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Talent wars in a post-COVID world

The post-COVID landscape has changed the recruitment game...

This 5-minute read provides employers with an insight into the current recruitment climate and ways to adapt to stand out as a preferred employer to candidates.

What is a 'talent war'?

The term ‘war for talent’ was first seen in 1997[1] to describe the increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talent. In the years following, further research and the popularised book of the same name[2] are now credited for the modern-day talent management mindset of the HR profession and organisations worldwide. But, as much as organisations have changed their approach to talent, the recruitment and retention ‘war’ remains.

Depending on the economic, environmental, and demographic changes of any given industry at any given time, the balance shifts between an employer-driven market, to a candidate-focused one.

A candidate-driven market is when job seekers have the advantage to discern where they want to work, are likely to be able to negotiate a higher salary or improved conditions. Conversely, an employer-driven market is when potential employers have greater leverage over candidates in the hiring process to negotiate more conservative salaries and benefits, usually due to more people seeking work and increased unemployment.​

Staff turnover insights

Prior to 2020, most companies I worked with would have considered a turnover rate between 5-10% acceptable, allowing them to strike the right balance between retaining their top talent, maintaining recruitment costs, and keeping their workforce fresh. And although turnover rates have continued to hover within this range, around 8%, the most recent data shows that only 7.5% of employees changed employers in the last 12 months (ABS 2021).

When we consider a post-COVID job market, things like ongoing border closures, the reported exodus of metro-based workers to regional towns, and the ongoing risk of job loss, it is unsurprising employees are less inclined to change jobs, particularly if they have been able to maintain an increased level of flexibility on how, when and from where they work post-COVID.

Post-COVID recruitment challenges

Currently, employers are trying to reinvigorate their business and support its recovery, but not finding the right candidates in response their advertising, are provoked to lure passive talent* more actively and aggressively from industry friends. In the last 3-months alone, I have had both candidates and employers report offers of seemingly outrageous salaries that simply cannot be passed up, nor matched, less than 6-months after last placement. It is fair to say that the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have intensified the talent battle, but for high-calibre candidates, the top 25% of any given market, there is no longer a need to look for their next role in the job ads, but instead await a tap on the shoulder. So, with the ball now firmly in the candidate’s court, what can employers do to attract and bring in fresh talent?

Passive Talent: This is ‘recruitment speak’ for a potential candidate who is not actively searching for a new job, for example, via looking at job ads and submitting applications. Employers and recruiters seek out these candidates via proactive sourcing methods such as making contact via LinkedIn, or an employee referral program.

How to improve your recruitment process

First and foremost, remember that speed can be both your friend and enemy. I know it can be daunting to move on the first great candidate you saw, but I cannot stress this enough: waiting to see if someone else comes along or taking too long to make the decision will likely see you miss out! Not only are good candidates less likely to be on the market, when they are, they don’t stay on the market long.

Secondly, I know have previously spoken about the importance of a strong employer brand as part of a successful recruitment strategy, but in this climate, your brand alone will not attract all the candidates to your ad. In taking a more targeted, head-hunting approach to your search consider partnering with an agency well-connected in your industry, and/or boost your internal referral program. In leveraging these existing networks, of both an agency and current employee base, you can gain access to those anticipating the next tap on the shoulder.

Let's recap... ensure your recruitment is an efficient and timely process to ensure you can secure your preferred candidates before someone else does. Along with employer branding, that will attract candidates through your businesses' values and work environment, improve your results via using industry-specific recruitment agencies and an employee referral program.

Remember, the Reimagine Talent team are always here to help, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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[1] Steven Hankin; McKinsey & Company
[2] Beth Axelrod, Helen Handfield-Jones and Ed Michaels, The War for Talent, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2001