The Day After: What Will Recruiting Look Like?

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Mar 27, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

To state the obvious, we’re in uncharted territory, my friends. Every day hour brings new announcements and changes from every level of government as we all scramble just to stay in place. Those of us in talent acquisition and HR (and the partners and vendors who support us) are sitting smack-dab in the middle. All of us are simultaneously taking care of our companies, our people, our communities, our families…and ourselves. 

I know. It’s exhausting.

Yet we’re chugging along, working to keep the lights on over the upcoming weeks as we attend to the needs of others. Some of us wonder if there will still be a need for us when the second-order effect hits us upside the head. Nevertheless, we’re persisting. 

I have faith that we’re going to get through this and come out on the other side stronger than ever and ready to kick some ass. So while fortifying myself with #isolationsnacks (gummy bears, ice-cream sandwiches, and wine), I’ve been thinking about what we’ll be facing three or six or 12 months from now.

The Roosters Will Come Home to Roost

Everyone is well aware that how they treat employees and candidates now will impact their brand and employer reputation once we move out of the pandemic era. Kindness, compassion, communication, and transparency have always been essential pieces in our toolkits. They are of critical importance now.

Organizations currently refusing to allow employees to work from home (when their job is obviously one that could be done remotely) will no longer only be at risk of being viewed as Luddites that are merely out of touch with the “future of work.” They will forevermore be viewed as the equivalent of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons

Large organizations with deep pockets and seemingly endless resources that make minimal effort to provide sick pay or job protection at this extraordinary time will never recover from a reputational hit. Just because they don’t “have to” do something (as per the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act) doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.  

What companies do (or don’t do) now is impacting — in real time like a slow-dripping faucet — the goals and to-do’s for every single employer-branding specialist in the latter part of 2020 and beyond.

Saying “No” May No Longer Be an Option

Remember all those times you had a great candidate (the superstar!) who would only accept the job if the person could work remotely? And the hiring manager said “no”? And HR said “no”? And IT said “no”?  

Guess what? The jig is up.

Your company has probably by now successfully and massively deployed employees to work from home. You’ve put together work-from-home policies, arranged for VPN access, lifted embargoes on websites, and rolled out virtual-collaboration tools. Your employees (and your future candidates) have discovered that remote work is a viable option, even though they’ve been denied before, and so you may very well find that some are reluctant to return to the office when you decide to “call them back.” 

Do you run the risk of losing top talent if you force them to return to the drudgery of a commute? Are you prepared, when hiring ramps back up, to continue saying “no” to requests for remote work? Start planning now to make your temporary remote-work policy permanent.  

Make Me an Offer

Nationwide unemployment claims are spiking by double digits. It’s not pretty, and we all know it. Hiring is still continuing, of course — especially in certain industries and for high-demand jobs — but right now most of us find ourselves thinking about layoffs and furloughs. Again, we’ll bounce back, but it will be a bumpy road. Some jobs will be gone forever due to either business closures or a wholesale loss of certain types of roles. 

But even as we’re trying to come to grips with the present state, we need to look down the road and think about how we’ll prioritize the re-integration of furloughed employees. While there may be situations where 100% of furloughed employees are asked to return, some companies may be looking at a gradual ramp-up model. If you’ll be re-introducing workers in staggered phases, what factors will you use? Seniority? Performance? Something else? 

In addition, it’s entirely likely that compensation models will be upended. While we may think that people will be content to return to a job — any job — competition may arrive from unexpected players. As companies scramble to get back to business, they may begin offering higher wages than they paid pre-pandemic. We saw this after Hurricane Katrina when numerous fast-food restaurants, desperate to re-open for business but in need of immediate workers, began offering substantially higher wages.

Call Me Maybe

Staying in touch has never been more important. In the short-term, you’ll need to think about managing the largest talent pipeline you’ve ever had. Stay in touch with your existing candidates who are momentarily trapped in the “under consideration” stage in your ATS, even if your requisitions are on hold. Check in with employees who have been laid off or furloughed. Make connections (virtual handshakes only!) with potential future candidates on LinkedIn. 

Because one day, in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be picking up the phone to make some placements. 

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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