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Talent Acquisition: Beyond the Job Description

The global talent market is changing at a rapid rate, and COVID-19 has changed the way we all view our jobs, our work, our future, and our organizations. To compete and stay relevant, it is crucial for talent acquisition teams to create a human-centric candidate journey. […]

talent acquisition rep on the phone

The global talent market is changing at a rapid rate, and COVID-19 has changed the way we all view our jobs, our work, our future, and our organizations. To compete and stay relevant, it is crucial for talent acquisition teams to create a human-centric candidate journey. Although one could argue this has always been important, the focus now is on creating an emotional and cultural connection with potential candidates long before that first conversation begins.

Here is how you and your team can humanize your talent acquisition approach during this pandemic and far beyond:

Keep the conversation real and human-centric

Six months ago, recruiters were generating pipelines and having candidate conversations with a different focus. Conversations between an organization and a candidate were focused on day-to-day responsibilities, compensation, titles, benefits, work-life integration, and commutes. Times have changed, and COVID-19 has shifted priorities, wants, and needs.

More than ever before, people want jobs to mean something—they want to feel connected to a greater purpose. The role of a recruiter is to establish human to human connection immediately and be a dynamic storyteller as well as an active listener. Recruiters should listen for a candidate’s personal interests, values, and priorities, and create a bridge between them and the values of the organization.

Align your messaging in a way that tells a story of the company culture. After the culture is introduced, start to interweave where the candidate’s specific job role would have a positive impact on the organization. After that’s done, it is all about honest dialogue and keeping it real.

For example, do not be afraid to talk about how your organization has handled COVID-19. Be open about how your organization has been reacting, shifting, moving forward, and making employees feel safe. This establishes critical, preliminary trust between the potential employee and organization.

Foster a connection

Now is a good time to evaluate your current employer brand and tweak it to better connect to your organizational vision amidst all the uncertainties of our current times. Talent acquisition professionals should ask themselves:

  • Where are we projecting and sharing our employee value proposition (EVP)?
  • What is the messaging we are putting out there?
  • Does our brand align with our vision and mission accurately?

Personal connection is key. Consider utilizing employee stories, home-recorded videos from leaders, and bold value statements that communicate humans being the heart and soul of an organization. Show the candidate that your organization is one that loves and cares about its people.

Tell stories about how employees want to be a part of the organization and how they positively impact the company. Communicate why the organization does what it does, and how employees influence that. This means so much more than corporate mission statements and bland job descriptions.

Create a positive recruitment experience

As you transform your talent acquisition processes to be more human-centric, it is important to recognize that not everything is designed to support your new approach to recruitment. It may be time to evaluate your talent systems and connect those dots with a more tailored approach without disrupting the need to hire quality talent quickly.

This starts with how you spark interest and establish a connection.

Generic recruitment emails from LinkedIn or lackluster voicemails without purpose resonate less now than ever before. It is important to understand the talent landscape and be more informed and targeted in your outreach. Many organizations have overhauled their talent acquisition functions to be more agile and have created mechanisms that allow for more efficient and effective pipeline generation. This is great, but only if it gives recruiters more time to nurture candidates and make personal connections faster.

It also then extends to how you interview—you cannot seem distant and disconnected. You must evaluate and ensure you have the right technology to facilitate the virtual interview process that is both personable and establishes a human connection. You and your team should ask yourselves:

  • Do we have the right tools to make this a great experience for all stakeholders?
  • Do these tools provide candidates with enough experience and connection to make an informed decision on their next career journey?
  • Do managers know how to use these tools effectively to portray the EVP correctly with each candidate individually?

Recruiters need enablement too

In the span of just a few weeks, everyone has had to adapt to new ways of working. Just as we are investing in the enablement of our sales functions to interact with our customers in new ways, we must too invest in our talent acquisition teams.

Talent acquisition teams need to be masters at pitching the company culture, creating a personalized recruitment experience, and leveraging applicable technology. Lean into marketing and bring in copywriters to provide sample emails and messaging guidance. Marketing is your friend—get creative. Written blogs, videos, and other relatable cultural assets are all beneficial to recruiter outreach—especially in our totally virtual times.

