Think Expansively and Creatively About Talent | SWARM 2 | rectangle

Today’s volatility and uncertainty offer lots of reasons for leaders to rethink how they recruit and retain talent.

Most employers have many job openings that they’re unable to fill, and this can have real business consequences—say, products are delayed to market or strategic priorities are put on hold. There are also many pools of talent that are looking for the right fit, as workers’ preferences change faster than jobs are evolving.

While these factors alone should compel companies to revise their hiring and retention strategies, I think the possibility of a recession only heightens the need to be innovative with talent. Companies can no longer rely on traditional (and often unsustainable) one-size-fits-all levers like broad compensation increases. Leaders must move quickly to find or develop candidates with the right skills and experiences to create value in their organizations. They need to break down any walls between talent acquisition, talent development, and the day-to-day factors that drive employee experience. And they need to resist the urge to cut investment in people and HR for short-term savings that will undermine the long-term competitiveness of their organizations.

There are a handful of more innovative and perhaps underutilized levers that could be particularly helpful to leaders in times of economic uncertainty. One is simply better utilizing your existing internal talent.

Sixty percent of the people who leave companies do so because they don’t see opportunities for career advancement with their employer. However, according to research BCG conducted with Revelio labs, only 10% of new roles are filled by internal lateral hires. That’s a big mismatch. A wonderful opportunity is at hand to support more internal mobility of talent, which is especially valuable in times of uncertainty. This involves enabling both upward and lateral mobility, moving people across the organization so that they can develop new skills and experiences.

A wonderful opportunity is at hand to support more internal mobility of talent, which is especially valuable in times of uncertainty.

Another lever is bringing the growing on-demand workforce into your talent strategy. In the past, it has been hard to find full-time hires in areas like data analytics and software coding. There are now hundreds of platforms that aggregate these freelancers, and you can partner with platform providers to build this workforce quickly.

The use of on-demand workers frees a company to explore new initiatives. When you aren’t sure that an evolving area of the business is key to your strategy, you can use freelancers to test the potential of the initiative. You can also use this “fluid talent” when the firm is preparing to launch a new offering. The immediate, rapid feedback from these deployments is so helpful to assess before you invest and build out a full team.

The third lever that leaders should keep in mind is strengthening culture, employee development, and employee engagement—things that can waver in a recessionary environment—to drive retention and activate the latent potential of your workforce.

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Creating more cohort-based support programs can help workers feel more connected. Increasingly, companies have new hires coming in mid-career, and they’re often left to navigate processes and culture on their own. Having strong mentors, senior sponsors, and communities of practice helps workers feel welcomed, supported, and engaged.

Human resources fills a vital role working with leadership on talent strategy and enabling these innovative practices on the ground. But HR cannot be the sole owner, driver, and creator of great talent strategies. Leaders need to share the strategic imperative to think more expansively about these talent levers and reshape the work environment accordingly. The world is changing, and companies cannot manage talent effectively without partnership and collaboration across the business.