The global crisis related to the spread of COVID-19 is forcing businesses worldwide to adjust and adapt. Our clients include organizations from every industry, representing nearly every step of the global supply chain of goods and services important for responding to public health crises. Each organization is taking action to stay productive while responding to the health needs of candidates, employees and customers. With the situation around the world ever-changing, we’ve engaged talent acquisition and human resources leaders to share what they’re doing to protect the health of their people and support their business operations.

From these conversations we compiled this collection of information related to COVID-19 and how HR and TA teams are responding. The goal of this resource is to help leaders understand options available to them for updating key practices in TA and HR. We also recently hosted a webinar where we summarized and discussed the topics and resources on this page.

While some organizations have instituted hiring freezes during the pandemic, many TA functions are still operating, but under unique circumstances. For organizations in healthcare, life sciences or other related fields, for example, staffing needs are even more critical right now. Use virtual technology as much as possible to evaluate job candidates. Continue to focus on a positive hiring manager and candidate experience – but remove or limit close contact.

Career Sites:
Your company’s career site is a common place for candidates to visit during their application and hiring process. Add language to it to let candidates know what your company is doing in response to COVID-19. This might include an increase in virtual interviews or new procedures for onsite office visits and cleaning.

In addition, add screening questions prior to an onsite interview to learn if candidates coming to your location have traveled to an impacted area in the last 30 days. Adding this to your career site will give candidates comfort that you are being thoughtful about their safety. Candidates will gain confidence through your transparency and information.

Technology-enabled Assessments:
While tech-enabled assessment methods can lead to greater efficiency, these options are especially appealing for TA during a pandemic. To help flatten the curve, you should take every step possible to reduce instances of candidates visiting offices or locations in person. Chatbots or other assessment tech can help make this possible. In addition, you might be able to add assessment questions to your applicant tracking systems and avoid signing new agreements or long-term contracts for additional functionality.

Virtual Open Houses / Career Fairs:
Rather than conducting a typical, in-person job fair, consider a virtual open house. These online systems leverage technology to connect your recruiters with candidates virtually. They can also provide an important channel for connecting candidates with your employees. By utilizing the chat function in many of these online tools, you can give candidates access to people in-role, sharing what your culture or the job specifically is like day to day. It adds an important level of human interaction to keep candidates engaged.

Video Interviews:
Similar to assessments, interviews should avoid in-person interaction. If video interviewing technology is not currently widely used across your business lines or sites, consider using technology that is both mobile-friendly and web-based. Something easy and already widely accepted like FaceTime, is becoming common place. Avoid using technology that requires users to download anything onto their phone or computer. Provide candidates with video interview tips as part of their interview packet to ensure they are comfortable with how the process will unfold. Do the same with hiring managers who may not be comfortable with or accustomed to video interviewing. If you expect hiring managers to make hiring decisions based on a video interview, ensure you set these expectations clearly and provide interview or competency guides to give them confidence in decision making.

In-person Interviews:
If face-to-face interviews are critical for evaluating candidates for a position, take steps to prevent the spread of germs. Medical professionals suggest remaining six feet away from other people. Have the interview room set up to comply with this guideline. The interview room itself should be positioned by an entrance or exit to minimize exposure to the office/site and additional people. Also, provide hand sanitizer for both the interviewer and candidate, and disinfect objects like chairs, tables and door handles between interviewees. Make candidates aware that they do not need to practice social norms like shaking hands.

Examples from Leading Employers:
A Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company is reserving face-to-face interviews for business-critical roles that require in-person interaction to properly evaluate candidates. Ahead of interviews, they provide thorough communication to tell candidates what they can expect from the experience to make them feel comfortable going into the interview; including reassuring candidates that they do not need to follow standard social contracts in greeting such as shaking hands or kissing cheeks.

Some companies have taken the step to conduct interviews outdoors. This keeps candidates outside of the building and easily allows for the interview to accommodate social distancing best-practices.

Useful Resources:

Loom: Coronavirus Response

Cielo: Recruiting Tech Navigator (Easily Search Over 200 Tech Vendors)

Create a fair, consistent experience for candidates during the recruitment process. Don’t let some candidates gain a perceived advantage by their ability to attend an in-person interview if other candidates are self-quarantining for their own health or that of their family.

Background Checks:
Thoroughly vetting candidates is critical but consider what is absolutely necessary to have completed before that new employee starts. Explore options for completing elements of the background check digitally, without the need for the candidate to come into your office or that of a third-party company. For hiring that is critical to the effort to eradicate the virus, like distributing medical supplies or food, be prepared to abbreviate your requirements for certain positions to what is absolutely required for the position and work with your background vendor to adjust the requirements, if needed.

