We never saw it coming—the pandemic that threw the world of work off-kilter. Layoffs, furloughs, expanded or newly enforced remote work, mass family and medical leave, new regulations, and more. It’s been quite the challenge for business in general, but HR has been particularly hard hit. As the department with responsibility for employees, HR has had to rise to meet the challenge and help employees manage the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
As businesses closed due to stay-at-home restrictions, a financial crisis loomed from the lack of revenue. Some organizations didn’t survive the closures and have had to pack up shop permanently. Others have managed to stay afloat but unfortunately had to temporarily let workers go. This has led to millions of people losing the jobs they depend on to take care of their families and pay their bills, and others seeing reduced hours or shift opportunities. At one point, unemployment was at the highest rate it has been since the Great Depression.
Eventually, the countless jobs that were lost will have to be filled again as COVID-19 becomes less and less of a health threat. It may not be next week or next month, but at some point, employment will rise to its pre-coronavirus state and the economy will boom again. And that’s the point in time HR leaders need to prepare for. As organizations recover and begin to welcome millions of workers again, being ready for them is an important part of your recruitment strategy.
COVID-19 forced changes to the recruitment process for those who were still hiring. While many companies had to lay off workers, others had to hire hundreds if not thousands to meet high demand. With social distancing in place, companies needed to adapt and change their recruiting processes to maintain health and safety standards. The way we work will continue to evolve and organizations must be proactive and plan now for the future of recruiting.
Win Back Your People
Before you think about hiring new employees, you should focus on retaining your current ones: re-recruit them. They are the backbone of your organization and you need them now more than ever to help your business move forward. So, it is important to maintain a first-class, people-centric culture (or focus on building one) to reduce the risk of employees fleeing for better opportunities when the economy kickstarts and it’s a candidate market again. Consider and take action on initiatives that your employees value and that would encourage them to stay. The goal is to not only keep them on board immediately after the pandemic, but to set a positive precedent for the future.
The way you take care of your people (or not) during the COVID-19 crisis will have a major impact on their desire to stay or leave.
Did you accommodate parents who had childcare issues? Did you improve health and safety conditions for essential employees? Did you provide sick workers with paid leave? What about adequate medical coverage for doctor’s visits and medicine? All these factors will affect your people’s feelings about your company. If they don’t feel cared for and supported during the crisis, then you might face a problem of increased turnover, which is a heavy cost to your business. In fact, the cost of turnover can be 33% of the employee’s salary, including advertising fees, interview costs, training new hires, etc.1 That adds up to a lot of money over time which could be better spent on developing the business.
Transparency and openness are key to keeping employees on board.2 As in any relationship, trust is critical, and your workers need to be able to trust you to do what’s best for them; that means “keeping it real” about the status of the organization. Don’t leave them in the dark about things like financial standings, potential layoffs/furloughs, or plans for the future. These are difficult conversations to have, but it’s necessary to be authentic as your people will be grateful for and appreciative of your honesty. Education can motivate your workforce to stick with you through the good and bad times.
Another crucial aspect of employee retention is your benefits and perks package. The pandemic brought benefits such as paid leave and perks like remote work into the forefront. Countless workers didn’t have enough paid leave to either recover from sickness or take care of children/sick relatives at home. Remote work became mandatory for many due to stay-at-home restrictions, but will you continue to support it once operations resume at a “normal” level? If you still have doubts about remote work, learn how remote workers can be even more likely to thrive than their in-office colleagues. Benefits demonstrate to your employees how much your care for and value them, and they are an important part of keeping your people happy. Having standout benefits instills loyalty in your employees and helps them take care of medical and familial needs, which are particularly helpful during times of intense stress or uncertainty. Now is a good time to review your benefits and perks, and determine what can be improved to keep your current employees on the roster as you head toward the future of work. Think out-of-the-box benefits to help retain (and attract) top talent.
Showing your employees you appreciate their work and their being a part of your company goes a long way. The current crisis may have likely caused them a lot of stress (more than usual) but if your people continued to show up and do great work, they deserve kudos. Failing to recognize their efforts could make your brand as an employer seem insensitive and uncaring. The challenges of the pandemic may have caused your people to re-examine why they chose to join your company in the first place, so be sure to express your gratitude and remind them that they are needed—before they consider jumping ship.
Prioritize Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Belonging
Diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (DIEB) are hot topics these days. If you are not placing emphasis on ensuring DIEB is a key part of your culture, you risk being left behind and losing out on current and potential top talent. Millennials, the largest generation in the modern workforce3, are keenly paying attention to the companies that focus on diversity and inclusion.4 In a survey of millennials by Deloitte, 69% said they would be more likely to stay at a diverse organization for more than five years.5 This trend continues when examining younger, Generation Z employees, who also place a substantial emphasis on diversity and inclusion when considering potential employers.6 Diversity even has a direct effect on your bottom line. Companies that are diverse in gender are more likely to perform 15% better, while companies that are ethnically diverse are more likely to perform 35% better.7
A commitment to DIEB starts at the top. Leaders must establish the importance of DIEB to the organization and ensure it is ingrained into the culture. This means, for example, hiring more women and minority people for leadership positions, creating a safe place to work for the LGBTQ community, making accessibility accommodations for the differently abled, paying people equally for the same jobs despite their gender, ethnicity, age, and/or disability status. When people feel accepted, valued, and comfortable in their workplace, they perform better, as individuals and in teams. Furthermore, they share more ideas and perspectives, which improves innovation. Foster a sense of belonging in your organization to help employees achieve their full potential, which leads to further success for your business.
