This Week in Talent (9th November)

And just like that… I’m back! Ready to sprinkle a little more wit and musings into the Talent world. 

Last week we waded into the mammoth topic of DEBI from a Talent lens

Adding to the discussion, Fortune dropped this article a few days ago about how hybrid and remote work is essential to enable a return to work, especially for women. PwC also found the motherhood penalty was the main reason for deepening gender pay gaps across OECD countries. 

Here in Australia, we’ve been toying up ways to adjust the pension to allow older Australians to work more. If this happens, by the way, we could expand our talent pools with an extra half a million older Australians able to step into critical fields such as teaching and healthcare.

More seasoned pros in the mix? Yes, please!

Now let’s take a pivot for today’s TWIT and chat about the elephant in the room.

You’ve all seen the headlines: “Layoffs, Layoffs…” – and just for something different – “Stealth Layoffs” are in the mix too for hush-hush cuts that never grace the news. 

Before we get to tips on future-proofing your Talent careers, let’s chew on this: Why have companies been slicing through TA teams like a hot knife through butter, especially this past year? 

Here’s my threefold take:

1. One-trick ponies?

Too often, when hiring slumps, the knee-jerk reaction for companies is to let go of their Talent teams. Do they think that’s all we can do?  

Have we become so good at scoring goals in hiring (the “Acquisition” part of Talent), that we forgot to show off (or develop?) our midfield skills in, for example – P&C, employer brand, workforce planning, and juggling project management?

I’ve watched the magic unfold first-hand when we proactively strut our stuff (beyond putting bums on seats!) in front of the business. Demonstrating our versatility to add value in other areas not only anchors our roles within the company, but also ripples across teams and enriches the workforce ecosystem.

And while we’re on the subject of shaking things up, why not call for an industry-wide encore? Let’s drop the ‘Acquisition’ and re-brand ourselves more broadly as ‘Talent’ teams. 

Because what we do is so much more than just a hiring relay – it’s the whole track and field!

2. The Pandemic Party’s Over

In a majority of cases, we’ve seen brilliant hiring teams let go because post-pandemic companies are like, “let’s sober up and stop over-hiring – we now aim for sustainable growth”. 

Cue the cutbacks on hiring and other cost savings as they prep their economic umbrellas for the forecasted storm, amidst a more uncertain domestic and global environment.

3. Economic mood swings 

Down Under, the economic outlook is gloomy.

While our unemployment rate is currently a low 3.6%, it’s expected to creep up as economic growth is projected to decelerate into 2024. Businesses are also grappling with high borrowing costs, and just this week, the Reserve Bank of Australia hiked interest rates to a 12-year peak of 4.35% to rein in inflation.

For my fellow Talent professionals who’ve recently experienced an abrupt farewell —you’re certainly not alone. Remember it’s not you, it’s the role. And we (again) find ourselves in “unprecedented” times.

Economic downturns are like a seesaw, and eventually, they go up again. It’s the ‘when’ that remains a mystery…crystal ball anyone?

Talent folks can feel a bit like canaries in an economic coal mine; sensitive to the slightest whispers of fiscal trouble ahead. First to feel the chop when the company belts tighten.

And let’s be real—it’s the pits.

However, for those of us sticking it out in Talent (perhaps we’re gluttons for challenge, or maybe we need the money and career-switching with a side of avo toast just isn’t on the menu) – let’s swivel from doom and gloom and focus on ways to help make ourselves essential.

At the same time, in this shake-up, it’s worth noting even the best of us can find ourselves on the chopping block — hence the need to highlight “career cushioning.” Think of it as constructing a safety net or a professional plan B, ready just in case your job pulls a disappearing act.

Now, without further ado, here are my Top 3 Tips to make your Talent careers as resilient as a cockroach (oddly fitting! Those little critters are survivors, respect).

TIP#1: Stay sharp and broaden your skills

Embrace a growth mindset. Keep learning, because when the going gets tough, the tough get studying.

