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  • February 5, 2021
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Human Resources and Talent Acquisition During COVID-19


Talent acquisition is a challenging space with tonnes of moving parts and unpredictabilities. 

What’s more, it is perfectly possible that the legacy of the pandemic could alter the complexion of the talent space for years to come. 

With that in mind, we reached out to a few HR and TA specialists to discuss how the HR and TA space has changed over the past few months and how they’ve kept up with the pace. 

Linnea Korneliusson, Talent Manager Scandinavia, People & Culture at JTI (Japan Tobacco International)

Linnea Korneliusson is the Scandinavia Talent Manager, People & Culture at Japan Tobacco International. With around 200 employees in the Scandinavian region, Linnea uses her TA background to manage the people and culture of JTI’s growing and fully remote teams. 

We spoke to Linnea about life at JTI during the pandemic and how she has helped address the many people problems we all face. 

Creating the ‘Checking In’ Culture

Following the rate of infection across their regions closely, JTI has taken the decision to remain fully remote in their Scandinavian regions. As a result, Linnea’s function as a coach has been invaluable – especially for managers who may find themselves in an unprecedented position.

“I have come to the realisation that coaching is much more important during these times. And it can be business-related or just for someone to talk to. It’s just about providing that support.”

Linnea, who has worked hard on creating a culture of kindness during her time at JTI, is enabling her team to work safe in the knowledge that someone is always there for them if they need support. 

“There’s a culture of constantly checking in, and it’s much needed. We don’t have surveys or anything in that sense, we just make sure  to check-in and provide the support that is needed”

With teams forced to work remote, leadership has to get creative with how they keep their teams engaged. We’ve spoken to a lot of business leaders while creating these articles and each one has their own take on engagement. For Linnea, more consistent communication from leaders to the rest of the business, combined with little gestures can go a long way towards keeping people going. 

“Our senior leadership team have always been very transparent, but during the Pandemic, they have gone above and beyond to make sure that everyone knows exactly what is going on.”

Routine Is Very Important

With no plans yet to return to the office, Linnea and the teams at JTI have been working fully remote since March. In that time, they’ve been able to embed remote working policies that have served them well. For Linnea, the key to effective remote working lies in the creation of a routine that allows for regular breaks. 

“What is getting you up and out of bed for 6 am? You need to find that motivation and, in most cases, you can find it in your routine.”

With exercise and a hearty breakfast being two good options to start your routine, Linnea also recommends finding physical boundaries between work time and relaxation time. Those lucky enough to have a dedicated space for them to work that can be shut away once the work is finished will find it a lot easier to switch from work mode to relax mode. For everyone else, Linnea suggests a less obvious solution.

“It can be hard to find that boundary. Wearing work clothes when you’re working – even if you’re just sitting in your kitchen – and changing out of them when you’re done can help you find these boundaries.”

Like getting in from a long day at work, the act of changing out of clothes you’ve been in for the entire day can serve as the physical boundary we need to move out of work mode. 

Miquel Munoz, Senior HR Professional  

Miquel Munoz is a Senior HR Professional.  with well over 20 years experience in HR, Miquel has taken senior HR positions at massive companies like Nestle and King.

We spoke to Miquel about how he’s been working with his former HR partners at King to keep employees engaged and healthy during the first half of the year

Keeping Teams Engaged Across Time Zones

Miquel, who has worked with massive companies, is no stranger to vastly distributed teams. During the Pandemic, however, talent management across the globe becomes even more difficult. 

“You’re missing some contact points, you are not really able to touch properly and understand how people are feeling farther than what they are telling you or observing through the screen.”

As powerful as video technology is, it’s missing several key aspects that help us understand how people are feeling without them saying outright. Body language, reactions and things to that effect can easily be hidden over video. It’s for this reason that Miquel, a seasoned HR veteran, places increased importance on leadership during trying times.

“It’s very important Leadership is showing integrity, deep empathy and is doing their best to create the conditions for engagement and motivation. You can’t control how people feel, you hardly can influence their environment, but you definitely can trust your people and support them to co-create the appropriate conditions to work at high performing standards and keeping a high sense of belonging in such challenging times for everybody. So demonstrating that you are a truly people-centric organization and that you can take proactive action will show your teams you’re ready to do what it takes.”

Naturally, as teams expand so too does the diversity of those teams. New stakeholders and colleagues from different countries come with different backgrounds, different understanding and different challenges. For Miquel this is one of the most challenging aspects of talent management in large companies, a challenge he relishes. 

“Do your best to avoid bias in your approach. Stay open-minded, you need to stay really curious in terms of culture, for instance, to understand properly, how other people in other places or in your own place, but with other backgrounds, or other nationalities, approach any given situation, challenges   or decisions, to ensure that there is a right inclusion and the right opportunity for them to  grow, contribute and be  happy .”

Cultural intelligence, as Miquel describes it, is important for running teams properly during difficult periods. Actively listening and empathising with the diverse range of challenges your teams face will help you create bespoke solutions that keep them engaged. 