Drug Screens:
Currently, tests for COVID-19 are being administered by health professionals from hospitals and health systems, not by drug-screen vendors. Verify with your own drug-screen vendor, but most often these labs are not the same locations where potential COVID-19 patients are going. Neither Quest nor LabCorp are conducting any COVID-19 testing in the same locations as public drug-screen collection sites. Communicate clearly with your candidates, so they are not concerned about completing their required tests and include this information in onboarding material.

Examples from Leading Employers:
The TA team at a global healthcare company has been working through its background check and identifying which aspects prospects can complete at a later time while still complying with regulations related to clearing new employees. “We have to keep people coming through the door and it takes a coordinated effort between TA, HR, IT and more departments to figure out how to do that smoothly, whether it means shipping things to new hires or taking steps virtually.”

Useful Resources:

Cielo: Recruiting Tech Navigator (Easily Search Over 200 Tech Vendors)

Quest Diagnostics: COVID-19 Information

LabCorp: COVID-19 Information

While aspects of the assessment and selection phases lend themselves to virtual solutions somewhat easily, onboarding a new hire in their first weeks can be a bit of a challenge. Your first step should be to make sure that you know what exactly is needed from a legal standpoint before an employee is allowed to start working for your company. Then you can evaluate which aspects can be completed virtually.

Compliance:
New hires can complete important forms and documents remotely, either via email or web-based platforms. Consult your legal team or outside counsel to understand what steps needed for a new hire can be done virtually vs. in-person to remain compliant with government regulations. For documents that need to be witnessed in person, such as an I-9, you have some options. One is to have a family member of the new hire act as a witness. Another is to use a video call to take photos of the identification “in-person.” If the candidate must come to the office, provide sanitized wipes to wipe the identification card off before and after it is provided.

Start Dates:
Review start dates for new employees to decide when it makes sense for them to begin employment. Consider plans for starting new employees at different times or dates, to avoid having a large group together for orientation. If you are going to delay start dates for any candidate that has accepted an offer, consult with your leadership to understand any flexibility in payroll to do your best to support your new employee. If your organization has a work from home policy, craft a plan for what the employee needs to get up and running. Consider holding your new employee orientation via a platform like Teams, Zoom or Skype to share both video and presentations.

Provisioning:
Work with your IT and other related teams to ensure they ship welcome materials and any technology that employees need to do their job to the new hire’s home before their start date -- confirm the facility you ship from practices safe standards.

Training:
For employees starting remotely, try to use the same video technology platform you used for the interview process, which will help with the ease of use and overall comfort level with the technology. This technology can enable individual training sessions or discussion beyond any pre-created content from your Learning & Development team. If any in-person training is absolutely necessary, limit it to 1-on-1 training, and maintain the suggested social distancing and sanitary precautions.

New Hire Engagement:
Considering the unique circumstances, take extra care to welcome and engage new hires. Work with the hiring managers to create a plan to help build the relationship virtually between the manager and other team members to help the new employee feel valued and supported from day one.

Useful Resources:

Cielo: Recruiting Tech Navigator (Easily Search Over 200 Tech Vendors)

In response to social distancing (including work from home policies), take steps to engage your workforce. First and foremost, make sure your communications clearly outline expectations for employees. Update your teams on changes to policies or business operations as soon as you can and provide as much guidance and transparency as is realistic. Circumstances continue to change rapidly, so consistent communication from leadership throughout your business is important to ensure employees feel safe and confident. Like the steps in the recruitment process, consider what tasks and functions teams can complete virtually.

Work from Home:
If you can move to a work-from-home model for some or all of your workforce, ensure your employees have what they need to be productive and remain collaborative. Your IT team should prepare for an increase in support tickets while employees get used to working from home. Managers should be encouraged to establish a cadence of daily team huddles or similar meetings to help remove isolation and keep teammates connected.

Rotational On-site Workforce:
Several companies that must maintain onsite operations have established alternating teams of employees. These smaller groups can rotate work from home vs. in-office to help keep the number of people in the office within recommended guidelines. For business-critical operations such as a warehouse, considering keeping a core team of workers home from work and isolated, ready as backup in case other workers become ill.

Flexibility:
Working from home is likely a new experience for many employees. This change can be challenging to adjust to. Coach your managers to remain patient and understanding with their employees around any internet or connection issues or for employees that may have children at home. Provide your employees with the flexibility they need to both remain productive and care for their families. Allow them flexibility to adjust their working hours and/or days so they can establish a routine that works best for their situation.

Paid Time Off & Sick Leave:
Employees should understand their options for taking time off to tend to their own health or family matters, regardless of whether working from home is an option. Review your sick-leave policies and add flexibility where possible. Employees should feel supported and cared for.