In the realm of internal talent, diversifying your skill set isn’t just beneficial; it’s career gold. 

Beyond placing candidates in a spectrum of roles (both tech and non-tech), the best talent folks I’ve collaborated with have also had a well-rounded mastery in People & Culture, Talent Development, and the art of Employer Branding. They’re quick learners and willing to lead or contribute to various initiatives that aren’t tethered to the hiring post.

Now is a great time to self-reflect. Identify any areas you’d like to develop and find your hidden talents, then craft a master plan to turn your gaps into gateways.

For example, is it time to:

  • Brush up on data analytics and create team dashboards? 
  • Figure out how to be more efficient with AI tools and workflow automations?
  • Get involved in broader P&C projects, perhaps related to Onboarding or Learning & Development? 
  • Contribute to Workforce Planning initiatives? 
  • Revamp internal mobility and career pages with new offerings?
  • Update your EVP and refine Employer Brand strategies?
  • Create interviewer guides and unconscious bias training? 
  • Map out all candidate touchpoints in a hiring process and figure out ways to delight?
  • If you’re a tech recruiter, why not check out these free coding courses from Harvard University?

….The list goes on!

Finally, heading into 2024, you’ll probably find many Talent and P&C teams are focused on the following:

  1. Doubling down on internal mobility. Less focus on hiring, and more focus on developing employees plus retention initiatives.
  2. Revising or creating workforce planning strategies. Check out this awesome podcast for inspo.
  3. Improving both candidate and employee experiences.
  4. Designing talent processes around skills. On this note, I’d highly recommend a squiz of Mercer’s Skills Snapshot Survey (2023/24) here that was shared last week. Very insightful read!
  5. Finding ways to create a more inclusive, equitable and diverse workforce.

With insight into the above – consider what skills and trends are most important to prioritise for your business, and for your own career needs? Mercer’s recent Snapshot Survey is a great resource to help give you insights into current trends in skills development and talent management. 

At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “Hey Pam, this blog is getting pretty damn lengthy. But I’m still awake. What about the other 2 tips?!”

To be continued next week…

Mercer’s Skills Snapshot Survey (2023/24)

Mercer’s recent Snapshot Survey gives insights into the current trends in skills development and talent management. Recommendations are given for implementing skills-based talent approaches, such as building a skills foundation, aligning key performance indicators and defining success metrics.

If you’re 65 or over, retired and keen to work, you’re better off in New Zealand than Australia

Great article from the ABC critiquing the Australian government’s modest increase in the earnings threshold before pension reduction. It’s a move aimed at getting more pensioners into the workforce, but commentators say it’s doesn’t go far enough. By comparison, in New Zealand, pensioners retain their full pension irrespective of work income – a policy which ultimately results in higher employment among older citizens. If Australia did the same we could add 500,000 older Aussies to the labour market. 

‘Workforce Planning 101: For Talent & Recruitment Professionals

This wonderful YouTube podcast from Rubberband Network features a discussion with Fiona Lund around what defines workforce planning and the things you need to know around how to design and implement an effective plan.

Women In Work Index 2023: Closing the Gender Pay Gap for Good – A focus on the Motherhood Penalty

This PwC study explores the concept of the “motherhood penalty,” which refers to the economic disadvantages that working mothers may face, including impacts on salary, career progression, and perceived competence in the workplace, contributing to the gender pay gap.

Hybrid work is about more than just flexibility for women returning from career breaks—it’s a ‘great enabler’ for their professional lives

This Fortune article discusses how the shift to hybrid and remote work arrangements is playing a key role in enabling people, especially women, to return to the workforce or continue working in a more flexible environment.

Improving Candidate Experience and Employer Brand with AI

Large enterprises are increasingly recognising the need to provide value-added services to job applicants, not only to enhance their hiring process but also to strengthen their overall brand perception. Find out more about the new app organisations are using to improve candidate experience and employer branding.

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