When Businesses Reopen, Be Ready to Hire Fast

By John Egan April 16, 2020
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​Saying the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted workplaces is like saying hurricanes can be destructive.

A global survey by HR consulting firm Mercer shows that as of early April, 68 percent of companies had closed offices amid the pandemic, and 63 percent had instituted some type of hiring freeze. Less than 6 percent of companies had laid off employees, but, as of April 16, more than 22 million people had filed unemployment claims in the U.S.

Until the coronavirus pandemic diminishes, those offices are likely to remain closed, hiring freezes are likely to stay in place, and more layoffs are likely to occur. But once the pandemic eases and the business world tries to create a new normal, many employers will need to ramp up staffing—quickly and prudently.

So how do employers go from standing still on the hiring track to advancing full throttle during and after a period of unease and uncertainty? HR professionals supply the following 10 tips.

1. Figure out what the future looks like.

Before moving forward with hiring, your organization should map out what's on the horizon.

Zoe Hruby, global lead for HR solutions at planning software company Anaplan in San Franciso, suggests taking a holistic view of your business so that you can devise a strategic plan.

"HR leaders will need to anticipate what the new normal looks like for their organization once recovery begins," Hruby said. "Start by asking the right questions: 'Did my customer profile change? Is their buying behavior different? Is that change lasting or temporary? Did any of our key strategies change?' "

2. Reach out to HR partners.

Before your organization gets fully back in gear, line up staffing, background-check and technology providers, advised Tammy Cohen, SHRM-CP, founder and chief visionary officer at pre-employment screening services provider InfoMart in Atlanta.

"Staffing and background-screening companies have time to do deep dives into your processes. They can strategize and customize specific solutions to your needs," Cohen said. "Look for quick and easy technology adoption that can be implemented and initiated prior to a hiring boom."

Keca Ward, global senior director of talent experience at HR technology company Phenom in Philadelphia, said technology such as video interviews eliminates the need for face-to-face meetings and can make an impression on job candidates.

3. Enhance your recruitment technology.

Ahead of a post-crisis hiring surge, Ward said, your organization should consider preparatory measures:

  • Create a dedicated careers website if you don't already have one.
  • Install a chatbot to automate the application process and answer frequently asked questions. Phenom research finds that a chatbot on a careers site leads to 40 percent more completed job applications than a site without a chatbot receives.
  • Add customer relationship management software to maintain and engage your talent pipeline.

4. Examine the roles.

Tammy Perkins, chief people officer at Seattle's PMI Worldwide, which makes Stanley and Aladdin food and beverage containers, recommended addressing these questions for every position that's being filled:

  • Is the role critical?
  • How does the role affect the organization's strategy?
  • Does the role require special skills or expertise?

"The priority must be to get the best people for these positions, either internally or externally, to ramp quickly," Perkins said.

5. Update your job descriptions.

Brandi Britton, district president at staffing firm Robert Half Los Angeles, said if your job descriptions have been gathering dust, it's time to clean them up. Get them updated and ready to use before your organization cranks up hiring. Be sure to solicit feedback from managers about whether job duties or requirements have changed since the job descriptions were written, she says.

6. Mix up your recruitment methods.

In the past, your company might have relied primarily on online job listings to attract applicants. Perhaps now is the time to enlarge your pipeline by experimenting with methods such as seeking LinkedIn referrals and spreading the word through professional associations, Britton suggested.

7. Keep lines of communication open.

Nurture talent prospects by supplying regular updates about hiring, Phenom People's Ward advised.

"It's about honest transparency," she said. "Tell your candidates if you're in a hiring freeze because of COVID-19, but continue to engage them so your employer brand stays top of mind when you start recruiting again. They'll appreciate the established rapport when you do finally meet in person once this pandemic subsides."

8. Look inside.

Before you pursue external candidates, explore your workplace for internal candidates, Perkins suggested. A current employee could, for instance, step into an existing spot that was vacated by a laid-off worker who decided not to return.

"Use mentoring and sponsorship to attract and keep diverse talent," Perkins said. "Establish a diverse bench for leadership roles."

9. Tap into your pool of recent retirees.

Need to fill positions rapidly? If so, you might look to trusted employees who've recently retired.

Wanda Gravett, academic program coordinator for Walden University's online master's program in HR management, says one advantage of bringing back retirees is that they know your organization well. Some of these former employees (particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic climate) might welcome the opportunity to return to the workforce.

10. Act fast.

Once you jump-start the hiring process, move swiftly to extend offers after you've identified the right candidates, Britton said. Otherwise, you risk losing them to your competitors.

Additionally, respond promptly to inquiries from job candidates, she added. "Applicants can lose interest in a position and the company overall if they're kept waiting."

John Egan is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.

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