Brainstorm with marketing and create messages that tell the candidate a story of opportunity. An opportunity to participate in a culture that provides job satisfaction, personal/professional growth, and the knowledge that they can have an impact every day. The recruitment process is the first step to a potential career-long relationship and should not be overlooked.  Reflect an organization that is committed to sustaining that type of relationship.

If we can figure this out, these talent practices will enable and strengthen our organizations for the long run. Clarity and connection are the names of the game moving forward.  Talent Acquisition teams need to be agile entities that fuel the organization’s strategic and human capital motors—one story at a time.

Elisa Vincent is VP, Talent Enablement at Skillsoft

Brie Miller is VP, Global Talent Acquisition at Skillsoft

9 Tips for Re-Onboarding Furloughed Employees

While some can work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, other people simply don’t have jobs that allow for that. During the coronavirus pandemic, the economic impact on businesses has forced the hand of many employers to temporarily close or reduce their workforce to protect the company from financial ruin. […]

Remote manager reviewing documentation.

While some can work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, other people simply don’t have jobs that allow for that. During the coronavirus pandemic, the economic impact on businesses has forced the hand of many employers to temporarily close or reduce their workforce to protect the company from financial ruin. Many companies have chosen to furlough employees, rather than lay them off.

Furloughed employees can be a much better alternative to layoffs for both companies and employees. However, until COVID-19, they were not frequently used in the United States. During the Great Recession, only 0.5% of the US workforce participated in furloughs, while one in five workers experienced a layoff. Today, amid the pandemic, many companies have turned to furloughs, creating a path for employees to return.

From the business perspective, it helps them survive an economic downturn but retain the talent the business needs to get back up and running when the time comes. From the employee perspective, the primary benefit of furloughs to employees is that they have a job to return to.

Now that some states have begun releasing plans to allow certain businesses to reopen, ending statewide stay-at-home orders, companies are encountering unprecedented territory. Bringing furloughed employees to work will require employers to grapple with a host of challenges. Return-to-work plans should vary based on local and state directives and factors like the nature of the workforce, geography, and industry—now is the time for employers to lay the groundwork for implementing specific return-to-work plans.

Empathy and sensitivity go a long way  

During this process of planning, it’s important to understand that you can’t erase the inevitable pain that furloughs cause to employees. Employees who return after the furlough is over may have extremely complicated feelings. A recent international study of more than 2,000 employees conducted at the end of March and early April 2020 in Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and the US, indicates that furloughed workers are 37% more likely than those who have been laid off to report declines in mental health amid the pandemic.

This is thought to be a function of the stress introduced by being out of work without a sense of when, or if, they will be called back. Understanding this is important for employers as they prepare to bring furloughed people back to work.

So, what’s the best approach to handling the onboarding process of furloughed employees? Your company should be thoughtful and sensitive in its approach and impeccable in execution. Here are nine tips to help with re-onboarding of furloughed employees:

1. Avoid employment discrimination risks

Realistically, companies will not be at full operations upon reopening. In these circumstances, employers must be cautious in determining who to bring back to the workplace to mitigate the risk of potential discrimination claims based on the decision not to bring back other employees at the same time.

Employers need a documented, non-discriminatory reason for choosing which employees to rehire or return to work. These reasons could include factors such as seniority, operational needs, or past performance issues. Decisions about who to bring back into the workplace cannot be based on an apparent higher risk of COVID-19 complications.

The EEOC has said in recent guidance that employers cannot unilaterally decide not to hire individuals who are over 65 or pregnant because of COVID-19 risks without running afoul of federal discrimination laws.

2. Have a repeatable process

Make it as easy as possible for the employees to reacclimate. When rehiring many at once, cutting manual tasks is critical. When employees can complete their employment forms through a digital portal before the first day back, everyone keeps moving.

Make it easier for them to succeed in new roles with an onboarding plan that helps them define goals, acclimate to a new team or division, and ensure they’re performing their best.

As the cultural aspect of an organization is generally woven throughout onboarding programs, you’ll want to pay special attention to establishing a culture in the programs you offer. Consider virtual engagement activities to account for the shift to more remote work, as well as social distancing in offices to help build morale and camaraderie.

