How to recruit employees in trying times of COVID-19 and in future? Experts offer advice

In a COVID-impacted, remote world where unemployment remains high, how can employers best take advantage of the hiring opportunities available to them?

Capitol Broadcasting Company and WRAL recently hosted a panel discussion on the status of today’s job market, as well as a discussion around how companies need to look at hiring for the future.

Topics include: temporary hiring, freelancing, permanent recruiting.

Panelists included:

  • Amanda Powell – Greene Resources
  • Maari Casey – Uncompany
  • Will Barfield – Barfield Revenue Consulting

Here’s a content recap from each of the panelists:

Will Barfield:

  • Our current permanent hire job market is much slower than normal and certainly weaker than pre-COVID, but the best window for job seeking and talent acquisition is happening right now – and this should last through the beginning of the fall/up until the election.  Assuming we receive good news regarding efficacy of a vaccine sometime during Q4 2020, we could see a significant uptick in the pace and health of the permanent job market locally by mid- late-Q1, 2021.
  • Thankfully, when true economic and hiring recovery begins nationally, the Triangle will be one of the first metro areas in the country to see and feel the positive impacts.  This was the case coming out of the last recession as well.  With all of the innovation present here in technology, life sciences, etc., with the presence of our top-tier universities and colleges, and with all of the alternative investment and financial incentives available to businesses, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill is once again poised to see a quick and explosive resurgence.

Maari Casey:

  • Businesses are looking to find ways to shift fixed cost to more variable cost which means shifting some full-time staff into a contract or freelancer role. Many are looking for new models and ways of working like freelancers, contractors, hybrid roles, or paying 80% pay for 80% of time worked. (Gartner)
  • At Uncompany we build our teams and staffing plan off of our Adaptive Staffing Methodology which includes working with clients to audit staff for gaps in skills or duplication of roles to build a team that includes full-time, freelance, contract and hybrid workers.
  • Clients can prepare to work with freelance and virtual workers by:

-Working with someone who knows the landscape of unconventional working

-Auditing current staff to determine needs

-Develop a clear onboarding

-Adjust your mindset to approach this new staffing strategy

  • Currently with unemployment being at 10% or higher candidates need to work harder to get themselves to the top of the pile. During this time of job searching it’s great to leverage the many tools, platforms and events available.
  • Some unique tips for candidates looking for work are:

-Look at other ways to work. Try out freelance or contract for clients until they are in a position to hire you full-time

-Be proactive and approach companies even before you see a listing. Look also at companies outside of your geographic area. Think virtual!

-Work with the right partners/recruiters and mentors

-Use the time you have to network and upskill

Amanda Powell:

  • Why hire Contract Employees?

As a company, we’ve always seen the need for contract employees from our clients, but most recently, Gartner reported that 32% of companies are opting to replace departed employees with contractors due to the flexible nature of this model. What do I mean when I say flexible nature? As a company, you can scale your workforce up or down by using employees who are comfortable with a short term project. For example, you may need expertise to roll out a new software within your company and can’t anticipate a long term need for this individual. A contract role is a great way for the company and the candidate to be on the same page since there is the opportunity to work together for a period of time and also determine the viability of the role long term.

It can also be cost effective for companies to utilize contract employees to minimize the upfront expenses

Some of these new roles could be remote, which is a trend many companies have moved towards.

Remote workforce has grown significantly since COVID, and will likely continue as companies start to see the benefits. One of which is the candidate pool – it completely opens up when you’re not locally focused. For those in niche industries where the talent is limited, a remote employee opens up your recruiting boundaries even more, allowing people to work where they live versus having to relocate. For many companies, diversity is top of mind, as it should be. So if your roles are remote, you have the opportunity to interview a much more diverse group of candidates.

With all of that said, a lot of our clients are back in the office and are taking the utmost safety measures. Things that we’ve seen that work well include taking temperature checks upon arrival, offering a variety of sanitation products to be used throughout the day, wearing masks while in shared spaces, and limiting the number of meetings if possible. A good portion of our candidates are actually very ready and eager to get back into an office setting and are more than comfortable reporting to a physical office.

  • Keeping the company culture alive

For a lot of our clients, moving their workforce remote wasn’t ideal. We did what we could to ease the transition for them, providing tips and tricks to keep employees feeling engaged and part of the team. Greene itself is still remote and will continue to be through the end of the year. If you don’t know much about our company, let me just tell you that we are a very close knit group so this was hard for most of us to be apart. Our founder, Gary Greene, along with our leadership team has always taken the extra step to make employees feel valued. I remember on my first day, they literally rolled out a green carpet, took me into a random hallway and then walked me back into the office as our entire company clapped for me. I was then told to “walk. Don’t run or jump” and proceed to walk down the green carpet as everyone high fived me. It’s things like that we’re unable to replicate as a remote company, but we’re doing our very best. These days, a new employee will come into the office to pick up their equipment and to their surprise, be greeted by a large projector screen with our leadership team saying hello and welcoming them. We’ve made use of some great tools this year including an application called Sense, where we can stay connected with all of our candidates through text messages. Another tool we’ve used this year is called Sales Screen, which actually gamifies our day-to-day tasks and allows us all to see what’s going on within other departments.

To help ease the burden of employees having to work remotely, I’ve seen some clients offer to pay a monthly stipend for WIFI, cell phone usage, purchase an ergonomic work station when needed, and conduct regular team video calls.

I will also add that companies should be encouraging employees to take their PTO because “zoom fatigue” is a real thing and people feel like they need a physical separation between work and home – especially if they’ve been working remotely. Most people have a lot of vacation time built up from not being able to take it earlier in the year, so be mindful of that and help your employees feel comfortable taking their time off to regenerate and relax.

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