The future of talent is distributed, but how do we get there?

Laura Ryan explains how businesses can capitalise on the changes brought by the pandemic and work towards a permanent shift in their recruitment models

The move to distributed working saw HR leaders and teams dealing with the challenge of navigating everything from online onboarding and exit interviews to figuring out what remote perks and benefits people actually want access to.

One of the biggest challenges for the HR department has been remote hiring. Not only has this process been completely overhauled, but companies are now putting more emphasis on hiring outside of their immediate location. This is of course a benefit to businesses wanting to expand their talent pool, market reach and improve diversity, but it also puts a new spin on the war on talent.

Moving away from home-grown talent

Businesses have always known that hiring across locations can have a positive impact on company growth that goes beyond simply filling a role. Bringing in different perspectives, backgrounds and experience improves the diversity of the organisation to make it more inclusive, but also means that the employee base better reflects the diversity of the customer base and its needs.

However, despite companies knowing and speaking about this, many have not been practising what they preach. There is still a default to hire from the location that the office is based in, despite many businesses enabling employees to work from home.

Particularly with the ‘Great Resignation’ and the ongoing difficulties with attracting talent, good candidates are a rare and precious commodity. The pandemic should be seen as an opportunity and catalyst for HR leaders to push for a more distributed hiring strategy.

At Dropbox, we have seen early signs that this model is positively influencing our talent strategy as it means that we are attracting people who are excited about our way of working instead of needing to sell this to a restricted talent pool.

The changing role of HR

The shift to a distributed talent strategy is not expected to happen overnight. There will need to be core changes to the function and process of the HR department before this can happen effectively.

Hiring practices will need to change focus as candidates living outside cities or in remote areas don’t usually have the same work experience as the candidates who live in hubs. Businesses will need to assess if candidates can do something rather than if they have already done something. This is a critical shift in mindset and aligns to driving a learning mindset that remains curious.

To find this nuance and new sets of skills, hiring managers and recruiters need to have a much closer relationship with each other and the wider business. Recruiters need to educate hiring managers on what the market is telling them and where they see challenges and opportunities. And hiring managers will have greater empowerment in infusing diversity, equity and inclusion principles into teams and in tying this to the company’s goals more broadly.

Once candidates have been hired, then the ability to retain lies in unlocking the unique benefits that come from the flexibility of distributed work, being able to work from everywhere. It is vital that HR demonstrates that it has built the right environment to support all employees and ensure that as a business you have embedded the right behaviours for this working model to retain talent.

Arming employees with the right technology

While working from home we’ve become acutely aware of the importance of having the right tech tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging and e-signature. Part of having an effective distributed talent strategy means getting technology right. Employees need to be armed with simple and easy to use tools so they can collaborate with peers all over the world. More technology doesn’t always mean better technology, HR needs to work with business leaders to ensure that tools aren’t being used for the sake of it but because they make working life easier.

The future of talent

There is no doubt that the future of talent will be distributed, but it is up to HR and business leaders to make this a reality. Geographical boundaries will become less important to employers, enabling them to draw from a wider pool of talent and expand into new markets. There needs to be a change in mindset from businesses seeing this as an employee perk to a company necessity.

Laura Ryan is director of International HR at Dropbox