Talent Rafting amidst COVID Tsunami – The great corporate dare!

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Ambitious leaders started looking at this as a unique opportunity in crisis management and preparedness rather than as a threat

We welcomed 2021 with the hope that the deadly C Wave will be over and we can all sail smoothly. What was actually in store for us was a much bigger and deadlier COVID tsunami! But we are now bravely staring at it in the face.

While on the one hand, countrymen are battling for lives, Corporate India is not ready to give up. We are picking up pieces of learnings from our own experiences and also borrowing from others’ wisdom. After all, when you rise after a fall, you are not starting from scratch, you are starting with experience!

The pandemic has geared up organizational leadership to keep business continuity machinery well-oiled and agile to respond to rapid and unexpected changes. Ambitious leaders started looking at this as a unique opportunity in crisis management and preparedness rather than as a threat.

However, leaders have realized that the second wave has not been very generous with a forehand warning! This also means that there is no grace period for unpreparedness. At the same time, leaders who were careless in the last year have got a second chance to regain lost ground.

Organizations are taking a multi-pronged approach towards managing talent for business continuity.

Building Business Resilience in the Existing Talent Pool

Leaders are adopting organizational behaviors and trying to ramp up talent from within. Meeting boundaries are being relaxed and employees are encouraged to participate in collaboration. This is one great way to cross-skill and multi-skill.

Team managers are leveraging the pros of remote working that is, virtual meeting rooms have no restriction on the number of participants and there is no additional cost on account of travel. Without these limitations, virtual meetings are getting converted to knowledge platforms.

Co-creating is now emerging as the new buzzword. Leveraging peer power and training and mentoring for teams are helping organizations keep themselves braced to face any eventuality of talent crunch.

How does this actually work? When there is a need and suddenly called upon, well-trained individuals now have the functional knowledge to keep the business running, share new ideas that may not have been readily available before and boost productivity during a crisis—and beyond.

Adopting a Talent Reserve Model

Organizations are on the path to build their muscle of resilience slowly but firmly. A talent reserve model is a critical way to ensure that leaders and teammates can be redeployed as needed, creating maximum continuity, adaptability, and flexibility across the company.

A key component to organizational stability is ensuring that strong leaders are in place to take the helm in their areas of expertise as well as in adjacent roles that require a similar skillset if needed.

By leveraging nuanced business knowledge, they can enhance stabilization. In the Talent Reserve model, preparing for the unexpected requires knowledge share among working leadership, making it easy for individuals to jump in and lend a hand.

While succession planning and career pathing were in the past being carried out as routine activities, the second wave has taught organizations to use these as tools to build resilience. Those that are known to be resilient are already building these practices into long-term plans with massive runways for training and upskilling.

In our new responsive environments, succession planning and leadership transfer have become short-term cycles that must ensure business continuity as the pandemic creates more burnout, sick-out, and opt-out among people. Preparing means intentionally designating leaders to learn elements of adjacent business functions now so they are ready to lead, rather than learning on the fly.

The Talent Reserve Model also requires organizations to place new emphasis on the ability of workers and leaders to shift focus and operate effectively across roles and functions. For example, Bank of America redeployed 3,000 branch employees to help handle call-center demand instead.

The training protocol becomes whatever is required to fill the knowledge gaps between the branch teller role and call-center support duties. This approach prioritizes training areas that drive business value and put employees to work where most needed.

Relevant Check-Ins for People Related Processes

 Using the lessons learnt from the first wave, it is clear that to achieve business resilience organizations will need a combination of strong and empathetic leadership, a close eye on cost management, agile business practices, and flexible staffing strategies.

With this in mind, here are a few questions businesses have begun to consider in order to ensure that both the company and the talent within can adapt quickly through the tsunami. They are –

  • Are your talent contingency plans updated?
  • Are flexible working and blended workforce policies formalized and communicated?
  • Is employee wellbeing being prioritized over wellness?
  • Are you geared for necessary automation?
  • Are your talent strategies designed for helping you reboot?

The last question is key as we tide over the second wave and look at where and how we can redeploy talent to ensure business continuity and when the time is right, look to recruit new talent with the requisite specialist skills and experience needed to drive recovery.

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