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Talent Management During the COVID-19 Crisis—Part 6: Talent Acquisition Problems and Opportunities

By Mark Allen, PhD

A former boss of mine frequently used to say, “There are no problems, only solutions.” He was an idiot.

Of course problems exist. The coronavirus is a problem. It has crippled the world economy. People have gotten very sick. People have died. These are problems.

The other reason for the idiocy of his statement is that it assumes mutual exclusivity between problems and opportunities. While COVID-19 is unquestionably a problem, there are also opportunities. In the world of talent management, the greatest opportunities are in talent acquisition.

Talent Acquisition Opportunities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Before we look at the opportunities, a little background and context will be helpful. Before the crisis began, in February of 2020 U.S. unemployment was running at 3.5%, the lowest number in over 50 years. In many industries, there was a labor shortage. As a matter of fact, for the past year there were more open jobs in the US than job seekers.

Just over 10 years ago, we were in a deep recession and unemployment peaked at 10% in October of 2009. And yet when I taught classes to HR executives during that recession, I constantly heard a familiar refrain: “I can’t find good people.” Did that mean that the people they were finding were evil? Or did it mean that even during a recession with high unemployment, it was hard to find people with the right skills.

In short, we are at the end of decade in which there were concurrent labor shortages and skills shortages. Talented people were hard to find—and remember, the words “talent” and “people” are not synonymous—even if you can find people, that doesn’t mean you’re finding talent. Many companies had crucial positions open for many, many months and were losing the long-lasting War for Talent.

And that brings us to today and a world very different from the world of a few months ago. The April 2020 U.S. unemployment was more than quadruple what it was just two months earlier. April’s 14.7% unemployment rate is a number that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. We went from an all-time low to the highest rate in decades in just two months. The good news: talent is now more readily available than it has been in years, if not decades. The bad news: business is bad for most organizations. It’s so bad that many organizations are laying off or furloughing employees.

So why am I advocating that you should be seeking out talent now, during this unprecedented global crisis? First of all, you should be seeking great talent ALWAYS. But most importantly, hiring good talent (while being mindful of important engagement and retention issues) is a long-term investment. Bringing outstanding talent into your organization will pay off in the long-run. Even though times may be tough right now, if you can source and attract top talent into your organization now, the investment will pay dividends for years to come. 

We are currently in a once-in-a-generation job market that favors employers. Now is a good time to make the investment to seek out and lock in available talent. The virus is certainly creating health and economic problems, but it has also created a rare opportunity.

Learn More About Talent Management During the COVID-19 Crisis

This article is part of a series on talent management during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Click a link below to read more: