Where Have All The People Gone?

William J. Wiggins Communication, COVID-19, Recruiting, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Telecommuting

Just months ago, I was sitting around the conference room table with my recruiting team. With coffee in hand, we went about our daily huddles, check-ins, shifting of the work when necessary, celebrating our victories and constantly strategizing about how to draw top talent. Before the virus that conference room was the gathering spot for some of the world’s best and brightest HR talent; and birthplace of the greatest innovations west of the Mississippi. The buzz and excitement that once filled that room is now gone – the office, frozen in time, now filled only with constant white noise of the HVAC system.

It’s time to admit it folks, the coronavirus outbreak has overnight turned the remote workforce into the new reality. If you, like me, have been holding out with fingers crossed for the return of days gone by, it’s time to get real, and start advising your organizations that now would be the time to start investing in digital tools to pivot your HR and recruitment strategies.

What have we learned?
The virus revealed the need for technologies that support a remote workforce environment; needs that were previously misunderstood, or undervalued. Overnight our organizations have had to re-evaluate their talent acquisition and talent management processes which has forced many recruiters to rely heavily on virtual interviewing technology to stay connected their hiring managers and potential candidates. In-person interviews, conference calls and standard face-to-face meetings have now gone almost completely online which forced HR teams and hiring managers to leverage the technology at their disposal.

While tools like Skype, Zoom or GoToMeeting are good in a pinch, they weren’t actually designed for interviewing, but more for video conferencing. As a result, HR technology such as virtual interviewing solutions have become more critical in providing recruiters with the tools needed to complete a quality interview that results in a positive candidate experience. Web conferencing systems might do for now, but ultimately organizations will benefit more from the targeted functionality in video interviewing platforms.

It’s OK to use technology to communicate
Technology is a key aspect that can help all teams, (particularly HR teams) manage communications, collaboration, and shift processes to efficiently manage current talent pools. In an environment of constant change (i.e. staff furloughs, office closures, daily health and safety updates, etc.), technology is also key in facilitating cross-team communication and organization-wide functionality. While nothing replaces human interaction, during these challenging times, technology could prove to be a healthier and more efficient choice particularly with a scattered workforce.

It’s time to invest in remote working tools
Working from home is no longer a matter of convenience. It’s literally a matter of life and death. Unnecessary commuting and congregating in a confined office space can increase the risk of exposure. However, a surprising number of organizations still operated under the notion that if employees aren’t visible, they aren’t working. As a result, they were caught off guard with no idea how to manage a remote workforce efficiently when faced with the recent worldwide pandemic leaving their employees quite literally “exposed”. So how can you support your organization its talent in being more efficient and remaining fit for duty?

Trust in the talent you’ve invested in. Allow your employees to work from home. It has actually been proven to be more productive. Also, social distancing being put in place as early as possible can be critical in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

Stay connected. Out of sight is not out of mind. Be sure you’re checking in on employees not just in managing the work but also to make sure they’re safe; and take the lead in establishing guidelines, expectations and best practices for working from home.

Ensure all employees are equipped to work from home and have met the correct safety criteria to do so. This will show employees you support them in their concerns about their personal safety and it allows those who have been exposed to the virus, but aren’t unwell, to work while in self-quarantine.

What’s your re-opening strategy?
Companies will re-open as quickly as they closed their doors, which could result in unprecedented recruitment activity. If your organization, like many others, is struggling today, keep in mind that this crisis will eventually end and you will find yourself in need of a re-opening strategy. Talent Acquisition teams are already seeing a shift in candidates from struggling industries (i.e. food service, hospitality) gravitating towards markets that have continued to thrive, markets that they would not have otherwise considered or been considered for employment (i.e. grocery, work from home roles, and healthcare).

In conclusion
Be progressive, be mindful, thoughtful and respectful of your employees’ personal health and safety. How you treat them now will impact how they view the organization after this crisis is over.