18 May 2020

How COVID-19 (fortunately) kills our traditional People and Hiring mindset


Don’t worry, this won’t be another piece of content providing you with tips and tricks on how to adjust your People and Hiring Strategy, now that COVID-19 has flipped all cards on the table. Because I think that you already know what to do to make this remote setting work for your company.

I want this blog to only provide you with some food for thought. And hopefully it helps you say goodbye to the traditional mindset most of us still have when it comes to hiring en people strategies. Because COVID-19 is definitely killing these strategies, and trust me, that’s for the better.



From revenue-focused to ROI-focused (and its impact on personnel)

Let’s face it, the world ended up in a heavy economic crisis due to COVID-19. And that changes companies instantly. In times where the economy is at its best, we all tend to focus on revenue only. Or at least that’s the number one target. Commercial growth.

A situation like the one we’re in now, however, flips our mindset instantly from revenue-focused to cost-focused. Or actually to ROI-focused. We still make investments, but the ROI of these investments is a metric we tend to lose track of in economic growth, while it’s now probably the most important one in your company. So the bigger the cost item, the more focus it deserves.

Therefore, the cost item you should be most focused on now is personnel – because this one covers on average 63-81% of your total costs. Fortunately, it seems like people are finally starting to realise this and even start aligning their People and Hiring mindset with this.

I can hear you thinking: ”We’ve had previous economic downturns, so why is this one different?”

Well, despite of the fact that the COVID-19 crisis has flipped cards almost over night, resulting in an extreme sense of urgency, we are also ten years later in terms of innovations. And although many People professionals aren’t quite there yet, the HR tech market definitely is – this might even be the most popular market for the last decade.

So here’s what we suddenly started to realise due to COVID-19 and why we should be extremely happy with that.


Realisation 1. Collaboration: Top-performing individuals vs. low-performing teams

Effective collaboration is key, especially in times like these. So that mindset hasn’t changed. What did change, however, is our understanding of effective collaboration.

Our traditional hiring and people mindset is heavily focused on individuals rather than teams, meaning that individual performance has always been more ‘important’ than team performance. As a result of that, we tend to focus on team building through copy-pasting top-performers. And that’s actually quite a simple working method. You select the top-performers in your company. You analyse their characteristics. And you hire look-alikes. Sounds like a safe, yet effective team building method, right?

Reality, however, proves us wrong. COVID-19 has forced many companies to adjust quickly to a new situation. To new markets. Maybe even new products. And this urgency to innovative your business in a couple of weeks while we haven’t been able to do this for decades requires more than top-performing individuals. It requires a top-performing team. And that all depends on your team composition (the combination of skills, competencies and personalities that the people in your team collectively represent). Your top-performers might be all overperformers in skill A, B and C, while you’re desperately in need of skill D and E to successfully transition your business. That still means that you have a few top-performing colleagues, but it also means that you haven’t got the right mix of individuals to enable team performance.

The sum of your top-performers is never equal to the performance of your team. In fact, your team performance will always lose this battle. So an extreme situation like COVID-19 has proven that copy-pasting top-performers isn’t a successful method to build the right team composition. And that’s a scary though, because it’s a mindset and working method we’re used to for as long as we can remember.


Realisation 2. Decision making: Real-life bias vs. lacking virtual instinct

So realisation 1 helps us change our team building mindset, meaning that – in either a training- or hiring-setting – we shouldn’t aim for the exact same skills, competencies and personality traits that people represent. We should aim for the right mix.

Let’s assume for now that you do master this team composition mindset, meaning that you’ve figured out what skills of personality traits your team lacks of, and therefore you know what to look for in a next hire (if you’re still hiring now, otherwise you could use these insights for training purposes).

The fact that you now know better what to look for doesn’t mean that you also know how to find it. Or actually, how to spot it. Because here comes the next problem we’re struggling with since 1950 (yes, because that’s the ‘official’ year in which we started using this): we keep trusting on resumes to reveal a candidate’s potential. And to back up the findings in a resume, we have our gut feeling joining the evaluation process as well.

Now that we ended up in a remote hiring setting, however, we’ve all experienced how hard it is to really get to know each other through a video call. And that made us realise that gut feeling isn’t always the best idea, but especially in a remote hiring setting, your own instinct even leaves you confused. Because where we normally base our first impression largely on things like non-verbal communication or a handshake, we now don’t have any of these elements helping us create this first impression. Luckily enough! The result: our virtual instinct is even worse than our real-life biases, causing lots of doubts in people decision making.

Here’s scary factor number two.

So here’s why this is a good thing

Times of doubts and uncertainty makes us realise that the argument ”we’ve always done it this way” isn’t working anymore. So we start searching for ways to do our work differently.

It’s actually both very nice and disappointing to experience at the same time. While we are fighting for innovation in HR and Hiring for decades already, we never really flipped our cards. And now that a virus is flipping these cards for us, we’ve transitioned to a new standard in weeks. Or at least a new mindset. We started appreciating data and even trusting it.


Post COVID-19 Team Building: From an undervalued, instinct-driven funnel to a strategic, data-driven loop

People Strategy (HR and hiring) is no longer something we just do. It’s the thing that actually runs our business, but could also kill it at the same time, given its contribution to your total costs. Just like it always did by the way, but we just didn’t always realise that up till this point. And that’s definitely changing things.

For years we’ve pereceived the process of team development as a funnel:

  1. There’s a need for a new colleague as a result of more work;
  2. Recruitment aks for the specifics and starts searching and;
  3. The hiring manager looks the most promising candidates in the eye (after reading their resume) to decide who to hire.

And data is nowhere to be found here. Maybe the company is working with assessments to challenge or back up gut feeling, but that’s in the best case as much data we can find.

COVID-19 has changed this drastically, because now:

  1. There’s a need for a missing skill or personality trait in the team;
  2. Recruitment starts searching for candidates and predicting a candidate’s fit with this team gap;
  3. The hiring manager respects the recruiter’s expertise and is here for the final yes. In a video call, so with minimal gut feeling.

And in this process, data is key. You need to collect data in order to map your current team and reveal gaps. You need data to translate these gaps into the criteria of your ideal next hire. And you need data to make sure that a candidate contributes to your team composition, Because in this new working method, you don’t dare to trust to quickly on your old working method (i.e. gut feeling).

COVID-19 has killed our People and Hiring strategy. And that’s the best thing that could ever happen to all of us! Data-driven innovations that we’ve been fighting against for years already now all of a sudden have become our best friends.

Curious to learn more about how Equalture’s Team Composition Technology helps companies build the right team composition based on data only? Just schedule a call with us. There’s nothing we love more than making people fall in love with our product like we did.



Cheers, Charlotte