. Recognize that corporate reputation is more important than ever, and it could be tough to draw a leader away from their post in the midst of a crisis. Highlight all of the great things your business has accomplished during this time to impress potential candidates and sweeten the opportunity.
If you’re still hiring but at a lower volume, use any extra downtime you have to prepare for when business is trending up, and hiring returns to normal.
For instance, some executive hiring teams are doubling down on nurturing candidate relationships. They view it as a long-term play, keeping candidates warm until they’re ready to throw their hat in the ring.
“Executive hiring has never been done rapidly for us. Ultimately, the type of leaders we’re recruiting are rightfully leading right now,” shared Kortney Rupp, Executive Researcher at Roblox. “We are using this opportunity to nurture relationships so that when the time is right we will be ready to move forward with the right candidates.”
And if your company is hiring less in one department, look for alternatives. Turn your attention to global regions of the business that are rebounding faster than others or divisions that have been less impacted overall. Identify leadership gaps in those areas and divert recruiter resources as searches move forward.
You can also spend time evaluating your company’s current talent. If your team has been eyeing an internal candidate for an exec role in the pipeline, consider the scenarios of that shift. Will it be more difficult to backfill that person’s role or find a comparable external candidate willing to make a career move (or even relocate) in the middle of a pandemic?
For larger companies, these succession plans can be timely. Meet with key department heads and start laying the groundwork now for imminent promotions. When the time comes, you’ll have your dominos in a row, ready to make well-informed recommendations.
If hiring has come to a complete standstill, your company is probably in budget-crunching mode. You suddenly have a lot less to do but a greater imperative to prove the cost effectiveness of your internal executive recruiting team.
If you find yourself in this situation, restructure your function to get your team pipelining and market mapping for roles that are usually in demand. One recruiter told us their team was looking closely at “pandemic-resilient” roles—which in their industry are DevOps and engineering positions—and has dedicated the next few weeks to exclusively sourcing those types of talent. Once their company is again ready to hire for those roles, they’ll have plenty of value to add.
You can also try to identify the biggest weaknesses in your own company’s COVID response. Build new roles based on areas of need and use this time to level set with internal stakeholders on a hiring plan. For example, some industries are predicting the need for more health and safety-oriented leadership. Others may strategically staff-up in the event of another crisis, particularly if their crisis-response team is lacking in certain areas.
Monitor the situation and adjust regularly
All the while, it’s important to keep a constant finger on the pulse of your business. Internal recruiters should be ready to act if there are any major shifts (and in these tumultuous times, there likely will be).
Agree upon your specific trigger points and the action you’ll take ahead of time—for example, if revenue or EBITA growth exceeds adjusted quarterly goals, meet with hiring managers to discuss plans for reinforcing functions affected by COVID.
Know which KPIs matter most, and check them on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
- Week-over-week: A short-term pulse check, these smaller sample sizes show where your business is heading at the moment and can be used to make short-term decisions about pulling back or ramping up certain activities.
- Month-over-month: MoM reporting can validate or reinforce the trends you may have identified in WoW reporting. Use this data to make adjustments to your existing plans and strategies.
- Quarter-over-quarter: This larger dataset is useful for validating or disproving weekly and monthly reports. Quarterly data is often the impetus for more drastic course corrections.
Rely on tech to guide you through every step of the process
Technology is key to getting greater visibility into the KPIs that must guide your planning. Corporate dashboards tracking the health of your company will tell you when specific scenario-based plans are triggered. As you see trends heading in a certain direction, your team can proactively prepare for any upticks in hiring plans.
Employ the right talent relationship management system to streamline any market mapping or pipelining you pursue during downtime. You’ll need a place to store all of that planning, and it needs to be easily accessible as soon as it’s time to hire again.
Better collaboration tech will also help you maintain a white-glove approach amid social distancing measures that make it difficult to meet candidates face-to-face. One of our roundtable participants said that despite the present circumstances, their in-house recruiting team’s tech resources have allowed them to maintain the same level of customer service with their executive candidates.
And technology will be crucial to your operational abilities for the foreseeable future, since hiring teams will likely be among the last to physically return to the office. Use it to enable seamless collaboration within your in-house recruiting team as you work together to evolve your function and your company amid a crisis.
In the coming weeks, Thrive will dive into more strategies your team can use during this crisis. If you would like to join our community of in-house executive recruiters and add your voice to the dialogue, send an email to email@example.com.