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3 Proven Ways Businesses Can Find and Retain Talent During the Pandemic

Wesley Cherisien
Wesley Cherisien

For businesses to remain competitive, an effective recruiting and engagement strategy is key to managing the cost of human capital.

Amid uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic, we have witnessed substantial economic loss across many sectors. Millions of people still do not have jobs as the unemployment rate has eclipsed 10.4% during the past month. While many companies continue to experience varying levels of hardship, the hardest-hit industries have been travel and retail. Analyzing the variances in year-over-year performance for many companies has made the reality of this crisis very difficult to accept. In 2019, the vacation rental sector recorded its tenth straight year of growth, achieving a 7% increase in year-over-year revenue before coming to a near standstill. People are merely not traveling and spending as they did in previous years. Also, global air transport saw a 44% drop in revenue versus 2019. Concerning similar data in retail, the sector saw a 52% decrease in year-over-year spending activity from shoppers.

The IMF estimates that through 2021, the world will witness $12 trillion of cumulative loss in total output and a 4.9% contraction in the global economy, making this more severe than the Great Depression. With no sign of global mobility resuming to normal in the near term, the economic losses will continue, forcing remaining businesses to be creative to remain competitive.

So, how has COVID-19 changed the future of work and recruiting practices for small and medium businesses?

For starters, the pandemic has granted the opportunity to speed up reforms that traditionally would have taken a long time to accept and specifically highlights the urgency for companies to increase their investment in human capital. Companies that govern human capital well will be more attractive, creating more excellent value for the organization in the long-term.

Here are three specific ways businesses can attract and keep talent.

Leverage digital recruitment and onboarding

Businesses must now focus on realigning the hiring process to meet new safety prerequisites. Hiring practices that require a physical presence are no longer viable because of many health protocol changes. The digital transformation in this era will find companies using dedicated solutions to solve recruitment challenges brought on by the pandemic. A few human resource challenges facing businesses include:

  • Fluctuating hiring needs
  • Varying talent pools
  • Budget cutbacks
  • Psychological and physical risk of conducting in-person interviews

An emerging trend has been conducting virtual interviews that mirror how the potential candidate will do their work. Video conferencing technology has enabled businesses to engage with candidates in live video chats, just as they would in traditional interviews. Beyond recruiting, the pandemic also reshapes the onboarding process into a digitally mediated interaction, leaving new hires susceptible to isolation and the feeling of being invisible.

With the unanticipated change in the onboarding process, companies must rethink how they help the new hires acclimate in this unique setting. A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management found that effective onboarding improves retention rates (52%), time to productivity (60%), and overall customer satisfaction (53%). A detailed case study in a multinational company also revealed that employees attending a structured onboarding program are 69% more likely to stay in the company for up to three years.

With current needs for employees to work remotely, a structured and personalized onboarding is becoming more critical than ever to make sure new hires feel engaged in their modern workplace even without face-to-face interactions.

Clarify goals, responsibilities and business milestones

With additional elements of uncertainty gradually becoming a part of normal operations, many workers are feeling mentally exhausted. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) data, 41% of U.S. employees feel burnt out and drained from their work.

Employees need a robust support system to fight the onset of emotional and mental conditions caused by moments of stress. Productivity levels may also decline as well.

A new take on mental health benefits

Mental health services are no longer considered a luxury; they are seen as a necessity. Of the 256 employers the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions surveyed, 53% reported providing emotional and mental health programs for their workforce (because of the effects of the pandemic). Examples of these new offerings include:

  • 20 free counseling session a year for employees and family members
  • Online mental health resources
  • Access to well-being coaches
  • Flexible working schedules
  • Library of resources including articles, webinars, and a meditation app

Consider adding new resources to provide a complete suite of wellness offerings and improve the overall engagement of your team.

Crisis response teams have become an essential business component

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many companies have set up dedicated crisis response teams. By April 2020, one month after the World Health Organization announced the pandemic status, a survey found that 32% of organizations have established a robust crisis command center to respond to COVID-19. 

The pandemic has created an unfamiliar landscape for everyone, and employee roles within an organization may get blurred, which is normal. Clarifying your business's goals and employee responsibilities during this period is crucial to increasing employee engagement within your business organization.

Reliable, actionable data forms the very heart and soul of crisis planning and response. Your crisis response plan must outline the cadence of communication and how the organization will execute actions. It is also vital that shared data is verifiable and that every team member is confident in its integrity. Actionable, factual data reinforces a central tenet of crisis planning; it allows you to explore different probabilities and their effect on your business both in the short term and long term.

Studies report that businesses looking to navigate and thrive in the post-pandemic era recognize the importance of establishing accurate information during this crisis. Transparency is key to crisis communication. Keeping this in mind, having the crisis response team to respond to employees' concerns and inquiries can be the first step to building transparency. When we finally get through this crisis, communication should continue to offer an optimistic and realistic outlook for the organization, galvanizing employees to support the business.

Continue to care for the development of employees

Find creative ways to invest in the education and growth of your team. While company resources may decrease, many workers put a good deal of effort into advancing their careers through education workshops and other enrichment programs. A survey found that 30% of high-engagement companies spend $2,000 per person annually for employee training.

Another survey involving 3,000 employees reports that training and personal development are top factors in keeping employees engaged with their employer. Instead of in-person training sessions, be creative with your learning and development strategy. Explore online course platforms, and inquire about enterprise-level plans to create and provide on-demand learning opportunities for your employees. Also, encourage your employees to attend low-cost or free online conferences and seminars.

Encourage peer-to-peer collaboration

Collaborating on work projects can help build synergy, promote idea sharing and improve employee engagement. A study administered to 19,000 employees in 19 countries revealed that employees who report a high level of engagement with their employers feel a sense of belonging at their workplace. 

Collaboration among workmates nurtures a happier workplace and encourages efficient resource-sharing, as cooperation naturally motivates team bonding and trust within an organization.

Recruiting and engaging talent in this climate will not be easy, but it is essential. As the labor market continues to transform, one thing is clear: The greatest asset of a business is its people. Take great care of your people by providing clear communication, fostering a continued sense of belonging and creating an environment where people feel safe to perform their work-related duties. Investing in your people is not always easy, as we are in the middle of one of the most difficult financial times we've ever faced, but the future of your business will depend on it.

Image Credit: JacobLund / Getty Images
Wesley Cherisien
Wesley Cherisien Member
Wes Cherisien is a career expert who is passionate about talent development and career advancement. He has been featured in HR Magazine, Experteer Magazine, Career Builder and TinyPulse.