With this time away from the physical office, I’ve thought a lot about the world of work and how it has changed completely overnight. It’s as if we were suddenly thrust into a world that we had only previously seen on television and all we know for certain these days is that the world as we knew it will never be the same.

As a talent acquisition professional, I was used to the traditional corporate-America grind: commuting to the office every day, many meetings, logging long hours, commuting home, rinse and repeat. Largely, that is also the experience we were selling our prospective employees and contingent workers as well — but of course with amazing benefits (where relevant), a fabulous culture, innovative projects and fantastic perks! Now, many of us still don’t have a commute and we are in essence marketing a virtual workplace and talent experience.

The exposed flaws. The virtual environment has essentially served as a full-length magnifying mirror – showing us the best in ourselves but also exposing our flaws. Many of the hairline cracks in our infrastructure and process foundations — those cracks that we used to step over promising to address at a later date, such as system integrations, broken workflows, resource limitations, etc. — are now wholly exposed. Not to mention those completely unforeseen challenges that literally no one has faced before. From scrambling to develop virtual onboarding and offboarding to navigating online interviews and creative equipment distribution, we have been continually on our toes. Layer on top of that virtual teambuilding, employee development, and cultivating a company culture, and suddenly retention also becomes a challenge earlier in the lifecycle than we would typically think.

Take inventory. So now that we’ve all seen ourselves in the mirror, it’s time to take inventory. And this is where you as staffing suppliers can step in and provide your own perspective. Top of mind for me is the way the pandemic has and will alter our talent acquisition strategies and overall working culture. This is the time to ask the hard — and sometimes vulnerable — questions, like what is working for you and your business in current state and what is not? How and where has performance suffered or strengthened? Has the pandemic altered job descriptions or led to the creation/dissolution of certain roles? Have you been able to attract a more diverse workforce given that virtual work is the norm? If not, why? Have you had to alter the strategic goals of the organization and how might you prevent having to do so in the future? Do you have any concerns in retaining or attracting talent once physical company locations are reopened? Odds are unless you were a predominant virtual workplace prior to the pandemic, you have testimony that spans the spectrum of success and failure. This is data to be learned from and not swept under the rug as an aberration!

Contingents. From the contingent perspective, virtual work has allowed our company to attract candidates that would have previously turned us down due to our lack of remote options. Our suppliers are able to expand their search area beyond our commuting radius. Many of those managers who did not trust virtual work before are now some of its biggest advocates. Yet we have also struggled with remote communication, noticed gaps in documentation and SOPs, seen a slight uptick in contingent workers feeling disconnected from their employer of record, and at times failed to establish relationships with teammates we’ve never met in person. I am not sure any of these experiences are unique to my organization, but it is all valuable data as we determine who we are and how we do business moving forward as a result of Covid-19.

“What we’ve always done” is out the window and we are now faced with many challenges, questions and lessons. But let us not lose sight of the opportunity we have also been presented. Get excited about the freedom you have to shape your image into something better than ever before!