3. Welcome each one as you would any employee

Start with an offer letter and state all the necessary information. Take this opportunity to reassure them about what’s changed—and what hasn’t—when it comes to their position, salary and benefits, and how you will be ensuring workplace safety. This letter will now supersede any previous terms of employment, so it’s essential to get all the details right:

  • Position
  • Supervisor
  • Responsibilities/job description
  • Salary
  • Return to work date

4. Be extremely transparent

Indicate in clear terms whether any of the employee’s terms of employment have changed. Even if there are only small changes, not disclosing them clearly will only lead to resentment. For example, if changes in employment affect their exempt status or if salaries and/or hours have been reduced across the board, be clear about this.

5. Have a backup plan

For an employer, one of the main risks of this process is that their top talent will get jobs elsewhere. And, furloughed employees have the right to seek new employment. Employees may have found alternative employment while furloughed or simply not wish to return to work at this time.

Give employees a choice of whether to accept the offer to return or reject it and have their employment terminated. For employees that do not wish to return, be understanding and supportive of their choice.

6. Explain benefits status

Employees will naturally want to know how the recall from furlough affects their company seniority, benefits, any accrued PTO, and sick leave.

7. Provide training on new safety procedures

The furlough is over, but the pandemic isn’t. Employees should still work from home if they can. If this isn’t possible in your industry, it’s an employer’s responsibility to create a safe work environment and work to promote social distancing. Onboarding should include efforts to educate the staff in:

  • Scheduled handwashing
  • Regular disinfection of surfaces
  • Enforced social distancing
  • Reduced customer capacity
  • Staggered shifts
  • Any industry-specific requirements

8. Provide reassurance

This is a time of high anxiety, and you can’t be expected to predict every question a returning employee may have. Offer employees an open-door policy to reach out privately with any questions and concerns.

9. Provide ongoing support

A furlough period will test your company culture. Managers should not assume that they are in the clear once a furlough has ended. Employees will still need frequent and transparent communication about the state of affairs and recovery plans, along with the reassurance that the future is bright with an explanation of how they all fit into that future.

The onboarding process will be the first test of our recovery—but critical to the rejuvenation of the furloughed employee’s journey with your company. The better structured and organized, the faster the recovery can happen. Human resources, IT, and learning and development teams should work together to ensure that the onboarding of furloughed employees is smooth, and the content presented and required of employees is as comprehensive, concise, and referenceable as possible.

What to Do Next
Interested in more tactics to smooth the path of returning to work? Visit “Take a Holistic Approach to Employee Well-Being for an Optimal Return to the Workplace.” This blog addresses the topics of taking care of the whole employee: their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The best practices mentioned by the leading HCM research firm, i4cp, are based on the research of high-performing organizations and correlate with business performance.

See how your organization can take a holistic approach to employee well-being.

VILT or Bust: An Interview with Brent Colescott

COVID-19 has forced all of us to re-evaluate what working from home means—it’s also making us realize that some aspects of work, may never be the same.

While office floor plans are being reconfigured to promote social distancing, what about the training centers and classrooms? […]

COVID-19 has forced all of us to re-evaluate what working from home means—it’s also making us realize that some aspects of work, may never be the same.

While office floor plans are being reconfigured to promote social distancing, what about the training centers and classrooms? Is this pandemic showing us that in-person training is a thing of the past? It would certainly be difficult to reconfigure conference centers and classrooms to accommodate social distancing. Can you imagine a conference center with seats six feet apart?

Much like public, private, and higher education institutions, organizations are getting a crash course in not just remote work, but Virtual Instructor-Led Training as well.

Not all VILT is created equal

Virtual Instructor-Led Training—VILT—is not a new concept. The challenge that has been at the core of VILT adoption is not necessarily a technical one. VILT’s success and failure lie more in the delivery and learner experience.

Unfortunately, the concept of throwing PowerPoint slides up on a screen and speaking to them virtually “passes” as VILT. This could not be further from what a good VILT program should and can be. Good VILT programs engage their attendees and understand the environment.

