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  • Katica Roy

There Will Be No Going Back to “Business as Usual” after COVID-19. Prepare Now.

Updated: Dec 14, 2020


Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.

The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.

• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.

Be Brave™


How HR leaders can play offense through COVID-19


As an HR leader, I’m well aware that the pandemic is disrupting (among many other things) my organization’s talent management strategy. How can I be proactive and prepare for these changes to “business as usual”? What do I need to know?


First, let’s acknowledge that there will be no going back to “business as usual.” And that’s a good thing for your organization if you anticipate and prepare for these massive shifts now.

So what are those massive shifts you should prepare for? Based on my analysis, experience, and talks with countless other CEOs, the top three changes are:

  1. Increased consciousness on the ROI of a people-first business

  2. Faster adoption of people analytics platforms

  3. Pivots to reskilling and internal mobility

Let’s take each of those three points and talk about what they mean for your company’s talent management strategy.

1. Increased consciousness on the ROI of a people-first business

Your people will dig your company out of the pandemic’s damage. So put them first. Meet their needs and earn their trust.

A recent survey found that almost 90% of people are less likely to consider working for a company that treats employees poorly during this crisis.

The survey also found that 78% of working fathers and mothers said caring for family members during COVID-19 (a time when nearly 95% of the US population is under a stay-at-home order) has been “somewhat to extremely difficult.”

Employers can take care of their employees during this crisis and beyond by providing them with access to paid caregiver leave, flexible/remote work policies, healthcare, etc. And remember, there are more educated women in the labor force than educated men: 29.5 million versus 29.3 million, respectively. Women especially need access to these benefits since they perform the majority of unpaid domestic labor in the US.

Further, companies can earn employee trust by showing that they value women, men, and those who identify as other equitably.

That means paying equitable wages: 72% of women said they would not apply to work at a company where a gender pay gap exists. It means providing people with equitable opportunities for advancement: 80% of women would leave their companies if they felt a different company offered greater gender equality. It also means baking gender equity into talent continuity plans.

Now is your opportunity to play offense and ensure that gender equity makes it into your business strategy.

2. Faster adoption of people analytics platforms

We’ve been observing the integration of advanced technology into business operations for years—it’s been slow. Before the pandemic, a McKinsey survey reported that 58% of businesses spend less than 10% of their digital budgets on AI, and only 21% use AI across multiple business functions. COVID-19 will accelerate its adoption.

For HR, that means getting comfortable with advanced people analytics platforms. Such platforms can unlock significant value for companies because they help HR leaders collect and capitalize on data.

On a more granular level, here are a few examples of how people analytics provide value:

-Decrease time spent on repetitive tasks

-Reduce human bias in performance and pay

-Create strategic labor force plans

-Proactively identify skills gaps

-Support data-driven decision-making

As the pandemic intensifies the appeal of advanced people analytics, you can set your company up for success by researching the software landscape and learning how these platforms work. The LinkedIn 2020 Global Talent Trends survey found that over half of talent professionals need help putting basic people analytics into practice. It also found that 73% of respondents said people analytics will be a major priority for their company in the next 5 years.

Take the next step toward integrating advanced people analytics into your talent management strategy. This will help future-proof your company.

3. Pivot to reskilling and internal mobility

COVID-19 is igniting large employee restructurings across industries and, as we discussed in point #2, the accelerated adoption of advanced technologies.

When the economy recovers, many of the (at least) 26 million people who have lost their jobs in the past three weeks might find that their jobs don’t exist anymore. In fact, 88% of jobs lost in three recessions over the past 30 years were those deemed “routine” and “highly automatable.”

This restructuring of people and process will result in skills gaps that could dampen company performance. To avoid this scenario, smart business and HR leaders will turn their focus to internal mobility via reskilling and upskilling.

Research led by Josh Bersin highlights the business case for taking the “build versus buy” approach to talent. To fill a mid-level software engineer position, the research found that it can cost up to 6 times more to hire externally versus to build from within.

What’s more, internal hiring reduces churn rate: companies with high rates of internal hiring retain their employees an average of 41% longer compared to companies with low rates of internal hiring. Low employee turnover decreases recruiting costs while increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.

So again, to future-proof your company, think about how you can create equitable pathways for internal mobility.

Make sure these mobility processes are formal. This will improve consistency and reduce bias that stems from informal relationship-based recommendations.

Remember, people analytics can help you identify skills gaps and match those gaps with high-potential talent.

The COVID-19 presents leaders like you with a formidable opportunity to set your company apart. Put your people first, embrace advanced technologies, and focus on internal mobility. Be brave and make a commitment to build a better tomorrow—for you, your company, and our economy.


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