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Adam Oliver

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HR job hunting in a pandemic: how to be a change driver, not a passenger

If you're looking for a new HR job, demand for your skills is likely to be high right now, but you will need to stand out from the crowd.

With transformation being front and centre of the agenda for almost every organisation across the globe, the demand for HR professionals is high, but so is the competition, but there are some things you can do to stand out from the crowd.

The real differentiator is outlining your role as a change driver and not a passenger.

Covid-19 economic forecasts vary in their predictions and range from a potential 35% drop in GDP for Q2, followed by a swift V-shape recovery. The Office of Budgetary Responsibility recently told The Economist Intelligence Unit that it predicts a 4.2% reduction in GDP for 2020 as a whole, and a slower recovery throughout 2021. Whichever proves to be the case, we can assume that the organisational response will be largely the same – evolve, optimise and automate.

New ways of working require new ways of thinking. Business, consumer and employee demands are shifting, and organisations are navigating these challenges without precedent. That said, there are some commonalities between organisations hoping to catalyse this change, which job seekers should take note of in order to stand out from the crowd.

Are you a change driver or a passenger?

Companies are actively seeking evidenced experience of supporting organisations through change, whether that’s positive or negative, and ideally both. Supporting with company closures, run-offs and right sizing gives just as much, if not more, credibility and credence to a profile than a plethora of corporate successes.

Businesses and their leaders will need to think ahead of the curve and revamp the way they do strategic planning and create cultures of innovation.

The real differentiator is outlining your role as a change driver and not a passenger. What’s appealing to prospective employers now is to be able to show ideas and initiatives you’ve driven that underpinned a corporate strategy and increased the momentum of change. The thing to remember is that organisations don’t have a Covid-specific yardstick to measure the success of their response. Therefore, experience of initiating change and transformation at all levels is highly sought after to increase corporate agility.

Enterprise-wide value

With increasing pressure to maximise cost savings but still deliver value to the business, organisations are actively seeking blended skills to demonstrate enterprise-wide value. Make a conscious effort to highlight cross-functional project work and steering group participation.

It’s important to remember that organisations rarely hire individual contributors, especially in times of crisis. So, rather than position yourself as a ‘solopreneur’, ensure your profile strikes a balance between discipline mastery and an agile approach.

If you can evidence situations where you’ve realigned your ambition for self-success to the sustained success of all others in the enterprise, then this will highlight your profile for all the right reasons.

As quoted by Forbes, “few things are as damaging to enterprise success than leaders who hoard talent and financial resources in opposition to their peers”.

An intimate affair with technology

We’ve all read about the fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0) and how organisations will maximise opportunities through automation, and the HR community is right in the epicentre of this ongoing transformation.

According to data compiled by Servian Global Solutions, 95% of all customer interactions will be handled without a human agent by 2025. This figure is only exacerbated by the global pandemic, which has already resulted in an increased demand for skills related to technology integration/implementation.

Businesses and their leaders will need to think ahead of the curve and revamp the way they do strategic planning and create cultures of innovation. Therefore, experience of systems, technology and people analytics being used to make operating efficiencies should be brought to the fore of your profile.

Red teaming

There’s no ‘secret sauce’ when it comes to securing the ideal role, but well-crafted positioning will get you noticed. Invest in your C level network and partner with a well-procured headhunter – remember, it’s not about your network size, it’s network quality. This group should form your own personal ‘red team’ that you should use time and time again.

The process of ‘red teaming’ is a system that uses critique and contrarian thinking as part of the strategic planning process in an organisation – and you should use this in all aspects of you career planning too. It provides a framework that stress-tests ideas, challenges assumptions and identifies hidden opportunities.

This systematic process helps companies to approach their business in a different way and to understand how customers, competitors and key constituencies will react to moves they make in the marketplace before pulling the metaphorical trigger. They key here is that red teaming can show you how to turn disruptive events into a competitive advantage.

The job seeker market is complex, nuanced and subjective. Throw in a global pandemic and we have a recipe for a pretty questionable cocktail – but one that employers are also sharing. Hiring for critical skills in the here and now, with the added pressure of inevitable yet unknown change isn’t easy. Do your research and align your skills to the aspirations of your target market and, as previously mentioned, appropriate positioning will pay dividends.

Interested in this topic? Read HR leadership: five trends for the post-pandemic workplace.

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Adam Oliver


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