I spoke to our very own Brent Colescott—virtually of course, to talk to him about VILT. We talked about not only the importance and benefit from utilizing VILT, but how it can used as a valuable element of your learning and development strategy. Brent Colescott is no stranger to standing up VILT programs:

Ryan Tidwell: Thanks for chatting with me today, Brent. So, let’s set some context—why is VILT so important today? Why is it relevant?

Brent Colescott: VILT is part of business continuity that is happening right now in a distributed/virtual workforce. While the pandemic has halted a lot of live training, the need to educate has not stopped and the pace at which change is occurring is unprecedented. Employees still need “just-in-time” knowledge and VILT is a way to capture the connections sought after for a remote workforce.

RT: Interesting—can you explain the importance of VILT given today’s changes?

BC: VILT is a proven alternative to the on-site training event. In today’s business environment, travel is near non-existent due to the risks of the pandemic, along with the temporary shuttering of travel and hospitality providers. This prevents gathering together for traditional classroom events. VILT can accommodate most—if not all—in-person training.

RT: Sounds like organizations could save a lot of money on travel expenses if they switched from all in-person training, to VILT.

BC: They could, and many companies do. Plus, more people could attend.

RT: What are you hearing in the market related to VILT as an L&D strategy moving forward?

BC: VILT has really become an overnight success 15 years in the making. It’s been around for at least that long and has had various levels of success in organizations. As the world switched to remote work and virtual gatherings due to the COVID-19, we’re seeing a significant rise in the interest volume of VILT events.

With all being said, VILT has not been as well-known as it should be due to poor delivery or less than effective delivery strategies. A large portion of the success of a VILT event is directly tied to how the material is developed—specifically for the delivery and how prepared or experienced the instructor is.

RT: Do you foresee an increased demand for experienced, virtual instructors?

BC: Absolutely, those with the skillset to successfully deliver content in a virtual event will be in great demand over the next year.

RT: So, from what I’m hearing, the learner experience might be the most important aspect of standing up a VILT program. Would you agree that it’s crucial for organizations to get this right?

BC: It is vital. What’s the saying, “you never get a second chance at a first impression”? That probably explains why VILT has not been as successful. Too many VILT sessions have been done poorly. You have to look at VILT programs as their own discipline and approach it as such.

RT: Makes sense. I’d like to dig into the strategy aspect of things. What does an HR organization need to be thinking about in order to execute a successful VILT strategy?

BC: Any organization needs to understand that this is not just delivering a “WebEx presentation.”  Successful VILT programs look to the needs of the learners but also the methods that must be incorporated to ensure successful delivery.

In fact, there are online certifications specific to the presentation/delivery of material in a virtual classroom in addition to certifications for VILT Instructional Design. The core focus for both approaches is to ensure virtual learner engagement throughout the event.

RT: Are there any resources you’d recommend?

BC: I would definitely recommend doing some research on virtual instruction. Over 15 years, the discipline has evolved along with the technology. There are several organizations that have curated this knowledge and can offer training or guidance around developing a successful program. Some organizations go so far as offering certification in the skill of presentation or instruction design for virtual training. I would highly recommend seeking this type of training for anyone serious about a sustained VILT program.

RT: It’s great that we have such a wealth of knowledge that’s been tested and developed over the years. We touched on it a little earlier, but I’d like to know, what are the benefits of VILT?

BC: Initially, VILT was seen as a cost-savings alternative to travel and overhead for training on-premise. Consider the rollout of an initiative or compliance need where the audience is vast and dispersed. Not only is VILT more cost-effective, but is also vastly more efficient and scalable—especially when dealing with larger audiences and shorter timeframes.

RT: Can you share some insight about the integration partners you work with that allow users to support VILT?

BC: At SumTotal, we have focused on integrating with the primary providers in the web conferencing, virtual meeting space—WebEx, Zoom, Adobe Connect, and so forth. By doing so we cover over 99% of the platforms our customers utilize. Familiarity with the virtual training platform is important, so users see a more transparent experience. We will continue to look to our customer base and their needs to drive future integrations.

RT: Very good to know—being seamlessly integrated with other platforms is so valuable. For an organization making the transition from traditional, in-person ILT to VILT, what are some key items to keep in mind?

