The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

The Strategic Role of HR in a Pandemic Recruiting Environment

Why leading distributors like Valin Corporation are putting human resources front and center.
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There are about 100 candidates, with another hundred or so in the evaluation process, currently posted on GRN Coastal’s new talent marketplace. The industry search and recruitment firm created the online job portal this spring to help with the influx of distribution and manufacturing talent who went back on the market as companies were forced to downsize during COVID-19 shutdowns. Due to the speed and scale at which distribution businesses will need to build back up, as well as the sheer number of available candidatesJohn Salvadore, GRN managing partner and owneranticipates distributors will need to take a cross-departmental approach to recruitment, rather than overtaxing HR. “I think you have to have a mechanism to be able to look at top talent and have multiple eyeballs on it,” he said during a recent MDM Live webcast

Technology is part of the solution, agreed Cory Calderon, director of organizational development at industrial distributor Valin Corporation. “What’s interesting about this postCOVID experience is that the hiring process, by virtue of it being online and leveraging mobile apps and technology applications, it’s going to naturally siphon your candidate pool,” he said during the same MDM Live discussion.

By virtue of the selection process becoming digitized, digitally savvy candidates will rise to the top. Someone who is able to swiftly manage an online application process will swiftly move to the top of the candidate pool stack, simply by showing up earlier“Their ability to navigate the interview process, for example, to complete a behavioral assessment online remotely without assistance, or their ability to execute a webcam interview without assistance, they’re the ones that stand out in terms of their readiness for hire in this environment,” Calderon said

It is a double-edged sword, however, as a distributor could miss other performance attributes of a candidate that would make them successful in the job role but have nothing to do with technology. “Your candidate selection process has to be designed to pull back the layers of that onion,” he said

Elevating HR 

The added complexity and importance of getting the recruitment process right is just one element in favor of the argument to elevate the role of HR in distribution. Senior leadership at Valin has taken the position of not looking at HR as a back-office function. It’s up there in importance with essential areas like IT. “We look at our companies and what they do, but what they’re comprised of is people,” Calderon said. “The people enact strategies, they’re the ones that use the technology. And when you treat the people function as a back-office function, the people notice.

Putting HR at the forefront, giving them a seat at the table, elevates their function and shows employees that the company’s people are a priority, Calderon addedHe encouraged distributors to prioritize two or three human capital objectives each year and do them well.

Often, smaller distributors have an HR department of one, he noted, which can result in a lot of company capital tied up in outside subscriptions, partnerships and the like being hired to do HR functionality. “What are some things you can do to adjust that? Reinvest that [money] through, say, a generalist or an intern or an assistant that could provide more focused approach to the function,” Calderon challenged fellow distributors. I think bringing that skill set inhouse versus relying on that external partner is going to bring talent and competencies into the organization that you will have in the long run.

Because HR is cross-functional, it makes sense to empower the department, added Salvadore — in every executive meeting and a central part of the internal organization. “Certainly, HR is much more than just recruiting and talent acquisition, they touch so much of the organization, they should be front and center and have a seat at the table.

For much more on the future of HR and managing the employee experience through COVID-19 and beyond, read the feature article in the June 25 issue of MDM Premium, “New Paradigms for Talent Development in Distribution.” 

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