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The world has been turned upside down. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought great suffering and death to all parts of the globe. The economies of the world have taken a beating and your own company has taken its hits. Your employees have felt the pain with a record number of layoffs and terminations. No one knows when we will make it to the other side of this disaster.

Many CEOs and company leaders are sitting alone, contemplating next steps. There is a glimmer of hope as infection rates seem to have peaked in different regions of the world and the U.S. This is a time to think about a return to normalcy – whatever that might be. You must have a game plan for re-staffing your organization, now! The CDC has reported on a new “rapid test” for identifying coronavirus infection and recovery. This will be a game changer and an avenue to start bringing people back to work.

By this time, your innovative thoughts – which we like to describe as learning agility behaviors – have been taxed to the limit on just keeping your business in the best shape possible. I encourage you to keep digging deeper now for re-growing your business.

A good friend and former colleague of mine, Terri, is the CEO of a Southern California luxury resort. Her business was ordered by the state of California to close, resulting in the layoff of 1,200 employees. Terri is now drafting a strategy for the re-staffing of her resort as the unknown plays out. A daunting task.

Many of you are in the same position as Terri. Some of you have already started your re-staffing plans. Others need to begin. Re-staffing in today’s environment presents both challenges and opportunities. The important thing is to start somewhere and start now. You may have a business continuity plan for natural disasters or succession plans for untimely deaths. You can start there. However, Richard Long of MHA Consulting, a business continuity consulting firm in Glendale, Arizona, is skeptical that these will suffice in a pandemic such as Covid-19 (St. Louis Business Journal, March 6, 2020).

Here are several issues to consider and recommendations to follow to re-staff your organization in a time like this:

1.) At the top of the list, re-staffing allows you to consider the skills, work attitude, and past performance of those you bring back onboard. You will want to think of incremental restarts for your organization. This means hiring in groups or intervals. Think about the most critical skills that are needed to run your business and determine who has those skills. Pay attention to those who are multi-skilled in your early hiring phase to provide you with the coverage you need. They are the first you will want to bring back. You’ll want innovative, learning-agile people to navigate the changes in past practices for these turbulent times. You’ll need employees who can help you figure out what to do in new situations. Finally, and this is important, you will want to consider those with the right work attitude (e.g., dependability, team orientation, quality initiative) to get you through this.

Your re-staffing needs are like that of a company startup in many ways. I’ve had the opportunity to head the staffing teams of numerous startups for organizations needing a few hundred employees to those requiring the screening of tens of thousands of candidates. What has been constant across all startups is the need for employees with the right job skills. However, hiring those with the right work attitude has proven just as important, if not even more so. Realize this is an opportunity to improve the overall work attitude of your workforce and consider it a critical need. This affects not just the individual’s success but the performance of the entire team. You want… no, you need employees who will rally around your leadership!

2.) You should be aware of legal obligations that guide your plans, both bargaining unit and statutory. You may be bound by labor contracts that dictate the order in which employees are brought back on the job. Having a re-staffing plan and sharing it with your union representative may result in the cooperation you need in this crisis. Explain that you’re all in this together and that your long-term goal is employment for everyone. This will help her or him understand that you’re willing to team with them.

3.) You should balance business needs with being loyal to those employees who have been loyal to you. The Coronavirus outbreak most likely did not shut down or diminish your business all at once. As the disease spread across the country, and businesses adapted in fits and starts, you and your employees faced this together. Consider any sacrifices your employees made to help your business along. These are the employees who should be rewarded by being on the top of your list for rehiring, if you have that freedom. Your loyalty to them will be repaid in full through commitment to performance and team spirit.

4.) And finally, you will want a re-staffing process that meets your goals and is efficient. Once business growth begins there will be little time for standing around. You probably have a screening process for hiring new employees. This is different. You should begin by looking at your furloughed employees early in the re-staffing process, then look outside the company for the talent you need. The advantage is that you have past performance and work attitude information for those furloughed employees. You should obtain this from their former supervisors. This is not to say you can’t or shouldn’t interview them before bringing some or all of them back. Whatever you do, it should allow you to bring on employees with the skills you need and the work attitude that you want.

Some simple and efficient steps to take:

  • Skills and Attitude List – Provide your supervisors with a list of critical skills that you need to restart or expand your business activity. You will want to prioritize those skills and make them specific to key job families (i.e., areas of your business). Have your supervisors identify a pool of furloughed employees who have demonstrated these critical attributes. Consider creating a past performance rating sheet or checklist that can be used to allow the best employees to rise to the top. Don’t forget to emphasize work attitude and loyalty to your business. If you are unclear about evaluating this, consider a professionally-developed work attitude test.
  • Interview Your Pool – You can do this over the phone or in a video call. This is an opportunity to learn about the personal circumstances of your past employees. Are they available and interested in coming back? Do they have new restrictions that impact their availability (e.g., limits in transportation, taking care of an ill child or other, a victim of the coronavirus themselves). And finally, the interview is a good opportunity to gather information on their work attitude.
  • New Hires – If you exhaust your list of furloughed employees, it’s time to turn to your external candidate screening process. At this point you want to be even more thorough in your assessment of skills and work attitude, using resume screening, a series of interviews, professionally developed tests, and background checks.

We’ve covered a variety of topics with the main theme being you must act now for your re-staffing effort. The planning stage is essential to ensure you do this right and make rehiring efficient. The Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps the worst dilemma we’ll face in our business dealings. Staying open-minded, learning agile, and adapting quickly will help us all make it through this next phase of the pandemic disaster.

About the Author

David Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government   agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.