BC: There are two areas that need to be evaluated and understood for the success of any VILT initiative. The first is of course the technology. You must leverage your platform in a way that ensures the trackability of delivered VILT sessions.

The second is the content and delivery. Learners will not sign up for a PowerPoint being read to them. Engagement is critical—there needs to be a level of engagement for each learner that is more than in an in-person event. A successful VILT session needs:

  • Clarity in the registration and access to the event.
  • Content that has been developed for the sole purpose of virtual delivery.
  • A presenter who understands how to present and engage remote learners.
  • A “producer” who manages the virtual room. This might entail troubleshooting, answering chats or changing slides.

RT: What can you say about the evolution of VILT as part of L&D strategy?

BC: What has evolved over the years is not only a cost-savings approach, but a more efficient and scalable way to train distributed audiences in a shorter timeframe. This has provided organizations an alternative medium to their audiences that couldn’t find a way to attend an on-premise meeting or do not feel comfortable with an eLearning course.

RT: Any other topics we should be addressing related to VILT that we haven’t yet discussed?

BC: Test, Test, Test, Test… The fastest way to kill any VILT program is if your learners cannot even access the environment. Review the steps necessary to register and attend a VILT event.  If your attendees cannot overcome the technical challenges to attend your online event, you’ll burn up all your time and effort just getting people into the session. That will frustrate both the learner and presenter.

Multiple VILT events can be scheduled and done more efficiently since the traffic is virtual. However, schedules can fall apart like dominoes falling if attendees cannot join. Consider job aids, follow-up emails, or test sessions to overcome those issues.

And lastly, my shameless plug, SumTotal is already VILT capable. The connections between a robust learning platform needed for classroom management is already integrated with the various delivery platforms. Our clients can schedule VILT sessions, just like their ILT sessions. Once they have made the connection between the two platforms, they can quickly stand up and track Virtual ILT sessions just like they did for the in-person sessions.

Interviewed by Ryan Tidwell who is a content marketer at SumTotal/Skillsoft

Tips to Motivate in Trying Times


What’s happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and as a manager of people, it requires a different approach. Even if you’re used to managing a remote team, some adjustments need to be made to keep your team motivated and productive. […]


What’s happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, and as a manager of people, it requires a different approach. Even if you’re used to managing a remote team, some adjustments need to be made to keep your team motivated and productive. Specifically, managing the morale of the team members is of high importance in maintaining performance. What goes into building morale, especially while working remotely during these trying times may be different than before.

As such, managers should look for clues on how each team member is faring and consider the following tactics that can help build morale:

  • Creating community
    What used to happen at the watercooler is now going to have to happen using several modalities to create that same feeling of belonging to a team. Make sure you have the right combination of tools to keep team members in touch and communicating every day.  Whether you use Slack or Microsoft Teams, as a manager you can get some conversations going to keep people connected.
  • Spread positivity
    There is no substitute for the power of a positive attitude.  Consider starting a quote of the day tradition among the team.  Assign a team member to each day to post a quote that helps begin every day on a positive note. Take advantage of video calls and smile at your team. Psychologists say one of the best ways to portray a positive attitude is to smile at others.
  • Share the results
    Share a customer’s success story. Sharing positive notes or messages from customers to the rest of the team brings a sense of value for everyone. It shows that the work is appreciated not just by your company but by those who do business with you. In these uncertain times, it’s important to share the win of onboarding a new customer. This reinforces that what you’re doing as an organization matters to others, and companies even now are willing to invest in you to help their business.
  • Just listen
    People want to feel like they matter. Listening to someone’s ideas and thoughts is one of the best ways to motivate people to participate in all aspects of the business. More importantly, it encourages them to continue to contribute to the company and their team members. For many people, having the ability to share their thoughts and be listened to is one of the most important things we can do for them.
  • Build team spirit
    Consider an online gathering, perhaps a happy hour for your team to engage without talking shop.  Introduce a theme, like wearing a funny hat or going around the room to answer the same “get to know you question.”  When we work in an office, it’s much easier for us to have a conversation around things going on in our lives, an upcoming party, a funny story from a family event. Icebreaker questions are a great way to get people to open up; for example, if you are a superhero, what would your name be? I can tell you that question gets a lot of interesting responses and reactions.
  • Show them you care
    Pay attention to the individual employee.  Communicate to make sure the employees know there are resources they can use, whether it’s you or resources the company has made available. Call each of your employees weekly and ask about them and their families. Be conscious that these individuals may be impacted by COVID-19 in their personal lives and be empathetic to their needs.
  • Empower them to perform
    In these trying times, showing that you completely trust them and respect their decisions helps give employees the confidence and empowerment to perform.  Ensure they know they can take action as needed.  Doing so reinforces their level of security with their job and gives them one less thing to worry about.
  • Lead by example
    Always show your team that you’re out in front and leading by example.  Make sure that they see you doing the work and contributing to the team.  When they witness you helping with the success of the team, it breeds a culture of people wanting to do the right thing to help one another.
  • Give people some room
    Working with an entirely remote team may be new to some people.  Tell them it’s ok for there to be a learning curve. Give them an outlet to talk to you about what’s working and what’s not. Expect and be sensitive to delays or missed deadlines. Approach the issue of deadlines or delays with an understanding; there may be more going on behind the scenes as we all try to balance our work and life. Your employees will appreciate it.