Looking After The Mental Well-being Of Your Global Teams

A company’s greatest value is its people. Looking after them starts not only with acknowledging their talent but understanding their unique challenges, as well

This active listening will help you create processes and solutions that will keep you teams engaged, regardless of location. 

The same applies to mental wellbeing, which means different things depending on where you are in the world. 

“In my experience, in some countries there is more awareness, focus and call to action on mental wellbeing. And when you’re working in a global company, its part of your responsibility to understand the cultural differences, the mindset differences and also how people respond against any single challenge.”

If the circumstance does arise where you, as a HR professional, do need to step in, Miquel recommends creating room for both you and the colleague to think. 

“You need to find flexibility and create room for discussion before jumping to formal decisions that could impact people’s wellbeing, and, consequently, their engagement and performance. . Driving situations with a growth mindset, and Creating this space will allow both you and the person in question to get everything out and will help you find the right and personal solution for them.”

Karin Söderström, Talent Acquisition Partner Nordics at Electrolux

Karin Söderström is a Talent Acquisition Partner at the Nordics Sales Cluster of leading global appliance company Electrolux. Leading the recruitment processes, in-bound and out-bound, for the sales organisations of all Nordic countries, Karin serves around 500 professionals with her talent acquisition skills. 

With several years in the recruitment and talent acquisition space, Karin is working in a talent acquisition team that hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. 

We spoke to Karin about creating Agile recruitment processes and adapting workloads.

We’ve Had To Become More Agile 

With teams spread out all across the globe, Karin and the Talent Acquisition function at Electrolux has been stretched between the various countries in different social situations. With varying requirements and fast switching priorities, Karin and the Talent Acquisition Function have become more agile in their approaches and processes.  

“During the time when our teams were recruiting at a slower pace, we have successfully mapped our global hiring journey. After deep-diving into bottlenecks as well as improvement ideas of the candidate and hiring manager experience, we have implemented an enhanced process based on the findings. 

With a team distributed across lots of different countries, Karin believes allocating more time to daily check-in has enabled them all to work more collaboratively. 

“Upon the start of working from home, we implemented short daily check-ins to update each other on quickly changing priorities. This helped us sharing workload and information, but also created a stronger team feeling during times of uncertainty.”

Adapting Workload and Performance Tracking

With a more structured performance tracking and reviewing process already in place, Electrolux is focusing on building granular reviews where they can manage the workload for the TA team which went go from nothing to everything in no time at all. 

“We have implemented a global dispatching tool to make sure that we avoid overloading our team members. This improves the wellbeing of our TA professionals and the experience of our partners throughout the hiring journey; the Hiring Managers as well as HR Business Partners.” 

With regular KPIs and check-ins going ahead as usual, Karin and the TA team are pulling together to make sure that everyone is well supported.

Franziska Steddin – HR Business Partner at King

Franziska Steddin is the HR Site Lead for Berlin at gaming giant King. As a HR Business Partner, Franziska supports the Berlin team of game makers along their employee journey while working on culture and engagement activities. 

Joining in the middle of the pandemic, Franziska has been tasked with providing continued support of the team of Berlin as they adapt to working from home.More specifically, Franziska’s function is a strategic one. 

“I support People Managers and help them with staffing strategies, like retention and engagement. So we’re more looking at broader topics and projects to run forward.”

Managing Workloads When Joining a New Company

Joining in the middle of the pandemic, Franziska has had to quickly get to grips with the way King operates, it’s culture and it’s teams. Joining massive teams can often be a challenge and Franziska, who is no stranger to large organisations, puts her emphasis on prioritisation and breaking up the day. 

“I get out of bed and walk straight into my office, so that’s the whole day in front of the screen, meeting with my colleagues and stakeholders. We have to remind ourselves to pause in between, so we can digest and reflect on what has happened and appropriately plan  actions.” 

Franziska focuses on keen note taking and schedule keeping to help fight back against fatigue. 

“So now I’m doing it is actually just scheduling down all the meetings into my calendar, but then allowing 10 -15 minutes break before or after each meeting to wrap-up and write down  action items for myself or with my stakeholders.” 

Retaining Talent During Crisis Times

The retention of talent is high on the list of HR priorities. Staying competitive with salaries and benefits packages, while ensuring the companies remains an attractive proposition to candidates has always been a delicate balancing act. 

We’ve spoken to many TA and HR specialists during this time and all of them say that companies with the strongest and most well-defined cultures will come out of COVID fighting as it’s key to retaining talent who will now be looking at their careers with a more critical eye. 

For Franziska and the team at King, retaining talent during this period becomes about understanding everyone’s unique circumstances and providing solutions.

“It became quite obvious at the beginning of these strange times that working from home is not going to be easy for everyone so we had to consider, how do we support individuals with challenging family circumstances, e.g. carer or childcare responsibilities.  Early on  schools or kindergarten were closed, which added pressure of managing childcare while balancing work for our employees. . At King we introduced benefits to support individuals with carer or childcare responsibilities and provided  flexibility in working patterns so that employees have a better work-life balance.”

Looking into everyone’s unique circumstances allowed them to develop new options for employees put under new strain. Things like backfilling, new hires and the ever-evolving culture of the company were all viewed on an individual level. 

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