How HR Leaders Can Manage the Talent Challenges of COVID-19

This article was published on 10 March 2020

Local and global decisions in relation to COVID-19 are disrupting business. LinkedIn, Amazon, Facebook and Google are among high-profile employers who have cancelled in-person interviews and limited employee travel.

Other organizations are considering issuing similar policies on how employees travel for business, whether bringing together groups of employees can continue and how best to interview and assess their candidates.

HR, talent and learning and development leaders must act - but not impulsively. The impact on talent strategy must be minimized, risks to the hiring plans mitigated and business continuity demonstrated.

A busy time
Many hiring firms are in peak season. Graduate and apprentice recruiting programs are ongoing and, for some countries, seasonal hiring is well underway. Any disruption to the process will influence the capability to hire those people needed to fulfill business plans.
We also need stability beyond hiring. If internal selection events for promotion and development programs are postponed, there will likely be business repercussions.

Challenges being faced
The health situation is evolving daily. Travel restrictions, changing guidelines and organizations’ policies are being scrutinized and, because of these, there are three major influencers on HR leaders’ decisions.

  • International travel.
  • Domestic travel.
  • Meetings of large groups of employees or candidates.

The impact of decisions will be far reaching. Candidates may not be able to attend assessment days or in-person interviews. Internal applicants may not be able to attend development centers or training events. And, even if these events are able to run, the HR team cannot guarantee resource accessibility or availability due to illness or self-isolation. The result could be a knee-jerk reaction: postpone everything. However, it does not have to be that way.

Aon’s Assessment Solutions has been working with existing and new clients to put in place core assessment components that harness the power of technology and the robustness of talent assessments.

The alternative: talent assessment

Virtualize your assessment centers
Case studies, role plays, behavioral and capability assessments can all be carried out within a paperless environment. The logistics of scheduling, organizing, record-taking and reporting can  be managed through online systems and require less resources. This means you can still run a thorough and valuable assessment day, remotely or in-person, with limited resources and know that the exercises are secure and delivered at the right time.

Remote interviewing
Perhaps you are thinking of conducting resource-intensive and hard-to-manage telephone interviews. Now is a great time to consider not just video interviews, but also video assessments. During video assessments, the recorded responses to your questions are first scored via an expert AI application. The scoring is entirely transparent, wholly defensible and fully explainable to candidates who require further information. Recruiters also have the option to verify and adjust scoring as needed.

Go online
Online talent assessment is not new. Indeed, in recent years, it has hugely developed. High-quality and scientifically-sound online assessments offer a great candidate experience, are speedier than ever, are available in a multitude of languages and, thanks to expert design, are able to be seamlessly completed on a smartphone. Choose from a range of ability tests for the particular areas you need assessed for the specific role and build them into an assessment process alongside behavioral and competency assessment. Together these assessments offer candidates feedback and hiring managers a guide to help structure the interview conversation. Systems, such as Aon’s, also enable you to score and rank candidates easily and quickly, knowing that the assessment data is accurate and robust.
Alongside our clients, we undertake 30 million assessments each year in 90 countries and 40 languages. We know the pertinent questions to ask in order to enable our clients to get up and running quickly.

Here are the four essentials we are discussing with our clients right now.

1. Designing clear candidate communications

With the rearranging of events and shifting plans, you could potentially overlook the need for a thorough candidate communication plan. A poor candidate experience has ramifications from sharing stories with friends and family to negative comments left on employer review sites.
This is the opportunity to demonstrate how your employer brand values are put into action.  
Over the past few weeks, we have been working hard with clients on how best to design and shape the assessment messages sent to candidates.

2. Building confidence in equivalence
Switching from in-person to online assessments will raise a justifiable question concerning the comparability of those candidates assessed in-person with those assessed remotely.
We can work with you to ensure the equivalence of these situations. Every scenario is different, so talk with us and let us work together on this.

3. Ensuring a human touch
Moving to remote assessment does not mean you need to lose the connection and engagement with candidates or employees. Plan touch points, develop an empathy map to understand key needs and build in regular contact.

4. Embracing a more agile way of working
The rapidly-changing global situation with regard to COVID-19 is the immediate challenge. It has highlighted the need for all organizations – and their people – to be agile and swift to adjust to changing circumstances. Right now, the focus is, quite rightly, on the health and well-being of employees, staff and applicants.

However, there will come a time when we will look back and see the impact of reduced travel and time costs from not bringing people together. We will understand that the data obtained and the insights derived from remote assessment has freed up resources and offered a leaner operating model that can be scaled when needed.

In the more virtual workplace, we will see the core digital readiness competencies, agility, curiosity and learnability, will increasingly be the foundation for a new way of working.
There is no doubt that business is being disrupted. The challenge now to HR leaders is to offer reassurance and clarity to employees and maintain engagement and communication with candidates, thereby mitigating business risk.   

There are alternatives to cancelling and postponing assessment events - let us show you what these are in our webinar! Watch the recording here.

Disclaimer: This document has been provided as an informational resource for Aon clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures, and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances. Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, Aon cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage visitors to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiologic information from credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. As regards insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the insurance policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations.




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Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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