5 Key Tips for Attracting and Retaining Talent During a Pandemic #COVID19



Your budget may have taken a hit, you may have had to change course, but you can—and should—still hire top talent. The business world is still finding its footing as the pandemic continues to impact everyone’s lives. If you’re a leader who has had to cut budgets, scale back, and shift course you know, first hand, how fast everything keeps changing. What hasn’t changed is that you still need to hire and retain top talent to make your business a success.

How can you recruit the best when you’re not operating with optimal resources? You still have to compete in the marketplace and talented employees are a must for that. Less is more when we’re talking about top talent. You are looking for talent to come, engage, contribute, and stay—long after we emerge from the pandemic. It’s essential to look long-term, not short-term, as you determine the most important jobs to fill and the talent you need to fill them.

Here are five key tips for attracting and retaining talent amid the challenges of the pandemic.

  1. Know your ‘Avatar’ candidate. Get VERY clear on exactly who and what you want and need using ALL the A-H Factors as a guide and included below, (Attitude, Brains, Character, Drive, Emotional Intelligence, Fit, Gut, and Heart). Decide how to best describe your position to the candidates you want to attract.
  2. Maximize your reputation as an employer. Top talent will look for top employers even during, and certainly after, the pandemic. Evaluate what your brand says about you. If prospective hires were to look at your mission statement, statements of vision and values, what impressions might they have? Ask yourself: why should top talent want to work for you?
  3. Be upfront about how you are handling the pandemic. Top talent wants safety, flexibility, growth, and opportunity for themselves and their families. Be straight with your candidates about how the pandemic has impacted your business, what assurances you can offer (e.g., sick leave virtual work space, health benefits, flexible hours, etc.) and what future opportunities may be on the table.
  4. It’s about relationships—not transactions. Particularly as we find ourselves in using virtual platforms for searches, the human connection has never been more critical in attracting the best people. Building positive impressions and relationships begins at the job posting and continues through to the job offer and onboarding. You are trying to cultivate a long-term productive relationship with someone who is invested in your organization. Get creative about your virtual searches and create a welcoming atmosphere, demonstrating how much you value the people you are interviewing.
  5. Use all channels and “sell” your company to top talent. Utilize online job fairs, leverage digital and social media, tap into personal and professional relationships, and network on the local, regional, and national level. Think about your recruitment efforts, and then be sure to maximize all of your channels to get it in front of the most talented potential employees.

We all long for our “old normal”, and that’s not going to happen anytime soon, if ever. Those who adapt, adjust, are resilient, and creative will thrive far more than those who can’t or won’t.  Some work will disappear forever, some businesses and organizations will fail, and others will thrive. However, if you consider what is possible and make hiring right a top priority – your chances of survival and thriving will increase.

The A-H Factors for Hiring Right

Attitude = is the candidate passionate about the work and helping others on their team succeed? Are they committed to following through on actions agree to? Are they solution-oriented or do they focus on scarcity or blame?

Brains = can the candidate combine brainpower and learning new concepts? Are they prepared to think and execute on those things that will advance your goals? Are they too reliant on what they already know or open to having their brain challenged by new perspectives? s the candidate capable of doing the job or learning the job in a reasonable time? Can the candidate combine brainpower with execution? What is the depth of experience they bring? Is it enough?

Character = what are the candidate’s core values and do they align with your culture? Is the candidate trustworthy? Consider carefully exactly which core values you need to see demonstrated. The bottom line is to define the character traits you need to see in candidates.

Drive = Is the candidate self-motivated to achieve both personal and professional goals – particularly within this position? No one can motivate another person. We can inspire, encourage, support, and pray, but motivation is personal and intrinsic, not extrinsic. Before you move a candidate forward, learn how high or low maintenance this person is going to be, and whether or not that reality will work for you.

Emotional Intelligence = What is the candidate’s degree of self-awareness, and how do they manage emotions? What is their social awareness and ability to manage relationships? You may notice that emotional intelligence indicators are present in assessing all but one of our eight A-H Factors – and that one is Brains. 

Fit = Will the candidate be a fit within your mission, vision, values and culture? This isn’t about their personal characteristics at all – it’s about whether they align well with, and can contribute to, your business goals. Fit and diversity are not opposites or in conflict with one another. Many different people with an array of backgrounds and perspectives can and do fit well within the client/coach/consultant relationship. You are falling into the trap of bias if you use ‘fit’ as an excuse not to work with someone who is different than you. Fit is not about sameness; it is about being a good match for the partnership that has to happen in the work you do together. What really matters is whether or not the client is on board with mutual and shared expectations – you of the client and the client of you.

Gut = this is about YOUR instincts, not the candidate’s. The key is to LISTEN to yours and your search team’s internal messages while paying attention to the other seven factors. Weigh carefully. We often know when a threatening person enters the room; the hair stands up on the back of our necks and our blood ‘turns cold’. It’s the whisper in our head and we must listen to it carefully and trust it. Conversely, on some level of our being, we know when we’re feeling safe in someone’s presence and can relax and be our authentic selves. Pay attention. This is Gut.

Heart = what kind of human being is the candidate? How grounded, other-centered, well-balanced, empathic, compassionate, and humble will this candidate be once hired? How much do you know vs. how much are you assuming? Teddy Roosevelt is often attributed with some version of the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is the Heart Factor.

In conducting an exercise with thousands of people from CEOs to mail handlers, we ask everyone to list their Best Leader/Team Member and Worst Leader/Team Member qualities, attributes, or traits. Rarely do more than one or two examples show up pointing to the Brain Factor. The rest of the list is all about how the leader behaves with his/her people – Factors A, C, D, E, and H show up every single time.

Think of it this way: because it’s an important decision, you wouldn’t commit to marrying someone based ONLY how smart they are and how much experience they have dating. You would consider how they behave in a wide variety of situations. When you are paying attention – you’ll see how your friends and family respond to this person; you’ll notice attitude, character, drive, emotional intelligence (high or low), and how she/he fits with you as a mate. Your gut will be talking to you, non-stop, particularly when you are observing their heart.

The moral of the story is this – screen your candidates on the same factors you would any other important relationship. You are making a big commitment to another person, their livelihood, and their career. And they are making one to you. The more you and your candidates can evaluate if the position is or is not a good match, the better!


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