Talent Management

Aug 17, 2021 14 min read

Next Normal of Talent Acquisition


With the rise of Covid-19 in the year 2020, we faced several unprecedented changes in such a short span that otherwise would have taken decades. Covid-19 is not just a health crisis of vast potential but it is also a societal crisis, which has uprooted our lives . In addition, it is continuously threatening the wellbeing of our family members, friends and colleagues. Business is under immense pressure to sustain and deliver results. Immediate action is critical to avoid further fallout.

All across the globe, economies are restructuring, business models are innovating, employees are showing resilience and individuals are supporting each other to cope with these unprecedented changes. Indeed, this Next Normal[i] is going to stay for long. This Next Normal is the beginning of an era wherein existing models will recast themselves and deliver long-term advantage. Talent Acquisition is no exception, the constraints posed by these challenging times have led this function continuously adapt as per situational demands.

Through this article, we have identified a dimensional framework for setting the futuristic path of the Talent Acquisition cycle ,various initiatives that were undertaken in response to COVID 19 to make the hiring and selection process seamless and their impact on the organization.


Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented and challenging times in which all of us are adapting to the New Normal. Organizations are facing uncertainty and challenges of unparalleled proportions and the Talent Acquisition function in Human Resource Management also witnesses it

Talent Acquisition(TA) is a primary process in any organization . It is highly complex and process driven exercise that involves multiple stakeholders (i.e. applicants, selection committee, psychologists, HR facilitators, Subject Matter Experts), scrutiny validation of applications, multi-level interactions with future talent pool through various modes and finally, integration and assimilation of new hires into the organization. With COVID-19, the current ways and norms of the hiring processes are under constant pressure and face humungous challenges and . Will these roadblocks lead the TA team continue its working in the legacy way or will this be tipping point where in the TA as a function will adapt a new Avtaar for the times to come. . Now, it is critical to assess the situation continuously, plan and implement the Next Normal in hiring and selection to emerge stronger and better prepared for adaptation to the New Normal


Next Normal[ii] is the term first used by Mckinsey[iii] with an assumption that there is an after and before, the period before COVID-19 and after. COVID-19 is not the first pandemic the human race is witnessing, but the uncertainty, speed of this infection and the potential of its return in the form of multiple waves is the one, which demands a different descriptor - the next normal. Why it has to be Next Normal not the New Normal? If we compare New' vs Next', New is like a current change, present one, something that is static while Next is like an ongoing and complex process, which will modify and adopts as per the changing needs. Considering the situation we all are in, we need a continuous forward looking approach that can reform itself as per the needs in these upcoming times.

In this article, we propose a three dimensional framework, the challenges faced by Talent Acquisition and initiatives that can be implemented under each of the three dimensions.

Catalyst for Change : The Roadblocks

With the surge of Covid-19 last year, Talent Acquisition faced several impediments such as the inability to conductthe selection process physically (Group Task Interview), geographical movement restrictions leading to inability to visit campus for conducting the recruitment drives, . All these factors are potential threat to Recruitment Cycle and led to deferment of hiring cycle or permanent closure of active positions

The prospective candidates also faced fear and anxiety, the had the risk of losing dream job due to uncertain environment. Therefore because of the these hurdles, desired manpower could not be provided to business for smooth operations... This will have a huge impact on organization brand andcandidates' mindset who are considering HPCL as a preferred employer.

Re-Engineering Recruitment

Figure 1: Three Dimensional Approach

At the peak of the crisis when everything was uncertain, things were not in order at global and national level, and no one was able to predict the next outcome - we in Talent Acquisition, tried to address the problem and identified factors that can navigate us through this crisis. With the current challenges and evolving dimensions, our traditional approaches and methodologies were found unsuitable in sustainable for long and hence need to reengineer. The starting point here is the three-dimensional framework: Lead with Purpose, Resilience Agility (Figure 1).

We have reviewed and studied various contributing factors and other models, but the above-proposed model is more suitable and aligned with our Talent Acquisition strategy and philosophy. If implemented successfully, this model carries the potential to transform the existing weaknesses of the system to strengths and threat to an opportunity.

Each of the dimensions are fluidic and interlinked with each other. Initiatives designed under one dimension are also contributing in other dimensions and overall contribute towards the outcome. Observing the same in silos is not possible and considering this, we have designed the detailed roadmap strategy in and around these dimensions. Detailed definition of each of the dimensions is shown below (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Talent Acquisition Next Normal – A Three Dimensional Framework


Creating Possibilities : Innovating Experimenting

As we navigate through the challenges posed by COVID-19, under each of the dimensions (mentioned above), we experimented with our existing processes and brought in new practices which will cater to our requirements (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Recruitment Initiatives

Leading with Purpose

In the testing times when everyone is anxious, frightened and unsecure, it is very important for our leaders to set the path and provide a sense of purpose amongst all. One of the critical challenge for an organization today is to run smooth operations across all locations and we faced the same. To address this issue at HPCL, we tried to define the purpose i.e. the power of Why' to understand and align our actions with it. With this we put People first - as any organization possesses a Human Capital made of individuals be it internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, customers etc.

The ultimate objectives of Talent Acquisition is to create a brand image of organization to attract talent, to provide manpower to business verticals, fill critical vacancies due to changing business needs and integrate new hires into the ethos of the organization. In addition, a sense of pride, social security and emotional connect is associated with recruitment of esteemed Public Sector Enterprises. At the time of crisis, when job losses and uncertainties are already at peak, recruitment in Public Sector Enterprises provides a ray of hope and equal opportunity to all.