For non-salaried employees, see what options you have to provide expanded support in the case of illness. Encourage sick employees to stay home and recover. Support and flexibility will empower employees to feel comfortable not coming to work if they don’t feel well, which is critical in stopping the spread and flattening the curve.

Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.

Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

Interns:
In addition to having a plan that accommodates the needs and situations of your permanent hires, have a plan in place for internships. With the typical end of spring semester for college students, many summer internships are set to start within the next two months, assuming the semester concludes on the typical schedule. Consider whether a limited number of interns may be useful virtually in an adjusted role, and communicate clearly communication with internship candidates, just as you would for permanent hire candidates.

Employee Surveys:
It’s important to remain in-tune with the overall sentiments of your workforce. Institute pulse surveys for your entire staff as a way to check in and ensure everybody is okay and engaged. Some survey systems even allow for results to auto-send to managers, allowing them to see a more focused summary of their specific team morale and feedback. These surveys are another opportunity for leaders to continue supporting their people. They also can help multinational organizations capture the nuanced experiences of their employees in different countries.

Communication:
Overall, the most important focus for your operations should be clear and consistent communication. Think of questions or concerns employees or candidates may have before they ask them and be ready to provide updates as soon as you make decisions. With the speed that things are changing, employees and candidates look to business leaders to remain calm, inform and above all – lead.

Examples from Leading Employers:
A healthcare provider is staffing up childcare facilities to provide support to nurses and other critical care employees that need to continue to come to even while their kids are off school.

For a global pharmaceutical company, supporting and communicating with employees has been their priority in response to the pandemic. “Make sure that people feel like they can come to work and be healthy. And provide people with the certainty that they can take time off without their compensation being impacted, if they need to be in self-quarantine for example, so they can focus on getting healthier.”

An energy technology firm is working with their Learning & Development team to launch an online training module with best practices for working from home to inform their employees on tips for being effective at home, creating boundaries and maintaining motivation and focus.

Useful Resources:

HBR: Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis

Entrepreneur: Best Practices for Working From Home

Crisis Response Team / Task Force:
With how quickly the situation is evolving, assign a group to handle your organization’s response. By creating a committee or task force, you can consider all important factors and options for dealing with the various impacts the ongoing pandemic has on your company, at every level.

Perform Routine Environmental Cleaning:
If your offices or sites are remaining open, routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down before each use. Also consider creating an area where employees can have open access to cleaning agents, so they can feel confident in the availability of items to clean their own spaces.

Travel Restrictions:
Another important and obvious response is to impose travel restrictions. Some organizations have implemented rules dictating which business-critical travel is still allowed and outlined what level of employee can approve the travel. Ensure your policies are up to date with any state or federal mandate travel bans.

Restrict Group Meetings and Visitors:
Restrict in-person meetings of more than 10 people, recommending the use of virtual conference technology or phone calls. Consider restricting visitors to your offices or sites unless it is business critical.

If you have employees still working on site, provide the guideline to work as much as possible in their designated area/floor/building, avoid visiting other areas or locations.

Office Dining Areas & Restaurants:
The operation of any cafeteria or restaurant should follow instruction of the WHO, CDC or the public health governing body within your country or countries. With some municipalities providing mandates related to in-house dining in restaurants, consider the options for adjusting foodservice to provide to-go service and adjust capacity policies and hours of operation as needed. For healthcare providers especially, one option is to use separate dining and break rooms for employees who work near or with patients and for those who don’t, minimizing interaction and potential spreading between the two groups.

Hiring Freezes:
We know how important talent is to your organization. To reach your business goals, the idea of pausing your recruitment is a tough pill to swallow. Ultimately, the health of your employees and candidates is the most important priority. Consider instituting hiring freezes for positions that aren’t business-critical, especially if implementing virtual recruiting methods are particularly difficult for one reason or another. Consider how you can build a candidate nurturing strategy to keep critical candidates engaged until business operations return to a new normal.

Examples from Leading Employers:
A clinical laboratory company is keeping its employees informed by distributing easy-to-read documents including safety tips, FAQs, updated policies regarding travel, meetings and working from home.

An engineering and technology company is working to implement temperature checks of all people entering sites at building entrances as soon as feasible.

Useful Resources:

DDI Microcourse: Leading Virtual Meetings

HR Executive: 3 Priorities for CHROs Navigating Coronavirus Absences

Talent Board: The Coronavirus Recruiting and Hiring Impact

CareerXroads: Over 30 Talent Leaders Connect to Talk About COVID-19

LinkedIn Talent Blog: COVID-19 Articles

News and updates related to the coronavirus are moving fast. Things can change from one minute to the next, so lean on your crisis task force/committee. Be prepared to move quickly, and don’t feel the need to wait and see what other organizations decide to do before making your own plans. Keep your business goals in mind, but make sure caution and safety remain priorities.