Talent Attraction and Retention in the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc throughout the world, from threatening the health of the population to causing an economic downturn that will affect businesses in nearly every industry. Pre-pandemic, we found ourselves in a job market in which talent attraction and retention were a cause for concern. In today’s world, high unemployment rates have added a new obstacle into the mix that may make it harder for businesses to retain their skilled workers as they navigate COVID-19 – many are calling this obstacle the “war for talent”.

What we know

Our world has changed. Most likely for good … this is what those smart people call a paradigm shift.

What we don’t know

In short, a lot. Every industry and employer will have a different experience and reaction to COVID-19 and the ramifications of this pandemic will be widespread. In my view, there have been three phases that employers have experienced since the outbreak of COVID-19 began in the U.S.

  1. Crisis Management – How are we going to get through today?
  2. Maintain – How are we going to get through this week or next week?
  3. Recover – What will the future look like?

There are many unknowns that lie ahead, and we’re still digging into the answers to the questions I’ve posed above. What has become clear, though, is that proactivity and the speed at which businesses start thinking strategically about recovery will determine their success.

The Makings of a War for Talent

In the pre-COVID-19 world, the Dow Jones was approaching 30,000 and achieving records seemingly weekly. In less than a month, on March 23rd, 2020 it dropped to 18,691 – a 37% drop in one month. For reference, the five biggest points drop in history were between February 27, 2020 and March 16, 2020.

On top of these economic challenges, employers continue to navigate the effects of Safer at Home orders on their organization. No matter your thoughts on these provisions, they have put certain companies and industries at an advantage. Essential businesses have been allowed to stay open. Many of them have pivoted their business to provide products that are in high demand. Other organizations are working through furloughs and layoffs. Unemployment applications are achieving record numbers.

The result of these competing factors is a potential war for talent. That’s right – another business may be able to leverage this situation to take your best employees.

Here is how the war for talent may play out:

  • Not all businesses are impacted by closings – and many businesses are aggressively hiring. If you listen to the radio (which you might as well, since we are all stuck at home), there are multiple ads every hour for companies hiring.
  • Furloughs and layoffs are frequent. Skilled individuals who have recently become unemployed may seek out opportunities with essential businesses who are looking for employees.
  • Even employees whose jobs are safe may use this time to seek out better opportunities with essential businesses.
  • Organizations who are not deemed essential may have difficulty re-attracting and hiring skilled employees once safer at home orders are lifted.

What can I do?

You may feel like you are just trying to keep your organization afloat during COVID-19, and the thought of focusing on employee retention is overwhelming. Remember what I said like 300 words ago … those companies that are the fastest and best prepared for the future will succeed.

If you are fortunate enough to not be working through layoffs or furloughing employees, now is the time to create the culture you want your organization to have. This will absolutely need to include a new norm for how people work for, and with, your company.

With the move to remote work, it is even more vital that your company culture is inclusive. If the move to a more agile work environment was mandated by the pandemic, it is likely that you have not had the time to build the cultural infrastructure to support the new work environment fully. At the same time, employees have more time on their hands to research new jobs. They may find one that they feel is the right fit. The time to build your culture is now.

Additionally, what was once valued by employees will look very different post COVID-19. A greater focus on safety, cleanliness, mental health, and financial wellbeing will rise to the top. Consider new and different benefit offerings to show your employees you care, and that you want them to stay with your company. There are a myriad of solutions out there and recently passed legislation makes them more attractive for employers. Some examples:

  • Flexible Workspaces
  • Student Loan Repayment Offerings
  • Hospital Indemnity Plans
  • Expanded Employee Assistance Programs
  • Telemedicine/Virtual Visits (yes, there is a difference)

There’s more, lots more. Reach out to your Account Executive for more information on creating a benefit package that can help you retain your employees and combat the war for talent.

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