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Hiring Continuity Planning During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Alex McGarel


Ensuring you meet headcount goals and hire the best talent during this time of potential disruption

Hamlyn Williams’ top priority during the Coronavirus / Covid-19 outbreak is the safety and well-being of our Consultants and Support Staff, Contingent Workforce, Clients and Candidates. As we look to ensure this as much as possible, we also understand that hiring is one of many business processes that is likely to be impacted by the outbreak. This guide is intended to share information and advice we feel will help clients continue to maintain as much business continuity as possible when it comes to recruitment and staffing, emphasizing safety whilst at the same time trying to maintain “business as usual” productivity.   

We will touch on innovative ways to maintain hiring practices during any emergency measures, give advice on effective talent pipelining to ensure “business as usual” can be resumed as soon as possible and also share some advice based on our experience from our office in Asia who are ahead in the development curve of this unfolding situation.  We have utilized the experience in our Senior Management and Leadership teams to gather some top tips that we hope will give people some food for thought as the days and weeks unfold and uncertainty becomes clearer.

Please note this is not a medical guide and individuals should refer to official sources for the most recent information on the outbreak including www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/

Hiring Processes – How Can a company innovate to avoid losing Talent during this time?

Hiring is always an investment of time, money and energy, and is traditionally – although not exclusively – considered a face-to-face activity. The defining features of the interview process are interaction, engagement and connection. Whilst the process has over the past 10 years become increasingly flexible, the vast majority of clients still focus on the in-person meeting as the key factor in making a decision about a candidate, and vice versa.

Below we offer some perspectives on innovations that will help hiring managers and candidates when the face to face meeting proves untenable – and also suggest that perhaps we are in a position to dispense with the in-person meeting altogether as an “essential” part of the process. 

Technology & Tools available

The obvious solution to restrictions on having lots of people coming and going from your offices and hiring managers working from home is to utilize the many and varied video conferencing technologies available. Most, if not all, of you reading this article will have access to these in some form, whether it be Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or other newer, more disruptive technologies. Whatever the platform, video conferencing allows the interviewer and interviewee to meet in a virtual face to face forum that is practically indistinguishable from an in-person meeting assuming you have a base-level of tech specifications. Of course, we know that “face to face” interaction is so important in the hiring process – but these platforms ensure there is no delay in meeting highly sought-after and in-demand talent so you are not behind the curve at the tail-end of this period.


Personality Testing Tools

There are many testing services and tech products that will give you deep data on the profiles of individuals and team fit. By testing your team with an “off the shelf” product it is possible to build a profile of the types of individuals that would be a fit in your organization. You can then ask the interviewee to complete the test as a compliment to any video interviews they have with the team and the hiring manager. The top personality testing tools for 2019 included: the California Psychological Inventory(CPI); The Caliper test; The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; and the DiSC Behaviour Inventory. There are a number of tech companies who have adapted these tests into easy to use platforms so they can be taken online or on a handheld device, with results sent in real time to the hiring manager. https://www.workstyle.io/best-personality-test

Process Management/ Efficiencies:

The logistics around running a smooth process should your whole company be working remotely is also likely to be tough. Booking interviews in a timely manner and ensuring interviewee and interviewer are available is a human-led activity in most cases and even in the best run organizations can be a cause for delay in the best of times. Tools such as Calendly, an easy to use calendar booking app, can solve this issue and align candidate and Hiring Manager in a live format where interviewer availability is fully transparent. So if one of the parties is remote there is no need to wait on call-backs or emails to confirm.

During the all-important feedback stage it is essential that candidates and clients provide feedback efficiently to ensure engagement on both sides and to keep the process moving. Again, waiting on multiple stakeholders who may be working in a remote location could slow the process.

Utilizing live chat technologies would be one answer to this. Simply setting up groups for hiring on Slack, Microsoft Teams or even technologies such as Whatsapp would enable a more instant interface and forum for feedback, ensuring a continued feedback loop during time where decision-makers cannot be physically in the same location.

The newest Applicant Tracking Systems such as Greenhouse have live chat functions for all parties as do many of the other top Applicant Tracking Systems, utilizing this in the hiring process could certainly streamline this crucial stage in the hiring process.

Talent Pipelining during the Coronavirus

Utilizing existing technology and tools will provide assurance for hiring processes but to truly ensure sustainability of hiring over a prolonged period of disruption we also need to create and maintain durable talent pipelines that can be managed remotely and withstand additional disruption.

Your business will have competing priorities that will also be considered business critical – whether these are regulatory consent orders or examinations for a bank, implementation projects or technology improvements or ensuring the development cycle continues in a Life Sciences firm, to name a few examples we see regularly in our markets. These processes will naturally demand your attention – so talent pipelining needs to be low maintenance, and even automatic, in order to ensure long-term recruitment planning doesn’t fall off the agenda shoring up longer-term problems.  

We also need to take into account the natural recruitment cycles which exist in all industries – for instance, the timing of bonus payments in the Financial Services industry – which often means that you have a narrow window of opportunity to secure talent. If you are in a “fire-fighting” situation due to coronavirus measures just at the point that your candidates are in “search” mode you might have to wait another year or more access that talent pipeline.

In addition to the practical solutions we have outlined above, your talent pipeline strategy will be crucial. A home-working regime potentially offers less interruptions from internal meetings – utilizing this time to prioritize intense back to back interview schedules would heighten effectiveness and focus decision-making. For high priority roles, we would encourage blocking out 3 to 4 hours at a time to maximize candidate remote meeting activity.

At the same time as scheduling intense activity on “live” open requisitions, we would also suggest scheduling shorter 30-minute video or phone calls with strong top-tier, niche and speculative talent – the likelihood is that individuals will also be home-working and may have less daily distractions than usual so this is a good potential time to engage. Who knows, you may have the opportunity to speak to a “unicorn” candidate that in a routine business cycle would not have been in a position to take your call!

