It goes without saying that the talent marketplace has changed as a result of the pandemic. With a net loss of 22 million jobs, many of which will never return, the job market has experienced shifts that were unexpected and have pushed developments that many thought would take years.
While some industries have been hit particularly hard, such as hospitality and tourism, others such as technology and healthcare have grown. The same has largely played out for people based on demographics, with women being far more negatively impacted than men during this crisis, so much so that the White House has labeled the impact of COVID on women in the workforce as now a national emergency.
“If you look at January and February, more than a quarter-million women have left the workforce and for the reasons you expect around raising the family,” Pamela Stroke, Vice President of Human Capital Management and Thought Leadership at Oracle said. “When the economy opens up when parks and schools and gyms and everything in society opens back up, it’s not like those women just come right back to work. It’s estimated that it will take years for women to make up the ground that they lost during COVID.”
As part of her presentation at our recent HR and Future of Work event, Stroko highlighted some of the efforts that she’s seen companies roll out to help women return to the workforce and garner competitive wages.
But many women are facing the challenge of returning to work and saying they intend to focus on other opportunities such as consulting and part-time work. The result has had an impact on the talent pool and the overall talent landscape as companies deal with the loss of key workers.
Where is All the Talent?
The problem this presents is that when it comes to finding the talent the business needs, there’s a substantial segment of the workforce that has disengaged, and the talent gaps that existed pre-pandemic largely still exist.
While the pandemic presents an opportunity to find new talent in other geographic areas, making the necessary organizational adjustments to make the most of remote workers has been a significant challenge, leading to a conversation about how to better support managers and empower leaders to get the best out of their teams in this setting.
To ensure that organizations find the talent they need, the internal talent marketplace has to be robust and offer what employees want. There’s a variety of studies that have been done about what employees want, a list that includes career growth, learning and development, and multiple opportunities at the same company.
“People don’t want to have to leave the company to have more opportunities and that’s great for organizations at a time when it’s so difficult to find talent,” Stroko said. “People want to work in an organization that has a purpose and where they can be passionate about work, so with that as the lens, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to make that happen.”
There have been some ways that employers have tried to address this issue. An example of this is what Stroko calls “letting people vote with their feet”. She outlined how a consulting client she had worked with provided their employees a chance to make a move internally to work as part of another team once a year. Additionally, when it came to companywide projects, they instilled a raise your hand policy that gave employees the freedom to work on projects they normally may not have an opportunity to join.
This ability to vote with their feet sounds good on paper, however, as soon as it was implemented it drew objections from managers who feared losing their team members to projects or teams that serviced clients that were more glamorous or fun than the work that needed to be done as a whole. After all, if you give people the power of choice, you may not like what they choose.
“It was an interesting experiment to watch because you then had to really focus on developing your leaders and helping them be able to develop people within the context of their roles,” Stroko said. “The lesson we can take from it in terms of the internal talent marketplace is that building a career isn’t so much about a job and going from one job to another as much as it is about building a portfolio of skills. People want those opportunities within your organization and that’s what we should be thinking about. Where can people learn and grow within the context of the organization and expand their skill capability portfolio.”
By doing this, says Stroko, organizations improve the employee experience significantly and people are much more likely to stay and talk positively about the organization, thus drawing in other talents. They’re also more fulfilled at work and passionate about their role.
The Employee Brand
Stroko advises a responsible approach to what she calls “internal gig roles.” At Oracle, it’s known as the “opportunity marketplace” and provides employees with a chance to express their interest in participating in projects and short-term opportunities that can help them grow in addition to the work they’re already doing.
“I think what it does is it helps career-building give way to building a personal brand,” Stroko said. “This is how I’ve grown, these are the skills and capabilities that I’ve developed. Every organization needs to think about, do you want to let people vote with their feet and how do you develop leaders. An internal marketplace is one of the most vibrant ideas that we’ll see in the job economy in the years to come and it’s combining with the collaborative economy.”
The collaborative economy is defined as the borrowing, trading, renting, and sharing of either a product or service for a fee between individuals. Stroko notes that the number of people working in typical gig economy jobs in 2018 was just over 19 million, but following that pandemic, that number has more than doubled as people piece together full-time work out of the gig opportunities that exist.
“They’re doing task careers and it’s coming from the collaborative economy where through these specific platforms they can find where the work is,” Stroko said. “Essentially, what they’re doing is the opportunity marketplace externally. And studies show that the amount of work that can be done this way will grow significantly by 2025. These task workers don’t want to go back to corporate jobs, they like the control and influence to choose which projects they work on and prioritize them themselves. There are estimates that 30% of all workers will work in this way in just a few years.”
For companies to keep up with the people that they keep in the house, they’re going to have to provide the same level of flexibility. As Stroko notes, the nature of work has changed due to the current circumstances and changes have happened must faster than they would have otherwise.
“I think it changes how we approach work design,” Stroko said. “It’s no longer creating boxes and putting people in those boxes. It’s about getting work done, not the jobs that get the work done. People want to create their own careers that are flexible with choices about the work, the timing, and the pay. It’s an opportunity both internally and externally.