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How to pivot your people strategy in a human crisis

It’s no question that an organization’s biggest asset is its people. Whether your organization falls in the small-medium sized space or is considered an enterprise, your people strategy (a.k.a. your recruitment or talent strategy) can support or hurt your growth.

As a leader, your recruitment strategy is usually one of the most important strategies next to your business strategies. I use business strategy in this context as an umbrella to include other business priorities such as expansion, innovation, product development, customer experience and so on.

Attracting and retaining talent is an ongoing part of your recruitment strategy that will continue to expand and evolve as your organization grows and should be fluid and adaptable.

According to a survey of 156 CEOs by The Predictive Index, on average employee-related costs make up 55% of total company costs. This number is not surprising when you consider salary, training, onboarding and so on that goes into every new hire you bring on board. That said, if your people strategy is broken or has holes in it, you’re well-positioned to lose more money than make and not from doing business, but by a churn of people coming and going.

While having a strong people strategy is a challenge when things are “status quo,” no one teaches or prepares you on how to maintain a strong people strategy during a global pandemic. A crisis that is affecting every human being whether your business is being impacted directly or not.

 So, how do you pivot your existing people strategy during a crisis?

If you’re one of the many businesses where your people were directly impacted through lay off’s, this may not apply to you in the short term, however, it may still be useful for when you gear up to re-hire down the road.

For those who are in a position where you may still be hiring (if not for the immediate term but for later), here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Flexibility and adaptability – if this is *not* already part of how you would describe your people strategy, now would be the time to exercise more flexibility and adaptability. In a time where so much of what we’ve taken for granted and considered as “normal” in our daily lives, changes to those norms have equally come quite quickly and disruptive how we live. Interview formats, timing/scheduling, traditional interview etiquette will most definitely be impacted and will need to adjust. Consider being flexible and adaptable to what people’s new dynamics look like and how you may need to adjust how you approach some of these traditional practices.

  • Transparency and honesty – this should be a no brainer and is an important component to those organizations that stand out with strong hiring practices, however, it stands to be highlighted in a crisis. It may be a general statement to make, yet I think a fair one when I say every organization out there has been impacted by COVID-19. This crisis offers an opportunity to be transparent and honest with how exactly has your business been impacted. What are prospective candidates/new hires in for? What are your biggest challenges right now and in the next 6-24 months? Keep in mind, interviews are generally a 2-way street whether you realize it or not. For those who prepare to interview you as a potential employer, prospective candidates are taking note on your company culture, organizational structure and so on. That also includes things like your financial objectives/status – are you in a financially healthy position? What challenges are they walking into? And so on.

  • Culture is still critical – let it shine – there’s enough research that says one of the top criteria that candidates look for when they want to work for a company is a strong company culture. I’ve always said your company culture is the heart and pulse of your business and goes far beyond your values or a mission statement and lives in your daily behavior as a team starting with leadership. In this time of crisis, we’ve seen more humility, more kindness, more compassion and a sense of unity. How has your company come together and demonstrated some of those very qualities? What’s changed in how you and your people connect? How can you showcase the kind of culture your company was pre and post COVID-19? Think about how you can showcase the sometimes difficult to quantify questions that prospective candidates ask and give them a sneak peek into the ‘behind the scenes’ of your organization leading with more humility.

  • Maintain standards, don’t lower your bar & be reasonable – an article from the Financial Post suggests Canada’s labour market took a bigger hit than the U.S. since COVID-19 hit. Thousands of people have lost their jobs in the midst of this crisis which means the talent pool broadly speaking is even more saturated. More people are looking for work and in some cases, even more people for that one position you have open. It’s important to note that there are also those who were embarking on a job search pre-COVID-19 that may still be motivated and inclined to look for work after COVID-19. Motivations will vary and while being clear on what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate and maintaining high hiring standards is encouraged, being open and reasonable is also important. A time like this can suggest to organizations to be even more stringent on hiring practices which only prolongs and hurts your business when you have critical openings. Use this time to tighten up recruitment processes behind the scenes, review necessary skills and other ‘must-haves’ in the positions you’re hiring for and use discernment when reaching hiring decisions.

These are just a few strategies to consider that don’t include some of the tactical strategies that may be adjusted to meet new norms. Interested in learning more and seeing how to rework your people strategy for the near future? Reach out here and let’s talk.

How have you had to pivot your people strategy in this global crisis?

Let me know in the comments below. Your ideas and insights can help someone who may be struggling with this very area of their business.

To your growth today and tomorrow.

Lisa ❤


Lisa De Nicola

Lisa De Nicola is an Intuitive Leadership Coach and a Corporate Magic Maker (a Trusted Advisor who believes in Magic) dedicated to helping businesses bring out the essence of their biggest resource - their people. She coaches bold leaders to help them become the Director of their life so they can do business and life on their terms. With 15 + years of corporate experience working in the world of talent for multi-national, global organizations, Lisa shares her knowledge, spiritual tools, practices and business insights to leaders looking to transform the way they lead from the inside out.

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