How to Re-Recruit Your Workforce Amid COVID-19

With layoffs and hiring freezes due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a strange time for recruiting. But the best employer brand professionals understand that their job is not just to recruit talent but to help retain it. 

With COVID-19, employees are facing new challenges — from working remotely to juggling work and child care to feeling isolated and uncertain about the future. It’s a recipe for burnout and unhappiness. 

If you’re not careful, as the world reopens and companies start rehiring, your company could soon be bleeding talent. You need to be proactive and re-recruit your workforce before that happens. 

The Realities of Your Company

Given the impacts of COVID-19, the way we treat each other at work has become the most valuable currency in the world.

The way you take care of your people will define your reputation for years to come, both as an employer brand and as a consumer brand. If you want to attract and retain talent and survive as a company, you must adopt a people-first culture, with a focus on the safety and wellbeing of your people.

Obviously, you don’t have complete control over all of your organization’s actions. And if your employees don’t feel supported and cared for by your organization, nothing you say will change that. Pretending the company is acting in a way it isn’t will only cause your re-recruitment strategies to fall flat. 

However, you do have control over how you communicate the realities of working at your company, and you can shift the focus to the positive. The smallest things can make the biggest differences, and often, the things people appreciate and value the most come not from the business, but from coworkers. 

It’s a great time to take pride in your people. Sharing stories about your team and the culture that support how you are treating one another is a great strategy to re-recruit your workforce. 

That said, let’s dive in and unpack three key re-recruitment strategies so you can win back your workforce before it’s too late.

1. Educate: Be Vulnerable and Authentic

With so much uncertainty due to COVID-19, including a possible second wave, employees crave transparency. Don’t leave them in the dark about what’s going on with your company. Educate them.

The key is to be vulnerable and authentic. Don’t sugarcoat or shy away from difficult conversations. People can be very understanding as long as you are open, honest, and respectful.

For example, when Airbnb had to lay off 25% of its workforce, CEO Brian Chesky wrote a letter that walked through the step-by-step thinking of that choice. He was open about the challenges the company was facing and the difficulty of making that decision. 

Layoffs tend to be disastrous for employee morale and employer brand, but because Chesky was vulnerable and authentic, Airbnb’s brand sentiment went sky-high on social media immediately after the news hit. 

Of course, the letter alone wouldn’t have been enough. Remember that treating your people well is a prerequisite. In Airbnb’s case, the company gave all laid-off employees several months of pay and ensured that they would still have health insurance for a year.

By educating your workforce (and treating them well), you can inspire them to recommit to your company and protect your brand’s reputation during a time of uncertainty.

2. Motivate: Tap Into Purpose

Employees are facing a great deal of adversity at work right now, and they need to know why the struggle is worth it. Now is the time to remind them why their work matters. 

Due to COVID-19, the things that matter most to people at work are changing. People may start to place more value on a company’s stability, safety, and virtual adaptability. So think about which of these your organization can tap into to demonstrate purpose in a new way.

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As an example, many businesses are updating their HVAC systems to have purified air. One HVAC company we’re familiar with has thus re-crafted its purpose around “ensuring the safety of the air you breathe.” That’s the kind of purpose that can galvanize your workforce around why their work has never mattered more.

Another example is Gallo, one of the biggest wine distributors in the world, which has been manufacturing hand sanitizer in response to the pandemic. A video series showing the winemakers producing hand sanitizer would be a great motivational tool to build employees’ pride in the company and highlight the positive impact they are having by working there.

Look for similar stories of purpose within your company, and share them with your employees to motivate them and remind them why they want to work at your organization.

3. Celebrate: Show Your Appreciation

People want to feel appreciated, so take the time and energy to celebrate your people. 

Celebration is especially important right now. Every employee-company relationship is a balance of give (what an employee must be prepared to provide, commit, or sacrifice) and get (what an employee can expect in return). With the challenges of COVID-19, employees are being asked to give more in every area of their life. If that effort goes unrecognized at work, it runs the risk of coming off insensitive or out-of-touch — and a huge missed opportunity to re-engage your workforce. 

As an example of celebration in action, Ph.Creative recently gave everyone a day to simply recharge. Employees were invited to post to the company’s social media channel showing how they spent their day off. There were videos of people dancing with their kids or exercising and pictures of homemade meals and knitting projects. The posts brought a smile to everyone’s face and helped bring the workforce together with a sense of belonging and community.

Celebrations like this can galvanize your workforce, reminding them why they love working at your company. 

Win Back Your People

At some point, every person in your company made the choice to be there. But with time, and the challenges caused by the pandemic, they may have lost sight of what they liked about your organization in the first place. Previously dedicated employees could now be exploring other options.

Don’t let good talent get away. You succeeded in recruiting them once, and with a people-first mindset and a focus on educating, motivating, and celebrating, you can do it again. 

So get out there and win back your people!

Bryan Adams is the international best-selling author of Give & Get Employer Branding. He is also the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a leading employer brand agency that specializes in building world-class employer brand, EVP, and talent engagement strategy for companies such as Apple, American Airlines, GVC, and Blizzard Entertainment.

An employer brand thought leader and speaker, Bryan's aims to change the way people think about employer branding and EVP through unconventional and even controversial methodologies.

Charlotte Marshall is the global employer brand lead at Danaher Corporation. She was also named the 2019-2020 Employer Brand Leader of the Year and has successfully built and launched five Fortune 500 employer brands.

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