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Talent Management in 2020: Getting Back to Business Better

June 11, 2020

COVID-19 has turned many of our working lives upside down, so you don’t need to read a blog to know that. However, what you might be starting to think about is how your workforce will look in the future, which of these changes will be permanent, and how you can get out in front with your talent management strategy to thrive, rather than to struggle, as a result of these changes.


In the glorious time when we were blissfully ignorant of COVID-19, the key changes that were driving the future of work were widely reported. These included automation, the gig economy, a steady increase in remote working, and changes driven by a millennial workforce (searching for meaning at work, focusing on self-development). From a talent management lens, we were seeing a strong focus on candidate experience, recruiting in line with organizational values, massive emphasis on digital dexterity, and lots of attention on how to select or develop leaders who could cope in a highly agile, digitized world.    


The very obvious trend that has accelerated thanks to COVID-19 is remote working. There has been a veritable explosion of the home workforce. People’s work spaces have varied from interior-designed home offices (yes, I’m jealous!) to bookcases turned on their sides, along with the heavy use of noise cancelling headphones as newborn wails in the background (some of my colleagues really are troopers).  

Check out our resources for adapting to a world of remote work.

Automation, digitization, and the gig economy have also been accelerated by COVID-19, with a heavier use of technology, not only to support remote working, but to also automate other tasks so people can remove the human element and, thus, the contamination risk. The gig economy has seen a massive upswing, thanks partly to rising unemployment in the permanent sector and in start-ups evolving as part of the pandemic response (e.g., grocery and food delivery) 

Many of us have also had our jobs rapidly redesigned. We’re undertaking tasks we never had to in the past or at least doing them in a different way. Gourmet chefs are working out of food trucks, sales folks are putting on suit jackets to sit at their kitchen tables to pitch to clients via video, doctors are diagnosing via telephone, leaders are designing entire safety packages to keep returning office workers safe, and shop workers are hidden behind plastic screens.  

Beyond safety concerns, we’ve been required to develop and display new skills rapidly – both technical skills as we master the technology that supports us and soft skills where we build trust with those we’ve never met, manage our remote employees, and get our heads around what the recovery phase may look like for our jobs.  

And it’s not just our tasks that have changed, it’s the very feel of our jobs. Previously, the influence of millennials in the workplace led to increased demands on employers to fulfill the psychological contract and provide young employees with meaningful development opportunities.  Now, those initiatives are at risk. Companies under financial pressure are not investing in employee development. Companies making lay-offs expect remaining staff to adapt without question, regardless of whether it fits their development path or provides job satisfaction.  


Remote working is here to stay. Many organizations including Google, Facebook, and Twitter have already made their COVID-19 remote working polices longer term or permanent. Organizations have been quick to realize that for zero drop in productivity, you can save the cost of the permanent office and give your employees the flexibility they need.  

Many of the job redesign features are likely to be long-term also. It is predicted that we will need to live with COVID-19 for some timeAn increased focus on a safety culture has been a necessary and vital part of the pandemic response and this is likely here to stay long after COVID-19 has either burned out or a vaccine has been created. When the governments of the world spend huge amounts of money and effort embedding risk-awareness into the population’s psyche, that doesn’t go away when the initial perceived threat does. Employees are going to rightly demand massively increased attention on safety in the workplace for years to come.   

Additionally, automation, digitization, and the gig economy will continue to be on fast-forward as companies rapidly adopt the benefits of these tools to accelerate their recovery.  

The pressure created by high unemployment and businesses cutting cost to try to accelerate their recoveries may bring some unwelcome reversals to the positive changes millennials have managed to realize in the workplace. While many of us will have willingly accepted having to flex more and have little attention paid to our personal development during the crisis, we may not be so accepting during the recovery phase.  

When employers can choose from a much larger talent pool, there may be a temptation to spend less on the employer value propositionsresulting in less effort demonstrating the value of the job beyond the secure salary. Those in the workforce may be required to flex into roles they never applied for to fulfill organizational needs without advanced noticeCoupled with a projected 40% reduction in professional entry-level jobs, the employment world is going to look incredibly different than the job seekers of tomorrow were expecting.  

So how can I plan my talent management strategy to get ahead of all of this? 

This pandemic has pushed fast forward on some trends we already knew were coming remote working, more automation, and the gig economy.  It has also created new ones. As we move forward toward the latter part of 2020consider the following in your talent management strategy:  

  • However bleak things may look now, there will be a recovery and you will find yourself hiring with unprecedented numbers of applicants – get your hiring process ready to scale and flex, now.  

  • Even if you are not closing offices, be prepared that many of your employees will have discovered the benefits of remote working and will make the case to make that change more permanent – there are development tools available for both remote workers and remote managers to support your workforce in this.  

  • Be hyper-mindful of how your employees (especially those newer to the workforce) may be feeling at the newly transactional nature of work and the impact of having less attention to their development during a crisis Get creative in what you can offer them now and ensure your L&D teams don’t allow skills gaps to develop 

  • Don’t take your eye off digital skill development – those that thrive post-pandemic will be those with the best talent in this area.  

  • Make your safety culture a long-term choice. Tools exist to help your managers develop a safety mindset and manage risk.  

With the full impact of the crisis yet to be determined, PSI is now focused on strategies to select, manage, and develop the talent you need today to be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Click here to learn more about how we can help you get back to business better.

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Kate Young Kate Young is a psychometrician and product developer working in the PSI Innovation Lab. Her key areas of interest include assessing next generation predictors of job performance and finding innovative ways to make online assessments more diverse and inclusive. She has worked for PSI for 15 years, and in that time contributed to the development of numerous assessment tools including personality tests, ability tests, situational judgement test, 360s, and bespoke screening tools. She has worked with a breadth of global clients across all regions of the world including governments and several of the FTSE 100.