Therefore, considering the overall value created by Recruitment, how many lives it is going to touch and influence on business decisions, we decided to remodel our drives despite of multiple challenges and unpredictability. That decision enables us in addressing business needs by filling all the critical vacancies, and projecting an organization synonymous with stability credibility that provides opportunity to new talent in difficult times. We also addresses the fears and anxiety of applicants through various communication channels related to recruitment process. In FY 20-21, HPCL hired more than 300 new officers and not even a single advertised position was deferred or cancelled in-between due to COVID-19 pandemic.


Resilience[iv] is the ability to withstand, adapt, and thrive in the face of shocks that are internal and external, as well as known and unanticipated.

As per existing practice, a centralized team managed both strategical and operational activities of the Talent Acquisitiont process. Post COVID-19, the same models were not feasible due to various constraints like travelling restrictions, social distancing, geographical spread of talent pool, different situations in each states etc. To continue our recruitment cycle, we modified our processes and carried out activities as planned without any major challenges. The processes and new initiatives, which were experimented, are mentioned below.

  1. Re-skill, Re-organized Re-energized: As situation demands, evolution was the only solution. We shifted our processes from Centralized to decentralized locations depending upon the complexity, replicability, strategic decision-making process etc. We reskilled our employees at decentralized locations and increased their competency in Recruitment areas by conducting knowledge transfer sessions and hands-on sessions. In addition, whole team worked in a synchronous motion during this time that ultimately re-energized our teams and provided a collaborative environment resulting in seamless completion of all the activities without any bottlenecks.
  2. Flexible Decentralized Onboarding: Joining-cum-onboarding was planned in a decentralized manner. Various factors like geographical proximity from hometown/ assignment location, inter/intra-state movement, Covid-19 surge, local guidelines etc. of new hires were considered. Individual one-on-one HR buddies were assigned to each of the new hires to address their fears, anxieties and provide a continuous support until they feel comfortable in organization.


Agility[v] is the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment. It is combination of stability dynamism. The more fast and nimble we will be in our processes and systems, the better we can handle the situations like COVID-19. We have taken various strategic decisions and initiatives to build a robust system driven recruitment, .:

  1. Fast Decision Making/Approvals: Immediately post COVOD-19, we studied the possible outcomes and recovery models in alignment with global studies. Accordingly, we modified our existing Talent Acquisition process swiftly and developed new ways to conduct the hiring process ; example conducting interviews through virtual platforms at HPCL locations, modifying shortlisting methodologies, decentralized remote onboardingand joining.


  1. Digital Transformation Push: Covid-19 has pushed digital transformation manifold globally and we leveraged various digital initiatives critical to the success of recruitment in current situation. We have developed an online documentation verification portal and currently all the documents are reviewed and verified through it, thereby limiting the presence of new hires physically. Also, in future with the help of this portal e-Employee folders will be created thereby limiting physical documentation.

In addition, we have moved to virtual platforms for conducting interviews wherein the selection committee and applicants will be connected using digital platform and evaluation and assessment is done virtually.

Further to continuous upgrade and increase our digital quotient, we are continuously taking 360-degree feedback from all our stakeholders' i.e. applicants, new hires, HR facilitators, selection committee, psychologists etc. for each of the stages.

  1. Blessing in Disguise – My HP Dost

Onboarding of new hires is highly sensitive and critical in nature especially in pandemic times. In order to address the apprehensions and anxiety amongst the new hires, we created a Covid19 Response Team and mapped each of the new hires with a single point of contact (SPOC's). COVID appropriate behavior related guidelines were issued to all the new hires and with the help of the response team, regular support was provided to all the new hires related to accommodation, movement, e-passes, medical emergency etc.

Embracing the Change

With this article we have highlighted the innovative approach adopted by HPCL Talent Acquisition team to continue its zeal to hire the best talent of the nation.

However, the impact of COVID-19 is still unknown and unpredictable, one thing is certain that this is the Next Normal in Talent Acquisition and we have to embrace ourselves for continuous change. Each organization is different and working models differs from context to context. Some models may work for one and may not work for other organization. However, collectively our focus should be towards the preparing for the future. Towards the end, it can be saif that the model defined above was able to deliver the desired results in a short span of time. More incremental changes will help us evolve the Talent Acquisition Ecosystem into a more robust and agile function.


[i] Kevin Sneader, Shubham Singhal (March 23, 2020). Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/beyond-coronavirus-the-path-to-the-next-normal#:~:text=It%20is%20increasingly%20clear%20our,in%20which%20business%20and%20society

[ii] Marcia Mogelonsky (June 9, 2020). THE 'NEXT NORMAL' IS NOW. https://www.mintel.com/blog/consumer-market-news/the-next-normal-is-now

[iii] Kevin Sneader, Shubham Singhal (January 4, 2021). The next normal arrives: Trends that will define 2021—and beyond. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond

[iv] Business Resilience (2021).https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/business-resilience ;


[v] Wouter Aghina,Aaron De Smet, Monica Murarka Luke Collins(December 1, 2015).The keys to organizational agility. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-keys-to-organizational-agility#:~:text=Defining%20organizational%20agility,requires%20stability%20for%20most%20companies.


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