The Right Answers Start With the Right Questions

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Apr 6, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

The virus continues to spread. The working world has moved indoors where possible. Schedules are like nothing we have seen before. The 8-5, Monday-Friday workweek is a thing of the past. Grocery store workers and delivery drivers now make more than some managers. No longer are office employees expected to sit at a desk for 40 hours a week. Instead, they are given measurable goals for which they are compensated. 

OK, we aren’t quite there yet. So where are we exactly?

We’re not in totally unprecedented times. We’ve been through recessions in the past: 2001 and 2008 come to mind. We’ve been through the cycles: It’s a candidate’s world, it’s a recruiter’s world, it’s a candidate’s world, it’s a recruiter’s world…but probably not too surprisingly, even in a candidate’s world, businesses really control the recruitment process.

We’ve been here before, kind of. Just like in 2008, the growth we’ve been in wasn’t sustainable — we were already headed for a recession. Add in a highly contagious virus for which we weren’t prepared and a corporate world slow to respond and, well, here we are. We’ve got furloughs, layoffs, more offices working remotely or alternating schedules, and a new definition of “essential workers.”

We are also seeing a lot of things changing, and I feel like there’s more togetherness than in the last recession. The recession of 2008 had a virus on its heels (H1N1), but there wasn’t a delay in action, so when it arrived in the United States, we all lined up for our vaccination and promptly forgot about it. 2008 felt like every person for themselves — we didn’t need to pull together like we did after 9/11. 

Today, we’ve got camaraderie like after 9/11, as well as the ability to connect with social media and some lessons learned from the last recession. What are we doing to do with this? I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do know that to get answers, we have to start by asking the right questions. What are they? 

Will remote work become more of a thing? We’ve had to adjust quickly to keep people at home (unless part of an essential business) and keep them working. Companies that weren’t able to let people work remotely (for whatever reason) have added different shifts, rotating days in the office. But once we are given the green light to gather again…

Will people want to go back to the office? TLNT’s editor Lance Haun offers an interesting take on this. 

Will there still be a M-F 8-5 schedule? Will we need to focus on the number of hours worked, or will we start looking at the actual work completed? We talk about productivity a lot, especially right now with work-from-home discussions, but if we shift focus to productivity instead of hours, then…

Will we compensate employees based on measures other than how many hours they can sit at a desk? To an extent, we already do, but we all know that there are plenty of managers who want to clock every movement their people make.

Will we still pay entry-level employees at minimum wage? Many of such positions are considered “essential” now, like grocery-store, food-delivery, and restaurant workers. We’ve seen some CEOs (and their leadership teams) take pay cuts to be able to give back to their employees, but we still have a huge pay gap between the haves and the have-nots. 

Will we re-evaluate what we mean by “risk”? That is, we have monetarily rewarded those who take on higher “risk” in business for a long time. But what is the real meaning of “risk”?

Will we rethink qualifications needed for roles? In the last recession, wages stagnated and qualification requirements increased. People with masters degrees were willing to take entry-level jobs because they needed the work, so we ended up changing the minimum qualifications. We also made the selection process a little more complicated so candidates could “prove” they were really interested in the position (the same reason we don’t share salary information — we want to be sure they are working for the “right” reason). And now, with unemployment rapidly increasing, it may be a while before people are back to work. Those who will be looking for work will be willing to jump through any hoops we put in place for them, but what if we took this opportunity to be better?

These questions are essential to your employer brand. What your company does now and after this crisis passes will tell people everything they need to know about your organization. Once everything goes back to “normal,” what normal do you want to end up at? You can stick with the status quo, or you can take this time to collaborate and share, learn from the past, and be better. 

Which will you choose?

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