Outsourced Hiring Functions:

What happens then in a “worst-case” scenario if you are a small to medium-sized organization with a modest or non-existent talent acquisition function in a time of critical growth for your business? Many Human Capital Solutions providers, including Hamlyn Williams, will be able to provide a comprehensive end to end solution tailored to your organizational needs.

Utilizing a combination of the above technology platforms, our institutional expertise built up over years of hiring, and your existing internal resources and assets, we are quickly able to create a bespoke plan to outsource your recruitment function and continue to hire the best talent so the growth of your business isn’t inhibited during this time of disruption. This could include sifting and screening resumes or providing a specialist consultant to your organization to assist with business critical hiring of niche verticals.

The view of Hamlyn Williams is that whatever the challenges Coronavirus / Covid-19 poses to your business, your hiring effectiveness can be maintained and even enhanced by utilizing sound technologies and process management so that you don’t lose the war on talent.

Case Study; A perspective from Asia from Warwick Pearmund, Associate Director in our Hong Kong office

 “Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s easy for me to say as a Brit, after all, we invented the phrase. As a Brit living in Hong Kong however that mantra has been sorely tested over the last few weeks.

Amidst the whirl of media and social media information, misinformation and outright scaremongering it can be difficult to disseminate facts from fiction. The two most important things that you can do to protect yourselves, and those around you, is educate yourself on how to prevent the spread of the virus and how to counter misinformation.

It is certain that many industry sectors will take a hit directly because of concerns surrounding the virus - Transportation, Tourism, Retail and Hospitality for example. However, this does not mean that companies need to stop looking to their mid to long term plans, which likely still include hiring.

Despite the recent turmoil in Hong Kong we have not experienced any significant decline in hiring intent from clients across the sectors that we support (Technology, Risk and Compliance, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Banking Front-office). The main challenge that we have faced has been in advising clients on how best to maintain their talent acquisition and hiring pipelines. This has been especially true in the above spaces as, regardless of the wider economic situation, there are many requirements that simply don’t go away.

The first week, following Chinese New Year in late January, when government advice restricted travel plans and prompted people to work from home, was one of uncertainty, much as other countries must now be experiencing. Concerns were rightly focused on self and family rather than work, and productivity declined accordingly. However, relative normality resumed within days and thoughts turned to how best to continue operations. This has meant some changes to the hiring process.

Face to face meetings were cancelled en masse as people worked from home for extended periods and others eschewed any non-essential personal contact. Conversely, the use of video-conferencing media for interviews has increased exponentially. Employers have striven to complete as much of the hiring process as possible remotely, reserving face to face meetings for the final stage only, if at all.

Travel restrictions and working from home policies have meant the schedules of both Hiring Managers and candidates have been much more flexible than is usually the case. This has allowed for easy scheduling of interviews during working hours and has allowed some hiring processes to move more quickly than is typical.

On-boarding has slowed to a degree given that so many people are away from the office. However, as people return, employers are now looking for new hires to start as quickly as is practicable. What is also evident is that employers who put hiring on hold are now ‘rushing to catch up’. Those who haven’t taken advantage of technology to interview remotely have run the –  very real – risk of missing out on talent who are now headed elsewhere. This is particularly true in candidate-led ‘pinch-point’ verticals in technology such as data and cybersecurity.

In conclusion, our experience in Hong Kong and China tells us that the sky isn’t falling in. But for those countries who are just beginning their dalliances with Covid-19, the early stages will encompass fear and uncertainty. This, like the virus, will pass, and employers need to have policies in place to ensure continuity of operations including hiring. A judicious use of technology and taking advantage of empty diaries will allow forward-thinking companies to gain a competitive edge and strengthen their talent pools while others’ flounder. We at Hamlyn Williams have first-hand experience in successfully guiding clients and candidates through the hiring process in recent weeks and are here to help in any way that we can so feel free to reach out to us with hiring questions or advice.   

Above all, keep calm and wash your hands.

A word from our US MD Harry Sliufko on Hiring Contingency Planning during this time of potential disruption;

‘As this report demonstrates and from what we are beginning to see in our daily interactions, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has the potential to be disruptive for any professional involved in the talent process, whether this is attracting, hiring or retaining top talent.

What we are seeing, however, even in these early stages of the outbreak in the USA, is that companies are starting to innovate in terms of processes and new technologies to support their talent process. With unemployment in the United States still at an all-time low, the focus on companies to find the best talent remains vital to their long term success. Those who adapt during this time will give themselves an edge over their competitors in securing the best talent in their industry.

If you would like any advice on what you can be doing during this period to attract, retain or onboard talent please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our market specialists at Hamlyn Williams or with myself directly’.

– Harry Sliufko, Managing Director Americas, harry.s@hamlynwilliams.com

Hamlyn Williams is a Human Capital Solutions provider to the Regulated industries with over 120 consultants across 7 global offices.  If you have any questions surrounding the above or wish to book in a free consultation with any of our office/ practice leaders or vertical market specialists get in touch with us via info@hamlynwilliams.com or reach out directly to any of our practice leaders or vertical market consultants:

Alex McGarel, US Life Sciences - a.mcgarel@hamlynwilliams.com

Gareth Carpenter, US Financial Services - g.carpenter@hamlynwilliams.com

Will Brown, US Financial Services - w.brown@hamlynwilliams.com

Jonathan Hunter, Head of Dallas - j.hunter@hamlynwilliams.com

Matt lang, Head of West Coast - m.lang@hamlynwilliams.com

Cat Cox, US Talent - c.cox@hamlynwilliams.com