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Mid-sized and smaller companies find new opportunities to improve talent, bolster training in COVID era

Barbry McGann Profile picture for user Barbry McGann April 8, 2021
COVID-19 creates talent challenges for all companies and mid-sized and smaller ones may be even more impacted. Workday's Barbry McGann shares four opportunities that the changes also bring.

Business team building, HR management and recruitment concept © janews - Shutterstock
(© janews - Shutterstock)

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape workplaces and workforces for all companies, and finding new ways and new opportunities will be critical to future success. According to McKinsey:

Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities.

Midsize and smaller companies will face particular challenges in the new normal and their success will impact communities far and wide. The US is home to 200,000 mid-market businesses, according to the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM). These businesses, which the NCMM defines as having revenues between $10 million and $1 billion, represent one-third of the private-sector GDP. Nearly eight in ten of SMBs say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their businesses, and smaller businesses have suffered more than larger ones, indicates the most recent survey by the SMB Group.

But even though smaller companies are experiencing acute challenges related to the pandemic, the changed landscape also gives them advantages that weren't available before, including: 

More geographic reach for talent

For all companies, closing the skills gap — meaning having the right workers available with the right skills — was already a concern before the pandemic. The coronavirus has accelerated that sense of urgency as workplace needs change. The wide adoption of remote work has empowered employees to do their jobs from anywhere, and it has lifted some of the location-based obstacles that prevented companies from recruiting the best talent to grow their business. Prior to COVID-19, medium-size firms were often at a disadvantage competing for talent against larger firms that likely offer better salaries or more name recognition. With remote work, medium-sized and smaller firms can extend their geographical reach for talent.

More familiarity with remote training

The pandemic has shown the role that virtual training can play in helping employees re-skill or up-skill to meet new challenges and opportunities. At Workday customer Bill Gosling Outsourcing, remote digital training has shown its worth over the past year. Joel MacCharles, senior vice president of Learning, Innovation, and Communications, explains:

Going fully remote actually sped up some opportunities for the firm. We had hoped, eventually, to create an increased presence in virtual training. We had the idea that an instructor can teach over video and use different breakout rooms to run sessions.

This has created the environment we needed to finally do that. One of my facilitators is actually finding higher engagement, higher opportunity, and higher learning through training in this virtual environment. Our training now lacks borders; we have mentors in one country mentoring people in another country. That didn't exist before this [pandemic].

More access to people data

Data is the lifeblood of agile organizations. People need the right information at the right time to make the best decisions. That is as true for hiring and talent management as for any other aspect of business. IBM partner and head of the North American HR offering for talent and transformation Debra Ferguson says:

One of the things we find in medium-size firms is that knowing your people is not just knowing them because you're a smaller firm. Knowing them is having the data that supports ‘Do I know what job they have? What skills and competencies are associated with that job?

Data-rich skills profiles, made more possible today by software solutions, can be used to identify skills gaps in the organization, helping companies make informed decisions that are aligned with long-term goals.

More holistic analytics

Having people data in the same system with finance and operational data enables executives to get a holistic picture of where the company is in terms of talent, and where it needs to go — even when business conditions change over night as it did in the early days of the pandemic.

Workday customer Schnuck Markets is a case in point. The St Louis-based grocery chain had to adapt fast as the pandemic hit and shoppers stocked up on provisions. The company brought in extra staff to help keep its 110 stores open and serve customers, hiring 1,600 temporary employees in a matter of weeks to help with the extra work. This was much faster than its normal hiring rate. By analyzing data held in Schnuck Markets' Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) solution, the company was able to place employees in stores near their homes, giving employees the greatest amount of flexibility during these difficult times.

Having data in hand that shows where staff are needed and what resources are already available within the organization is key to the kind of agility needed to quickly pivot. With one source for people and financial data, organizations can quickly assess where they stand, model out best and worst case scenarios, and work to engage and re-skill their teams to adapt.

Getting to the next normal

For many midsize companies, the disruption confirmed the value of cloud-based technology as a critical tool to sustain the business, as highlighted in the SMB report, Navigating a Path Forward: How Will SMBs Get to the Next Normal?.

But the value of cloud-based technology goes beyond helping companies survive the global crisis — the technology sets up businesses for future success. After all, times of uncertainty heighten the importance of making insights more accessible across an organization. And bringing together financial, workforce, and operational data will help organizations uncover ways to cope with the pandemic while building a future business model. That future business model includes an agile organization able to attract and retain the talent to seize opportunities, in and outside of times of crisis.

Learn more about solutions for midsize companies by visiting the Getting the Basics Right series and viewing the Workday webinar, Navigating the Changing Business Landscape for Midsize Organizations.

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