By: Gisele Cloutier on May 5th, 2020

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How to Address Unique Recruiting Problems During Challenging Times

Talent Acquisition

Hiring Freeze Vs. Hiring Ramp Up - What's Your Hiring Challenge?

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing wide-scale lockdowns have turned the business world on its head. Organizations large and small are facing new challenges they may never have seen coming. Some, like Amazon, Walmart and CVS, are having to surge their recruiting to unprecedented levels and scale up at a pace rarely seen before. Others, especially smaller companies and those in hard-hit sectors such as hospitality and travel, have had to lay off or furlough many employees, and may understandably not be thinking much about recruiting right now.

Whether your challenge is to freeze hiring or turbo-charge it, these unique times call for creative solutions.

If you are thinking of freezing your hiring

Faced with enormous uncertainty and financial trials, many companies have been forced to lay off employees; recruiting fresh talent certainly is not top of mind for them. Nonetheless, one day this unprecedented situation will be behind us. The question to ask is this: post-COVID, will the fundamental need for talent truly go away? Or is it just on hold?

As I pointed out in a recent blog, it’s typically much harder to restart a train from a dead stop. Halting all recruiting operations cold may cause more harm than good, especially for companies with hard-to-find talent needs or big workforces, when the worst is behind us and a company suddenly needs new talent again. Some things to consider:

  • Take a fresh look at the people you already have. Rather than simply ‘cutting by the numbers,’ are there employees who, with some upskilling and training, could be redeployed to other roles or teams in your company? Do your existing job descriptions for those other roles still need to be so exacting (e.g., is a bachelor’s degree actually necessary or is that just a traditional requirement?) if it means saving a loyal employee who would otherwise be lost?
  • Some companies are upskilling employees to help them survive a coming layoff. Think of it as a new twist on outplacement services – and one with a big payoff for your employer brand. You may not have been able to keep those talented employees, but by helping them land on their feet elsewhere, you can create enormous goodwill toward your organization in their talent marketplaces.
  • Use this hiatus wisely to build a pipeline of passive candidates (meaning people who have not applied for a position yet but, could be good future candidates for your company.) The new talent you would otherwise want is still out there. Identifying them, building relationships with them, tracking their career progress during this tough time, and protecting your employer brand is critical.
  • Make sure your applicant tracking system (ATS) can handle passive candidates, not just active applicants. Not all do; some require contact information such as phone and email address, which you may not have yet with passive candidates.
  • Take this time to upskill your recruiting team on how to find, source and woo passive talent.
  • Keep the employer brand positive: For candidates, you might have hired by now but had to put on hold due to a hiring freeze, there are ways to keep those talented people “warm,” as recruiters say. Keep in communication, be honest about the reasons for the pause, let them know you still find them valuable and you want to keep in touch. Many would-be candidates, especially in the younger generation, place a bigger emphasis on company culture when thinking about changing jobs. There are ways to keep your employer brand front-of-mind and illustrate your culture to these ‘candidates in the wings,’ such as including them on virtual team fun events (with the team’s permission) like virtual coffee hours and brown-bags.

If you can’t hire enough people right now…

Recent reports indicate a huge spike in hiring in certain sectors, and companies like Amazon (100,000 new hires needed), CVS Health (50,000) and Pizza Hut (30,000) are having to get quite creative to meet the surging need for fresh talent. Yahoo Finance reports, “employment categories currently seeing a surge in hiring include grocery stores, food delivery services, package delivery drivers, freight trucking, cleaning services, call centers, e-commerce warehouses and logistics, nursing homes, online tutors, manufacturers of popular shelf-stable food products, pharmacies and security services.” And they need them right away.

This represents a whole different challenge to companies’ Talent Acquisition professionals. Some solutions include:

  • Streamlining traditional recruiting processes: take a good, hard look at all the steps you’ve been using. Do you really need three rounds of interviews? If some steps in the background check can’t be done (e.g., no access to the court's system), can those steps be delayed and an offer made contingent upon a satisfactory outcome once it is possible to complete those steps?
  • Look at non-traditional sources of people by breaking down core skill sets and thinking about what other industries or sectors might have employed people with them. Someone who has been laid off from a restaurant could redeploy skills like customer service, attention to detail and courtesy, as a delivery driver or call center employee.
  • Talk to others in hard-hit sectors about doing some joint workforce planning: is this an opportunity to help them help their laid-off employees while helping you keep your deal with the surge in demand in your own company?
  • Bring in extra recruiting talent to help handle the surge, such as Helios HR’s RPO recruiters. They are adept at stepping in and quickly getting up to speed on your surge recruiting needs (and can also help you streamline your processes, improve your ATS technology and help you create new recruiting strategies.)
  • Stay calm and plan ahead as best you can, don’t just be reactionary. Yes, there are risks to moving fast, streamlining, or even skipping steps. This is a risky time! Your actions and plans might not be picture-perfect, but it’s what you’ve got in this once-in-a-lifetime business situation.

It’s an exhilarating, and yes, even nerve-wracking time to be in business right now. Whether your organization is shrinking or growing, Talent Acquisition has an important role to play, in preserving your employer brand, in preparing your organization for post-COVID hiring and handling either an upswing or decline in hiring. Because this too shall pass!