The War for Talent Is Over; Covid-19 Won

Peter Weddle

In late April, hundreds of corporate and industry HR / TA professionals attended TAtechEurope Digital, an online conference to help organizations prepare for the post-Covid economic recovery. The conference focused on businesses located in the EMEA region, but its attendees were drawn from organizations based there (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and in Central and South America, Asia, and North America.

As they were registering for the event, they were asked a single question: Aside from the COVID-19 crisis, what is the most significant recruiting challenge facing employers today?. Given the widespread layoffs in virtually every economic sector and region of the globe, their response was a surprise. The number one answer – cited by slightly more than four-in-ten respondents – was “Finding qualified talent.”

In fact, it wasn’t even close. That response was two-and-a-half times greater than the second most cited answer and greater than the third, fourth and fifth answers combined. Clearly, it’s still a challenge to recruit top talent, despite the economic devastation of the pandemic.

So, what’s going on?

Simple economics would suggest that with supply significantly up and demand almost certainly down, finding top performers should be like fishing in a barrel.

There are probably a number of factors behind this disconnect, but here are a few of the most important:
• Recent surveys indicate that a whopping 80 percent of those who have been laid off or furloughed expect to be hired back by their former employer. Unfortunately, the old “bad stuff may be happening to everyone else, but it won’t touch me” syndrome is alive and well, and many still believe the old “normal” will shortly return.
• Employers are undoubtedly using their Payroll Protection Program monies to keep top performers on staff. Those salary payments together with the risk aversion most people feel during unsettled times are reducing the inclination of people to look for new or better opportunities.

In effect, Covid is having a counter-intuitive effect on the talent market. It’s causing top performers to stay right where they are (or think they are) and depressing even further the already tight supply of talent.

What’s the best way to begin dealing with this situation?

First, bring your company’s c-suite kicking and screaming into reality. Company execs will undoubtedly read the news reports about all those layoffs and assume that recruiting will now be easier and cheaper. They’ll need to be educated that exactly the opposite is true.

Second, leverage that re-educational effort to press for more resources. If you thought recruiting was tough before Covid, it’s going to be even more difficult going forward, and you’ll likely need both more recruiters and a larger budget to succeed.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

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