The new coronavirus is quickly changing the way current employees work. Some 88% of organizations have encouraged or required their employees to work from home, and an unprecedented number of workers have found themselves out of the job, as well. This has given rise to a major shift to remote work and led many companies to rethink their workplace culture and processes.
Here’s a look at what companies are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, to serve as a guide for HR professionals looking to make a similar transition successfully at their own companies.
Assessing the Current Situation Caused by COVID-19
Things have changed quickly but drastically — here’s how companies and their hiring needs are currently changing.
1) Shifting to Remote Work
For many, working remotely was never a widespread realistic option until now. Companies relied on in-office workers and never thought to plan for an emergency such as this. Consequently, many businesses were caught off-guard and left scrambling to create a system to support working from home.
The good news is, even if you didn’t have any contingency plan before, there’s still a chance to create one now and transition your team to life online.
After your CEO or manager has established expectations for the team and assigned roles, it’s time to set everyone up with software which they can use to collaborate and communicate. You should also employ cloud services to protect everyone’s safety online and ensure all data is stored in the cloud. This way, when employees return to the office or otherwise change venues, their work will be right there waiting for them.
2) Redistributing Responsibilities
Shifting your team to working remotely may reveal who is most effective in certain roles. For instance, you may have had a team of 10 people dedicated to developing marketing strategies. However, you may find that a team of five could accomplish the same amount of work without sacrificing quality. In this case, the boss may decide to let go of the least-productive employees or the ones who contribute the least.
Or, they might decide to keep them and reassign them a different role within the company. Now that everyone is working remotely, you may need someone to organize and report on virtual meetings or gather other process data. They might also be a better fit for IT and ensuring everyone’s software and the cloud system are running smoothly. Once the pandemic lifts, they may continue to fill these roles within the office.
3) Revising Company Policies
With no definite end to the pandemic in sight, many companies are beginning to let employees go or completely close their doors. This is especially true of small businesses and the service, travel, and hospitality industries. However, if your company is thriving right now or working remotely, you may want to reassess your company policies.
For example, Starbucks will offer catastrophe pay to employees affected by COVID-19 for up to 14 days. You might add more paid leave to your time off policy as well so that people who are infected or attending to infected loved ones can stay home. Consider maintaining this policy in the future if you don’t already offer paid leave. This will provide relief to many employees who may experience another emergency in the future.
4) Keeping Staff Motivated
If you’ve shortened your operating hours or cut staff members, your team may begin to lose their motivation to work — and if they’re working from home, digital distractions can send their productivity even lower. Encourage them by checking in on them periodically and asking them about their mental and physical health, as well as their families’. Continue to recognize their effort, especially in the midst of these uncertain times, and remind them that this will all end eventually, even if the situation seems dire right now.
You might also consider adding bonuses and extra benefits to further motivate your staff. Walmart plans to inspire staff to soldier on with special cash bonuses totaling $550 million. Meanwhile, Starbucks is offering free therapy to workers, allowing them access to a counselor and a myriad of self-care apps. These incentives encourage employees to maintain their loyalty to their employers and continue to work hard during the crisis.
Hiring New Staff During and After COVID-19
Whether your company has decided to implement a hiring freeze or plans to continue the hiring process, there are a few things the human resources department should be aware of.
a) Postponing the Hiring Process
Many companies within the airline, retail, and hospitality industries are suspending their hiring processes until the pandemic lifts. If you find that your business falls into this category, you must take action to ensure you don’t lose top candidates to competitors. Retain potential employees by extending free professional development opportunities and maintaining close communication with them.
Other options to retain potential candidates may include asking them to contact you before accepting another job offer. This way, you may be able to offer them a signing bonus or temporary work until you’re able to hire them. Perhaps some candidates can work remotely as a temp-to-hire-employee for the time being.
Working in their future department or simply offering their skills to whichever department needs their help will give them some cross-training and income until you can hire them to fill a full-time position.
b) Short-Term Staffing
While some companies are freezing their hiring processes, others have ramped up their staffing, recruiting, and hiring more than ever. This may include hiring permanent employees. In most cases, however, companies are looking to staff their stores with short-term employees.
For example, Walmart is hiring 150,000 temporary workers to manage their supply chain and perform stocking tasks amidst the shopping surge. These new hires are aware of their short-term status but are willing to agree to the terms, as many are in need of an income right now.
Short-term staffing offers a quick and simple solution to employee shortages while consumer demand is high. To make the process of mass temp staffing easier on your own HR department, consider outsourcing to find new candidates. Working with a staffing agency will allow you to focus on maintaining your current employee pool while simultaneously training and hiring new short-term staff.
c) Candidate Outreach
On the other hand, if you’re looking to hire permanent employees or simply don’t have the money to outsource talent right now, you may have to conduct a candidate outreach yourself. With most people avoiding in-person meetings and practicing social distancing, you’ll have to rely on online communication. This means looking for top talent using LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter. Set up a feed on which to post job openings if you have many spots to fill at once.
