2020 Jun 4
With the relaxing of curfews after nearly two months of lockdown, the workforce of Sri Lanka is finally given a glimpse of what life would be like post COVID-19. In these two months, businesses of all scales have seen pauses in their operations. With reduced cash flowing into the companies’ accounts, many of them have had to cut their employee salaries and may have even let go of non-permanent staff.
With the reopening of doors to business, an organisation’s priority will be to adapt to the new reality and resume operating as normally as possible. To the unemployed citizens in the island, a window of opportunity presents itself. Upon consultation with Rukmal De Silva, founder of 361 Degrees, answers have been provided to some of the pressing questions recruiters and applicants may have during this transition to normalcy.
In helping businesses resume operation, what role does recruitment and adding of new talent to the workforce play?
With the realignment of businesses to the new normal, most companies will look to reskill their workforce with individuals capable of adapting to meet the demands of new business objectives. It is the vital that the hiring panel identify any gaps in the talent of their workforce, and conduct recruitment rapidly and with minimum cost.
The new work environment will be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Therefore, strategies to acquire new talent will focus largely on hard skills with digital and cognitive capabilities. Moreover, ideal candidates will have to possess social and emotional skills to adapt, persevere and conquer the current crisis in the business world.
For companies looking to hire, what traditional recruitment strategies need to change?
Given the current economic crisis, the supply of talent recruiters will have to choose from will be overwhelming. As such, experts foresee an increase in the number of short term projects and contract based recruitment in the next 6 to 12 months. Furthermore, this will contradict the traditional 9-5 routine with flexible work hours with performance related pay.
Organisations will need to communicate clearly the roles and values they are now looking for in their candidates. The recruitment process itself will revolutionise with the enormous use of social media and online assessment of personality traits and competencies. The screening process may also later include a telephone call or video interview with situational questions to gauge the applicant’s thinking process and problem solving skills.
For companies undergoing a hiring freeze, what measures need to be taken to ensure that potential candidates do not lose hope on being recruited in the future?
Some organisations may be facing financial challenges, having not operated in the interim as a result of the pandemic outbreak. As such, in attempts to cut costs, recruitment and facilitation of new talent may not be the best move for them at the moment. Therefore, all potential applicants need to be made aware of new employment regulations within the company, including limited freedom and mobility with risk based pay.
A counter proposal for organisations in this situation, is the implementation of a novel re-skilling approach with companies maintaining their current overall number of employees. With the acquisition of new talent and the letting go of poor performers, this “head count freeze” is a subtle change with a proven dramatic philosophical impact.
Through effective hiring, recruiters may be able to take skilled individual on board to do the same job two mediocre employees have been doing to date. It not only motivates the current workforce to improve their performance, but also upholds the company’s status in the current job market.
What should job applicants do differently to get recruited amidst the current crisis?
Needless to say, applicants get only one chance to make a first impression. Starting with online interviews, physical factors such as a well lit room with the camera placed in level with the applicant’s face plays a crucial role. Similar to face-to-face interview sessions, appropriate attire and proper posture is a must. These simple tips are the most that can be done to help resonate one’s physical presence through a screen.
Therefore, applicants are encouraged to impress the hiring panel by means of story-telling. Narrating one’s experiences with the use of appropriate emotions is a great way to create a lasting impression. Moreover, adding a video to one’s resume talking about their character adds a touch of personalisation and shows the candidate’s commitment to land the job.
Applicants are advised to prepare questions on the job with regard to the “new normal” and clearly convey any difficulties they may face in case the job is offered. In addition to this, any questions asked by the hiring panel need to be answered quickly and to the point. Bearing in mind that most companies may be in financial difficulty, applicants need to strongly negotiate their terms while being realistic with their expectations.
What advice would be given to job seekers eager to start work, but lacking opportunity as a result of hiring freezes?
The biggest advice would be to not give up. Job seekers are encouraged to take risks and venture into new fields of work. Identify industries that have been labelled as “essential” and reach out to them, offering services in terms of freelance work, internships, or volunteering. These industries may not necessarily be the applicant’s bread and butter, but will nevertheless teach new lessons to enhance one’s career while building experience.
The desire for lifelong learning is mandatory for anyone looking to get hired. Therefore, investing time to learn new skills during unemployment is another great way to increase one’s value in the job market. Self leadership and the ability to deliver results with minimum supervision has been identified as a new age skill, together with digital savviness, adaptability, creativity and innovative thinking. Moreover, learning how to handle stress and emotional resilience will be pillars to success in surviving the new working world.
Finally, the global crisis brought about by the pandemic should be considered an eye opener to everyone, calling for a great deal of self-reflection. In the aftermath of this dark period, organisations and employees alike need to be prepared with a self-convincing answer to the question, “If COVID-19 was a book, what would be my title for it, and what are the chapters I can learn the most from?”