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In Focus: When — and How — to Ramp Up the Workforce

Although the COVID crisis has forced companies to lay off or furlough employees, they need to consider talent acquisition strategies now.

Q2 2020
With the uncertainty in the future of businesses and the length of the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have responded to the crisis by moving to conserve money as quickly as possible. Steps taken to do this have included laying off or furloughing staff, reducing contractors and consultants, placing a freeze on new hires, and reducing compensation.

Many of these steps were necessary for companies to take due to the unforeseen collapse in the economy and a lack of demand for their services. However, companies now need to consider when is the right time to re-engage with talent acquisition and what are the right processes to follow.

With millions of people out of work due to the pandemic, now more than ever, companies are challenged to successfully execute the day-to-day project demands while quickly ramping up their workforces. With a previously tight labor market in the manufacturing sector, how should companies proceed in the talent acquisition process?

Prioritize investments.
Initially, during a crisis that is affecting a company’s bottom line, a broad policy to conserve cash is a smart way to go. However, eventually some investments will need to be made to move the business forward. Mission-critical hires should be considered as part of that process. Accordingly, management needs to systematically consider each open role. As part of that process, managers should rank openings based on potential economic and strategic impact. Careful consideration should be given to starting (or re-starting) the search for those roles at the top of the list.

Don’t quit the hiring process.
The hiring process can be difficult to re-start, which can cost valuable time and money. It is important that companies continue to interview candidates, with most interviews taking place virtually until people are more comfortable being face-to-face. The interviewers should always explain the company’s situation and anticipated timeframe and continue to stay in touch with candidates, as they always appreciate ongoing communication.

Managers should rank openings based on potential economic and strategic impact. Utilize technology.
As previously mentioned, the traditional in-person interview approach is going to be very difficult to perform for the foreseeable future. While not a perfect substitute, utilizing technology does allow the process to move forward. For companies with IT and human resources departments, consider implementing solutions to support the hiring and onboarding of remote or dispersed hires. With support from multiple departments, managers can continue to rank candidates and eliminate those who do not fit the position.

From a business development standpoint, keep in mind that many companies are already using technology to ask candidates to respond to a standard set of questions through either video or audio technology. This initial impression forms the basis for the next steps in the selection process. Companies should now apply a similar approach to their own hiring process.

Be ready for action.
The current situation will require companies to act quickly in order to fill key positions and maintain existing talent. Managers should be ready to engage with candidates and move to hire when they feel the time is right. In this environment, candidates, who were thought to be unavailable a few months ago, may be willing to consider new opportunities.

Furthermore, with an increased reliance on technology to operate, will the company’s less technically skilled employees require training to stay relevant to the new normal? Is the company modifying training programs to reach remote employees? Be prepared to balance out the addition of high-quality employees to the existing company workforce.

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