How Talent Needs Evolve During the Pandemic

by: Alexander Genil

As we celebrate the Philippine Labor Day this year it is just right to recognize the economic and social significance of the Filipino workforce. It is also timely to share our insights and learnings from a human capital business perspective.

The abundance of a young and educated workforce has always been one of the reasons why the Philippines is a foreign investment destination. The country is poised to achieve respectable economic growth in the next few years until the pandemic hit us. Instead, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority data, the country has an unemployment rate of 10.4% in 2020 –leaving about 4.5M Filipinos jobless at the start of January 2021. The Department of Trade and Industry has reported about 90,000 businesses, majority being MSMEs, who have remained closed, or have been forced to downsize and layoff talent.

I took a snapshot of the projects and searches we did during the one-year period—starting in April 2020—when the impact of the lockdowns and WFHs kicked in. I was not surprised to find that the leadership and competencies of most of our clients were reflective of the needs and imperatives of the time.

On the other hand, there were also companies that took a proactive or a more strategic approach by stretching their resources, adapting to constraints and challenges, and devising ways not only to survive but also get ahead of competition.

There are also companies that took bold and courageous approaches: investing, expanding, changing to new business model, establishing new business based on emerging consumer needs, and exploiting new marketing opportunities.

Based on our actual experience working with clients and finding the right talents for their needs, here are some trends showing how businesses adapted, survived, and even prospered during the year-long pandemic:

1. The key talents needed for business continuity and survival
The period started with the expected natural reaction of most businesses at the onset of the crisis: survival. We saw a rise in search requirements for Finance Controllers, Risk Assessment Experts, Safety and Health Consultants, and HR Managers who are skilled in employee engagement.

2. Pandemic-resilient industries and pandemic-driven businesses
Eventually, the industries who flourished where our business gained new clients were:

o Healthcare industry (medical supplies and diagnostics distributors; “Health Technology” platforms offering on-line services; Hospitals and Pharmaceutical companies strengthening their management teams);

o “Last Mile” and basic consumer needs sectors (online selling platforms; motorcycle marketing and distribution companies; food manufacturing; makers of consumer durables like electric fans and air-conditioners);

o Local FinTech and foreign investment firms either setting up shop; strengthening their presence; or just utilizing untapped or underserved business opportunities and consumer needs in the market;

o Telcos and the service-providers on the race to install infrastructure and technology in view of strong consumer demand for better services, and also because of the industry’s full-blown competitive activities.

3. In-demand competencies and functional occupations
Meanwhile, a good number of our long-term clients focused on strengthening their management structures, control and compliance systems, and business processes by investing in talents that bring best practices from competitors and unrelated industries alike.

The most sought-after competencies vis-à-vis functional areas are:

o Risk and Compliance Management expertise for Banks, Financial Services, Public and Service-oriented businesses and regulated sectors

o Information Technology: Leadership and experience on IT Security; Software Design; IT Infrastructure Development; Enterprise Data Architecture; Business Solutions Architecture

o Business Development and Expansion: Corporate Communications; Digital Marketing; Social Media and Content Management; Loyalty and Campaigns Management; Sales and Business Development; Corporate Marketing Management

o Business Transformation: Leadership and expertise on Data and Technology Management; Business Technology Solutions; Digital Transformation; Business Analytics; Applications and Integration; Ecommerce Platform Development; Supply Chain-IT-Business Process Integration; Supply and Distribution Management; Strategic HR and Organizational Transformation; Project Implementation and Management

As we continue to traverse 2021, these trends remain to be true and signify the relevance of trusted recruitment and headhunting firms to address talent needs in relation to the different challenges businesses face.

It was a great, collective learning experience for me and my colleagues at the ZMG Ward Howell Group– from understanding the needs of our clients and talents alike in the backdrop of uncertainty; trying to fill and bridge the gaps; facilitating decision-making of both sides; taking heavy doses of patience, and finally consummating the match-making process.

Further reflecting on that year-long period, we were not only challenged by the demands of our clients. I should say that our own little transformation as a company also happened. Starting with a culture where “malasakit” and collaboration as basic norms, we adapted quickly to the ways of working remotely, took care of each other, and were motivated by the desire to make our business survive and come out even better than before.

I have reason to believe that our reason for being as a company, “We bring people and opportunities together”, was in full display during the height of the pandemic.

*** Alexander Genil is the President and Chief Executive Officer of ZMG Ward Howell, Inc.