Strategic talent management for the post-pandemic world

In the COVID-19 era, chief HR officers (CHROs) are playing a central role in how companies reimagine personnel practices to build organizational resilience and drive value. There is no shortage of new responsibilities, from fostering connectivity early in the pandemic to developing and implementing plans for the return to offices.

Additionally, the COVID-19 crisis is now accelerating preexisting talent management trends in the CHRO playbook. By acting in five such areas, CHROs can craft a strong and durable talent strategy for the post-pandemic world.

  1. Finding and hiring the right people. Efficient and effective hiring continue to be important.

    For example, organizations are re-thinking the role of on-campus interviews in the hiring process, given the success they’ve experienced with remote interview methods. And since temporary labor is poised for a faster recovery, organizations should be ready to use that flexible labor in additional ways.

    CHROs should take a fresh look at tools that make it easier to connect people to employment, based on a deeper understanding of their skills and how those match with available jobs.

  2. Learning and growing. CHROs must consider the effects of large workforce transitions accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis and the key role that reskilling plays in helping close talent gaps.

    The agenda for post-pandemic learning and development extends beyond reskilling to three categories of cost-effective training:

    • Broad-based digital training in essential skills
    • Focused upskilling rooted in changing work
    • Leadership development

  3. Managing and rewarding performance. The crisis is accelerating shifts in how organizations manage and reward performance. It has dramatically affected goals and performance plans, while making remote workers further reliant on performance management for feedback.

    To encourage effective performance management now and beyond, CHROs should:

    • Transparently link employee goals to business priorities and maintain a strong element of flexibility.
    • Invest in managers’ coaching skills.
    • Keep ratings for the very highest—and lowest—performers but also celebrate the broad range of good performance.

  4. Tailoring the employee experience. The blurring line between work and life while working remotely means that employee experience is even more critical.

    CHROs must help establish norms of working that foster engagement and inclusion for all employees. The solution will be based on talent needed, which roles are most important, how much collaboration is necessary for excellence, and where offices are located today, among other factors.

    HR departments should also consider the range of analytics tools they can use to understand and promote connectivity and engagement, from social network analyses to listening tools such as mobile text platforms.

  5. Optimizing workforce planning and strategy. Given shifts in how value is created in the post-COVID-19 world, the talent base required may need to shift as well. Workforce planning, strategy, and change is the HR spending category that McKinsey survey respondents cite as most likely to increase over the next 12 months.

    Components of workforce planning and strategy include:

    • Critical roles. Research suggests that a small subset of roles is disproportionately important to delivering a business-value agenda. For each role, identify core jobs to be done, qualities needed of leaders, and whether the role is set up for success.
    • Skill pools. Organizations should look at their major skill pools to understand the skills required for the future and whether they are long or short on the required talent.
    • Talent systems. CHROs now have more workforce-planning tools to help them match people to jobs. Such tools will become increasingly critical for CHROs to meet the challenges ahead.

For more information, please read our article, “HR says talent is crucial for performance—and the pandemic proves it.”


Career Exchange is a COVID-19 response initiative offered at no cost to companies hiring, furloughing, or laying off individuals. It is a digital talent marketplace that aims to address the mismatch of labor supply and demand, helping organizations and individuals. McKinsey & Company supports the platform as part of our commitment to safeguarding livelihoods. Learn more or visit the Career Exchange website to sign up.

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