Pandemic Recruiting

Hi! It’s your friendly neighborhood recruitment specialists from the North Bay Job Fairs.

We missed seeing all of you in May; we will miss seeing all of you in September. Of all the things we are all missing, spending time face-to-face may be the most missed. 

Of course, if you are lucky enough to be one of those businesses still operating five months into this “unprecedented time,” you probably still have recruiting needs. And the lack of face-to-face time hurts there too.  

What does the North Bay recruiting scene look like as we wrap this strange summer and creep into fall? Disrupted, to make a long story short.  

Now for the long story: 

1. The Workforce is Shifting 

Unemployment is high, and yet it is hard to find employees when you need them. What’s not adding up here? 

First, businesses have been affected in various ways during this crisis, both from industry to industry and from week to week. Many retailers took a hit early on, during Stage 1 shut-downs. But as sectors were reopened with new restrictions in place, and stores moved their inventory online, the retail industry made a bit of a come-back. Now retailers are among the top industries hiring. 

With these sorts of shifts (entertainment is suffering, but healthcare is hiring; restaurants are strapped for cash while delivery services are exploding) there can be a mismatch between open positions and available workers. Different skill sets are floating around that don’t necessarily fit with the job descriptions recruiters have in hand. 

Adding to the disruption, entire segments of the workforce are cutting back at work, switching careers or taking extended leaves of absence for reasons that range from caregiving (whether for ill family members or school-aged children) to concern for their own health.

And, of course, when workers fall ill with COVID-19 they miss weeks to months of employment and may deal with lingering problems that necessitate a change in work.  

What can companies do in response to all these overlapping shifts? How can hiring managers find employees in a sea of unfamiliar fish? 

Adapting is the name of the game in 2020, and keeping this theme in mind can help navigate the present scene. Be flexible about job requirements – focus more on soft skills and character qualities and less on experience and educational box-ticking. While you are at it, look for the same in applicants – the flexible ones will serve you best in the current climate, and if someone who spent the last five years running an event planning service is willing to manage your logistics division, that’s flexibility in action. 

2. Worker Expectations are Different 

Of course, another way to make sure you get the best possible candidates is to be an attractive employer. And that means something different now than it did a year ago! You can no longer pass yourself off as pro-worker with an onsite gym and frequent company events.  

What are workers looking for right now?  

Primarily, everyone wants to be sure that they and their loved ones stay healthy. An ideal employer will have policies in place that cover workplace hygiene, social distancing and mask-wearing. Major perks for parents and those in high-risk categories also include flexible and work-from-home options.  

Also important is a clear and sufficient sick leave policy. Workers want to know that if they or a family member gets COVID, they will not lose their job or be penalized on top of a scary health crisis. 

Of course, make sure you comply with all local, state and federal regulations on workplace matters – but wherever you can go above and beyond, you will have the advantage.  

Once you have an applicant that looks promising, what are the next steps?  

3. Virtually everything is virtual. 

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, many more interviews are being conducted over the internet, often via video conferencing platforms. There is a lot of advice out there on how to prepare for and conduct these interviews. However, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that one cannot judge a video interview using the same metrics as an in-person one. 

Just as flexibility in candidate selection is important, flexibility in interview interpretation is needed. People are not the same on video as they are in person. They can’t look you in the eye without looking away from your eyes. They can’t offer a firm handshake. Seeing oneself on a screen can be disorienting at best. Remember to give a little grace for all of these things. 

Instead, focus on things that are truly important for performing the job. Is the candidate on time? If there are problems with the technology, how do they respond and adapt? Are they prepared for the interview? Do they engage in active listening practices? How do they interact with their environment, including interrupting pets, kids or spouses? 

The next question is one of where the work is to take place. Of course, many jobs still require on-location work. But more and more jobs are remote or at least largely work-from-home.  

How can you welcome and integrate new employees when there is no new cubicle to decorate, no office tour to conduct, no meandering coworkers to introduce? Think outside the box. Can you have a welcome packet delivered to the new hire? Do you have an accessible online employee handbook?

Make sure your new orientation procedures include walk-throughs of any program or software your office uses to stay in touch, as well as those used to perform work duties.  

For on-location workers, in addition to ensuring compliance with all health regulations, make sure you offer a sense of safety and concern about employee well-being. This could include providing branded masks for staff, keeping plenty of hand sanitizer on hand, marking six-foot distances in high traffic areas and strictly enforcing face-covering protocols for customers. 

Also be sure to clarify your sick leave policies. This can offer peace of mind like nothing else during this uncertain season.  

4. Prepare for the Inevitable 

As long as we are dealing with a global pandemic, employers must be prepared for the eventuality of workers getting sick and being absent for long periods of time.

Can you distribute tasks to remaining staff and cut back on non-essential expectations? Or perhaps it would serve your business better to partner with a temp agency so you can bring in reinforcements when someone must be out.  

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Absolutely nothing feels normal right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t successfully hire and retain the workers your business needs. The ability to adapt to our surroundings is what makes us human.  

Or cats. Does it make us cats?

Tell us, what is the recruiting landscape like out there for your industry? What is the biggest hurdle you are facing? 

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