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  • Roy Maurer

4 Talent Acquisition Trends with Staying Power Beyond the Pandemic

August 23, 2021

LAS VEGAS — A panel of talent acquisition leaders shared recruiting strategies prompted by the new, extraordinary competition for talent and candidate expectations, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel was moderated Aug. 23 by Tony Lee, SHRM's vice president of editorial, at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2021 in Las Vegas.

Returning to Fundamentals Melissa Thompson, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Nielsen, the global information and data provider based in New York City, said employers must get back to basics as "the only way to deal with crazy."

Thompson redesigned the recruiting process at Nielsen so that everyone involved in it can easily understand where candidates are in the process and how to get from one stage to the next. She also is moving to replace the company's legacy applicant tracking system and reconsider the brand's employee value proposition (EVP).

"Some people may assume that you don't need to care for your EVP, but you do. You have to refresh it and turn it into actionable employment branding," she said.

Employee referrals have always been the Holy Grail for employers seeking quality recruiting sources. Thompson said referrals at Nielsen have gone down, yet she spoke against the idea of increasing the bonus to boost referrals.

"People refer people when they want them to come work for them, not for the money," she said.

Referrals at General Motors have gone up during the pandemic, without any employee payments, said Cyril George, global talent acquisition director at the multinational automaker headquartered in Detroit. "That proves that people will reach out to others and let them know about a great place to work without any bonus being paid out."

Jeremy Eskenazi, SHRM-SCP, managing principal of Riviera Advisors Inc., in Long Beach, Calif., said consulting skills for recruiters, such as setting and managing expectations, have become far more valuable than focusing on rigid corporate recruiting processes.

"The pandemic has forced us to go back to basics," he said.

Working from Anywhere

Hiring local is less important as employees work remotely, resulting in re-evaluations of hiring and compensation strategies.

Hiring managers who were very opposed to remote work before the pandemic have come around, Eskenazi said. But it's important to realize that while remote work is here to stay, it is not applicable to all jobs, he added.

"It's good for recruiting," he said. "It has opened up a larger pool of candidates, where we were at one time bound by geography. And despite what you've been hearing, many more organizations than not are more open to paying per what the market will bear, not the geography. This is truly a great opportunity for recruiting."

The flip side to that is companies with marquee attractiveness can swoop in on talent across the country. Thompson said Nielsen used to have a reliable pocket of talent in Tampa, Fla., for example, but Google has recently been snapping them up for remote-work roles.

"When those big companies start to recruit from those places where we are the big fish in a small pond, it will get more difficult," she said. "This is happening internationally as well."

Finding Candidates

Fewer candidates are applying for jobs, prompting a range of tactical short-term solutions like signing bonuses for front-line hires, but can these moves work long term? Experts say no.

Thompson said Nielsen can't compete with and offer from McDonald's to pay candidates just to sit for interviews. Now, Nielsen is using innovative sourcing at megachurches and placing ads in Spanish-language periodicals to get in front of new talent. "These tactics have had a positive impact," she said.

"Signing bonuses and overpriced rates for hourly workers will probably shift back, because that is what has happened in the past," Eskenazi said. "But some things are changing for the better, and they will stay."

George added that using signing bonuses to counter lack of candidate flow is not sustainable. But "signing bonuses can be used to seal the deal with fantastic talent," he said. "That's a purposeful use."

Refocused on Diversity Hiring

CEOs and boards of directors have made solid commitments and set goals to improve representation of minorities in their organizations.

When David Kenny took over as CEO of Nielsen, he also took the chief diversity officer title, Thompson said. "He explained that the reason that he did is that who other than the CEO has more power to make changes than the CEO?" she said. "It's one of the reasons that I joined the company."

Thompson said the talent acquisition function can't be the only owner of diversity hiring. "Hiring managers and leaders also have to have responsibility. Hiring managers have to partner with the recruiter to make diversity hiring successful."

She added that HR should take the lead to train hiring managers to understand that importance. "Recruiters have to show the value of diversity to hiring managers," she said. "Diverse teams is where you get the innovation and creativity from."

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