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Guidance From Top Talent Recruiters on How to Make the Most of This Moment

Guidance From Top Talent Recruiters on How to Make the Most of This Moment

Hindsight is 2020. Or so the adage goes. It retroactively filters out the everyday distractions, and isolates with clarity the most valuable opportunities one might have actioned. But just as this year has turned almost everything sideways, perhaps 2020’s undercurrent has also toppled this age-old proverb. Perhaps this is the year of foresight, courtesy of 2020.

Maybe our many months of reactively managing "the what" and "the how" of company operations have somehow accelerated a sense of clarity around the future that awaits. And more specifically,
"who" will proactively lead us there.

I recently spoke with three talent recruitment luminaries about the opportunities marketers and agencies should now proactively mobilize around to stave off the regrets of uttering "hindsight is 2020."

[Related: The Table in the Boardroom: Ways to Increase Diversity]

Understand HR is behind the wheel and you must keep your foot on the gas.

Tony Stanol is no stranger to employing the craft of invention in navigating fluctuating situations. Principal of boutique recruiting firm Global Recruiters of Sarasota, he studied improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade and performs regularly at the Florida Studio Theater.

Understanding how to improvise and commit to an ever-evolving path has proven essential in 2020. It’s certainly painted the perspective of how Stanol sees the industry’s past, present, and future.

There have always been the headlines of gloom and doom. Before COVID, we were talking about in-house agencies and the encroachment of consultancies. The narratives that question agency business survival almost always instigate opportunity, especially for the industry’s talent.

Stanol suggests the pandemic has already begun to shatter long-held perceptions that have the power to transform the way we work and collaborate.

Remote work has been eye-opening. We’ve seen millennials petitioning for more flexibility around work-life balance for years while agencies resisted commitments that might upend business as usual. This experience has exposed the myth that visibility in the office translates to productivity in the work product. This isn’t a blip on the screen. Some hybrid of remote work is here to stay.

Stanol points to the increasingly important role that Human Resources now plays.

They are the tip of the spear, the department being called upon to step up and reinvent how to identify, rearrange, and onboard talent. This is not the time to take the foot off the gas as it relates to talent, and HR is behind the wheel.

Widen your talent aperture by taking geography off the table.

Jay Haines started global executive search firm Grace Blue Partnership with his mother Gay Haines and Juliet Timms thirteen years ago. The firm partners with agencies and creatively literate brands looking to build modern marketing organizations. Their mission is elegant in its simplicity:

We’re in the business of changing lives.

One suspects this clarity of purpose helped fuel the firm’s creation of Transition, a free industry-wide collaborative platform for talent to find inspiration, tools, and opportunities while displaced by pandemic-related events.

Haines believes that the pandemic’s proof of concept around remote work at scale will serve as a game-changer in how companies hire talent.

When you take geography off the table, an organization can widen its talent aperture. Typically, the first question to a candidate is 'Can you relocate?' Suddenly the conversation is filtered through the primary lens of how a candidate can help change a business in a time when change is needed the most.

Pre-COVID-19, Haines explains that organizations sought a broad constellation of leadership traits anchored around muscle memory for growth. But now, the brief has sharpened in both emotional and practical terms.

Dynamism in leadership is so badly needed right now, but it’s obviously tough to step up amidst the anxiety and uncertainty of the times.

He stresses that palpable curiosity and energy will define a new desired breed of leadership.

Change is inevitable, and by definition it can only happen with energy. Forward-looking firms are seeking that catalyst.

From a practical standpoint, Haines anticipates that expertise in e-commerce coupled with a background in brand building will be the in-demand skill-set.

The pandemic has brought with it an expanded comfort with buying online. E-commerce now needs to work in service of brand and brand will play an equally important role in its performance.

[Related: Human-Centric Organizations: A Positive Result of the Pandemic?]

Take diversity and inclusion seriously to be a serious contender for top talent.

Helene DeVries is an agency veteran and founder of HDV Talent, an executive search consultancy that focuses on fiercely relevant hiring issues of the day. While 2020 has certainly stirred its fair share of unease, DeVries thinks it has also brought greater focus and urgency to topics that have been circulating for some time.

From diversifying the workforce and creating inclusive company cultures to embracing transparency and pay equity, 2020 has laid these critical priorities at the doorsteps of business leaders – striking a much-needed chord. A company that is not taking this seriously will not be a serious contender for talent.

Related, DeVries suggests that company purpose has never been more important, as employees are experiencing a much more one-to-one relationship with their employer.

When people are working alone and not immersed in the gloss of the office environment, they have space and time to think about the value of their work. It’s important they feel vested and 2020 has cast a bright light to help them discern a company’s talk from its walk.

She believes flexible work arrangements are here to stay.

Now we have deeply personal reasons not to slip back into the old ways of working. From healthcare to childcare, employees were historically told it was their issue to solve. But now employees and employers are in it together and the calluses earned will have a lasting impact in how we define flexibility in a post-COVID-19 world.

2020 in the rear-view.

The movie of 2020 seems to be on repeat and many of us would prefer to fast-forward to next year. But just like in the movies, we are witnessing arcs worthy of our examination.

When 2020 is in the rear-view mirror, we will reflect back with an appreciation of the resiliency mustered and progress forged – especially if we act now.

[Related: Why a Crisis Should Change How You Lead]

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Melissa Lentz is the Principal of M. Hatter Consulting, a firm that helps marketers and agencies re-imagine the potential of their people, processes, and products. She is also the Global CEO of MAGNET Global Network, a leading international network for independent agencies.


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