We are now in “the weirdest recession ever,” according to CNN. The rules of business have changed dramatically in 2020—and continue to change as the coronavirus crisis continues. With so much uncertainty during these unprecedented times, how can employers plan their talent strategies, both in the short and long term?

One way to begin is by looking at the unique challenges your organization is facing at this time. After all, different sectors of business have been affected in very dissimilar ways by the pandemic. Some employers providing essential services have had to expand their workforce rapidly, while others have made the difficult decision to downsize or institute salary cuts. 

We at CareerArc have been working with our clients daily throughout the pandemic and have observed and identified the five most common scenarios that employers are finding themselves in today. We’ve also developed strategies tailored to each client to help them best navigate impacts to recruiting, offboarding, employer branding, and more. We recently shared some of those strategies in a recent webinar: Recession, Risk, & Reward: What Forward-Thinking Employers Do in a Down Economy. Here are a few highlights from that event to help you shape your own workforce plans. 

Compelled to swell: Rapid growth during the pandemic

About 5% of companies, many of them essential businesses employing frontline workers, had to hire rapidly to meet immediate staffing needs after the coronavirus crisis first hit the U.S. This sudden growth surge came with many challenges. HR professionals found themselves swamped with many applications from unqualified candidates, while at the same time struggling to fill hard-to-fill roles. 

On top of those difficulties, these businesses also had to manage decreases in staff due to sick leave or other absences, keep up with varying stay-at-home orders across different locations, and ensure adequate health and safety measures at the workplace. 

If your organization is in this situation, these are the strategies to focus on:

  • Optimize and adjust the application and interview process
  • Leverage technology to automate processes and help evaluate candidates quickly
  • Monitor employer review and social sites, developing a response plan
  • Identify or partner with local companies to hire recently laid off employees to fill temporary surge
  • Prepare for a post-swell stage when talent needs decrease and workforces are right-sized
  • Plan for re-opening protocols and addressing employee concerns

Related: The Essential Guide to Social Recruiting

Diverge to surge: Quick shifts in talent needs

About a third (34%) of companies are experiencing acute hiring needs for specific positions and areas of the business—while at the same time seeing a decline in other sectors. While these organizations generally are not conducting major layoffs, furloughs, or salary cuts, workforce challenges remain. 

For the parts of the business that are declining, these employers may need to institute hiring or salary freezes to mitigate negative impacts—and keep a pulse on changes to brand reputation or company morale that may come as a result of these decisions. At the same time, the growing areas of the business may have immediate hiring demands for specialized roles that require innovative recruiting strategies. 

Here are the best strategies for employers that are growing in some aspects and shrinking in others:

  • Leverage technology to automate processes and help evaluate candidates quickly
  • Craft communications around pauses in select hiring 
  • Optimize and adjust the application and interview process
  • Launch and optimize talent network signup and communications for paused positions
  • Monitor employer review and social sites, developing a response plan
  • Plan for re-opening protocols and addressing employee concerns 

Related: How to authentically, effectively raise your Glassdoor profile

Cause for pause: Hiring freeze

The largest number of employers (41%) are in a wait-and-see mode, neither hiring nor laying off employees at this time. Challenges for these organizations include the risk of both involuntary and voluntary turnover as the business impacts of the coronavirus crisis continue. Employees may experience lowered morale, consumers lowered confidence. And the inability to acquire new talent can also have wide-ranging effects on the organization.

For employers in this situation, effective strategies include:

  • Craft communications around the hiring freeze 
  • Launch and optimize talent network signup and communications
  • Focus on retaining top employees at risk of voluntary turnover, scenario-planning for involuntary turnover 
  • Update offboarding policies, severance packages, outplacement and career assistance options 
  • Leverage and evaluate technology to automate and streamline processes
  • Monitor employer review and social sites, developing a response plan
  • Plan for re-opening protocols and address employee concerns 

Related: 10 key hiring statistics and talent trends emerging from the coronavirus crisis

Reduce & reset: Workforce reductions

About 16% of employers have had to implement furloughs, layoffs, and/or salary cuts but are continuing operations in a wait-and-see mode. Organizations in this scenario experience many of the challenges that generally go hand-in-hand with workforce downsizing, such as lowered employee morale and consumer confidence and a raised risk of voluntary turnover. In addition, because the future business impacts of the pandemic are still unknown, there’s the risk of additional layoffs, furloughs, or other decreases in budget and resources.

The following actions can help your organization address these challenges:

  • Craft communications around layoffs
  • Train and execute offboarding policies, severance packages, and outplacement services
  • Monitor employer review and social sites, developing a response plan
  • Focus on retaining top employees at risk of voluntary turnover
  • Leverage and evaluate technology to automate and streamline processes
  • Launch and optimize talent network signup and communications
  • Plan for re-opening protocols and addressing employee concerns 

Related: Furloughs and layoffs: Best practices during the coronavirus crisis

Considering a close: Hiring freeze

Just 4% of businesses are shutting down business — or considering taking that step — in multiple or all locations. For these organizations, careful planning for the close of business is crucial. Steps to undertake include:

  • Prepare for shutdown schedule if closures are gradual
  • For companies with multiple locations that will partially close, review local laws
  • Craft communications and timing for internal and external notice 

Related: How to conduct a layoff, furlough, or recall legally during the coronavirus crisis

For more detailed information on these five scenarios, watch the full webinar.
CareerArc offers social recruiting tools that streamline the process of creating a robust talent pipeline for current or potential future hires—and outplacement services with proven success stories from our job candidates that show just how valuable and beneficial our program is for exiting employees at this time. Request a demo to find out more about how our human resources tools can help you reach your talent goals.

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