These are extraordinary times, and we are all learning. The company is a support mechanism to help the team through what’s happening. The compassionate tactics above can go a long way to keeping people feeling secure and motivated during these trying times.

4 Ways Your LMS Supports Business Continuity

Over the last few weeks, the way all of us live and work has dramatically changed. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a great business continuity challenge and stress for a lot of people.

In these stressful times, on top of staying healthy, it is crucial for workers to remain engaged and productive with their work. […]

Over the last few weeks, the way all of us live and work has dramatically changed. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a great business continuity challenge and stress for a lot of people.

In these stressful times, on top of staying healthy, it is crucial for workers to remain engaged and productive with their work. Organizations everywhere must get creative and find out what current assets can be leveraged to reduce stress while still keeping engagement and productivity up.

An effective Learning Management System (LMS)—with some strategizing—can help organizations navigate times of crisis and maintain employee engagement and productivity. A robust LMS and strategy can disseminate critical information in a secure and trackable manner as well as provide employees quick access to business continuity resources.

Utilize your LMS—not email—for critical, trackable communications

As recently formulated COVID-19 policies continue to evolve and adapt, so increases the communication of those updates. Communication in times of crisis is critical to an organization being able to continue business as close to normal as possible.

However, employees, vendors and customers have overflowing email inboxes due to the increase of communications. Utilizing an LMS to distribute critical policies updates can help ensure they are not overlooked—a robust LMS has almost the same penetration as an email but offers these significant advantages:

1. Trackability

With so many COVID-19 policy updates flooding employees’ inboxes, how do you know if the emails are actually being read? LMS distribution provides trackability as well as the ability to nudge users until the information—written or video—is consumed.

2. Comprehension

Utilize assessments to ensure comprehension of policies. Transform external messages like “our employees have all been briefed on the new procedures” to “every employee has taken training and is certified on our new COVID-19 procedures.”

3. Security and validity

An effective LMS provides more granular control over shared information. Versioning can ensure updates to critical policies are tracked, and old information can be updated instantly—reducing the risk of someone referring to outdated information.

4. Discoverability

An LMS can aggregate relevant content, such as COVID-19 and business continuity resources, from multiple content providers into easily discoverable channels. The centralization of relevant resources is monumental and provides a unified solution that employees can easily reference. Resources an effective LMS should be able to aggregate include:

  • Company policies and updates
  • Governmental notices including the CDC and public health departments
  • Engaging content on business continuity best practices
  • Publications like MIT Sloan Management Review for COVID-19 resources


No one knows exactly what lies ahead in the upcoming months, but we can be fairly certain that organizations will have to become more agile than ever to survive. Organizations will implement larger changes in shorter timer periods.

Pandemics are stressful but provide opportunities to leverage and enhance your organization’s learning strategy to communicate, implement and support these changes in the coming weeks.