Talent acquisition in the days of COVID-19 and beyond

As we all had to adapt to the virtual world of education and business in light of the COVID-19 crisis, here are some observations and practical insights to help you create sustained advantage in the months and years ahead.

Avoid short-term decision-making

In early to mid 2020, many senior professionals within the education sector came to me to discuss people-related challenges. Many talked about an immediate kneejerk reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. My advice and support in these cases was to start with a broader perspective and consider life for their school before COVID-19, during COVID-19 and, most importantly, after COVID-19, when the community at large returns to a new state of ‘normal’.

Create a sustained competitive advantage

One thing I know for certain is that teaching talent in both junior and senior school environments will continue to be in high demand. Ensuring that one aspect of your people strategy maintains a focus on talent acquisition is a key way for the more strategic schools to carve out a sustained competitive advantage over their peer group.

Be proactive not reactive

Talent acquisition across the education sector is too often a reactive rather than proactive process, with very little linkage to the overarching strategic aims of a particular institution. So, what do I mean by reactive? Well, reactive talent acquisition goes like this: “We’ve just lost four teachers, so it’s time to call Seek and place an advertisement. In two weeks’ time, we’ll close applications and review what we’ve got, only bothering to communicate with the chosen few who secure an interview.”

Now, there are a number of fundamental issues with a reactive approach to talent acquisition and all of them lead to a sub‑optimal outcome in terms of introducing new talent to your school. This is particularly relevant between August and December of each calendar year, which we all know is the peak season for movement of talent across the education sector.

Play the long game

So, back to the COVID-19 crisis. It was a time when I’m sure many of you were not even thinking about talent acquisition. I can appreciate that. However, the crisis continues to present a significant opportunity for forward-thinking schools to rethink many aspects of their people strategy.

My encouragement to you is to take the time to rethink talent acquisition ahead of the seasonally busy period later in the year. Whether we know it or not, many members of staff will be seriously considering their employment options based on how their school and their school leader navigated the COVID-19 crisis. Based on this, my forecast is for a heavy level of movement across the education sector.

So how can you prepare your talent acquisition strategy?

  1. A good first step is to revisit my article, How to develop your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Your EVP is your unique strategy to attract and onboard the best talent.
  2. A second step is to build a marketing content plan for LinkedIn and other social media platforms that showcase, in an authentic way, the brilliant things that have happened and are happening because of the great people on your staff in your school. Ironically, COVID-19 provides an incredible opportunity for displays of passion, purpose, innovation and education across the sector. Harnessing and sharing this will elevate your school and leave an impression with talent who may not join you now, but could possibly join you later.
  3. Thirdly, do not turn off your investment in people and culture, or the marketing and brand strategy for your school. They are both fundamental to ensuring a proactive rather than reactive approach for talent acquisition.
  4. Finally, remember that people follow leaders worth following. Ensure your voice is loud, consistent and clear at all times, and particularly during a crisis. Project this internally within your school community and externally across the education sector.

With a proactive approach to talent acquisition, one eye on the crisis and one eye on the second half of the year, you will ensure that your school is well positioned when the battle for top talent returns. 

Simon Meyer is the CEO of Compono Talent Solutions, uniquely combining a bespoke approach to people strategy with talent optimisation. Simon sits on Advisory Boards for the National Basketball League (NBL), UTS’ Advanced MBA Program, Task and LifeChanger. compono.com

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