Establish and adequately resource an office dedicated to diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.
Invest in DIEB throughout the employee lifecycle, starting from recruiting. This is important because it’s not only employees and potential hires who are looking at your DIEB policies, but also the media, customers, competitors, suppliers, and even investors, making it a fundamental component of your employer brand. A good place to start if you’re at ground zero is to conduct a survey of your employees to gauge their feelings on the subject and take action as necessary. Their feedback could lead to creating a better working environment for them and those to come. And, if you haven’t already, establish and adequately resource an office dedicated to DIEB that can take the reins, alongside leadership, on integrating these values into your company culture. Whatever course of action you take, be sure to set goals, measure progress, and share them with your workforce so they can see efforts are being made. The benefits of DIEB are manifold, and you only stand to gain by attracting, retaining, and empowering the best mix of talent. Make DIEB an inherent part of your culture for today and the years to come.
Technology is Your Not-So-Secret Weapon
It should come as no surprise that technology should be at the top of your list when preparing for the future of work. It’s a poignant lesson from the pandemic; millions of employees suddenly had to work from home, which meant that HR (and IT) had to quickly pivot to make this happen. Those who did not have a remote work policy prior to the crisis likely found themselves scrambling to make it the go-to mode of work. So, not only will remote work be a helpful advantage as we move forward, but it will be a necessity for many. Adapt your technology to accommodate remote work on a large-scale, long-term basis.
The pandemic made a strong case for the role of technology in the interviewing process and can be a model for the future of recruiting, particularly for global organizations. Social distancing restrictions forced recruiters and hiring managers to conduct video interviews, and there may be merit in maintaining this type of interview in the future. If more people will be working virtually, virtual interviewing and onboarding may become a standard expectation. Apply video conferencing technology that may already be used internally, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet, to the interview process. As you continue to conduct video interviews, take note of the strengths and weaknesses of the process to improve it for the future.
Having an engaging mobile application for HR that gives your people on-the-go access to their information is integral to your business strategies.
Human capital management (HCM) tools can make life much easier for your HR teams and for your future employees. HCM puts information your workforce needs at their fingertips. Whether it’s applying for leave, accessing pay information, enrolling in medical plans, managing employee performance, taking a training course, or conducting employee surveys, HR technology is way of the future. And considering the consistent growth of mobile technology, having an engaging mobile application for HR that gives your people on-the-go access to their information is integral to your business strategies. For companies that had a paper-based HR process, the COVID-19 crisis would have turned their HR upside-down. With a first-class HCM solution, you can save everyone the hassle and improve efficiency across HR processes. Another benefit of HCM tools is productivity, as your people save time and energy ordinarily spent on administrative processes that they can instead use on working strategically and innovating. An investment in HR technology attracts top talent to your organization.
Employee engagement is a significant part of your company’s success and it is directly affected by the employee experience. Leverage HR technology to simplify, automate, and evaluate all the parts of the employee journey, from recruitment to retirement. Start with a people-first applicant tracking system (ATS) because it sets the tone for the entire employee experience. Having the right ATS partner can help you prepare for changes in the job market and adjust as necessary, without disrupting your business. Next, HR technology should be used to structure and streamline the onboarding process because it is at this time that new hires begin to see and understand your company culture. Delivering an online onboarding experience reduces stress for both your HR professionals and your new recruits by efficiently providing employees all the information they need, while allowing them to easily share information that HR requires. From day one, technology can influence employee engagement so you would be doing your business an injustice to disregard it.
To put it simply, cloud-based HCM is key to your future recruitment strategy. Traditional HR methods do not have the adaptability that HCM solutions boast to be able to meet your changing recruitment needs.
Plan for the Next Crisis
When you hear about crisis management, you probably think about responding to a current event that disrupts or poses a threat to your business and its stakeholders, and that’s what the COVID-19 pandemic is. But crisis management is also about planning for future crises, because as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Don’t set your company up for failure by ignoring the need to plan for the next era of work. This pandemic isn’t the world’s first crisis to affect employers and it certainly won’t be the last.
While we haven’t experienced something with effects this large and widespread for a long time, it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen soon again. But you can plan for a future crisis by learning from the current one. What pitfalls did you discover in your recruitment strategy? How quickly was your organization able to adapt to online recruiting? Was your existing technology able to meet the new demands of recruiting? We are still experiencing the effects of COVID-19 at work, but now is the right time to begin evaluating your response to the crisis. Conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis of your recruitment response since the crisis began and note developments and problems that might have occurred along the way. An in-depth look at your past and present processes can help you strategize for better, more resilient recruiting in the future.
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