You might also take advantage of social media’s paid ads to increase the viewership of your job openings and attract more applicants. Ensure your social media pages rank well in Google searches related to your business. Consider hosting online events as well to encourage candidate engagement and publicize the fact that your company is still operating and hiring, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
d) Conducting Interviews
After you’ve found good candidates for the positions you’d like to fill, it’s time to begin conducting interviews.
Of course, this part of the process may look a bit different now than usual. Instead of face-to-face interviews, you’ll likely use some type of online video chat like Skype to speak with candidates. Allow potential employees access to your online calendar so they can choose an interview time that works for both of you, thereby eliminating a game of phone tag.
Alternatively, you may choose to scrap the interview process altogether in a search for hard skills. This is especially important as you search to fill remote positions that don’t necessarily require new employees to fit the company’s social culture.
Ask that candidates submit a project-based assessment to help you determine their skill level. You may even have them complete this assessment as a first step in the hiring process so as not to waste time interviewing people with good social skills but no hard skills.
e) Training and Onboarding
Whether you’re hiring to fill remote positions or in-person positions, you’ll still need to train and onboard your new employees.
To mitigate the spread of the virus, it’s best to establish online training procedures. For instance, Best Western Hotels and Resorts uses a virtual reality training platform to help front desk staff practice interpersonal communication with guests. Thus, virtual reality, as well as video chat, online training modules, and software programs, can allow you to accomplish training and onboarding new employees quickly and effectively.
As a leader in the HR department, you’re also responsible for educating managers on the importance of connecting one-on-one with onboarding employees. According to one LinkedIn study, 72% of new hires found this one component to be the most important part of their onboarding experience.
However, managers often overlook this aspect altogether, causing the departure of many new hires shortly after they’re hired. Therefore, if you want the employees you worked so hard to obtain become long-term team members, encourage managers to connect with them.
Navigating the Future After COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic is obviously shifting the way companies do business, manage their teams, and hire new staff. Once the pandemic is over, many companies may continue to implement the new systems and strategies they’re currently using. This will undoubtedly benefit organizations around the globe as they begin to recover from the black mark the virus has left on the economy.
i) Workplace Digitization
U.S.-based companies began shifting to remote work in mid-March. Now, more than twice as many people are working from home compared to the same time last year. Organizations that had never considered anything but in-office work now have systems and software to effectively facilitate remote work. This has made many companies more comfortable with the idea of taking a more digitized approach to certain tasks and possibly their entire operation.
As the pandemic lifts, you’ll undoubtedly see more organizations creating part-time or full-time remote teams. If you’re one of the many considering this new approach, you’ll enjoy many benefits including a diverse talent pool as you hire workers from across the globe. Your company may also save money as it pays for smaller office space and meets with clients virtually instead of flying or driving to speak with them.
ii) Skills-Based Hiring
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations relied on degree pedigree to determine if candidates were qualified enough for available jobs. Now, as certain industries experience surges in business, HR managers are scrambling to hire people who have skills but not necessarily a degree. Many businesses will undoubtedly continue to use this hiring strategy even after the pandemic is over. Thus, the country may experience a move towards apprenticeships and trade school models instead of four- or six-year college degrees.
As technology advances, companies will also begin to rely more heavily on machines to complete routine tasks. Humans will be left to focus on projects and tasks that require creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking. While a degree may teach some of these skills, hands-on learning and real-life problem-solving will ultimately be the most effective ways to prepare candidates to enter the future workplace.
Once you have skilled employees, your main focus then becomes retaining them and allowing them room to grow and improve.
One of the best ways to do this is to offer learning opportunities that employees can use to expand their skill sets. You might also cross-train employees so your team is multi-skilled and can easily fill positions if someone becomes ill or leaves. This way, a business can continue as usual even when there are bumps in the road.
Many companies are also investing in re-skilling employees who have been with them for an extended period of time. After a year or so of working for one company, employees can lose some of their motivation. They may even forget how to complete certain tasks if they only complete them one or two times per year.
Therefore, it’s smart to assign training modules to employees on an annual or biannual basis to help everyone brush up on their skills and knowledge.
Working Towards A Recovery Post COVID-19
As the world emerges from this crisis, business procedures and strategies have the potential to change for the better.
By reducing expenses, creating smaller, highly-skilled teams, cross-training, and investing in the growth of current employees, companies can begin to recover from this pandemic.
Moreover, adopting these new systems will undoubtedly create a more stable future for businesses across the globe.