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The Middle Road Between Business and Burnout

Apple has doubled its value since the start of the pandemic, to $2 trillion. Target’s profits surged with online sales that almost tripled as a result of Covid-19. If only these were everyone’s stories! It may seem counterintuitive during these hard times, but recruiting firms continue to grow as well, and it has much to do with the choices companies are making in opening up to changes in their workforce policies and practices. In a recent Covid-19 Impact and Recovery Analysis, Business Wire forecasts a $90 billion spend growth for contract or temporary staffing services between 2019 and 2024. Business continuity is people continuity. Consider all your options. Incorporating the “gig economy” is now part of our workplace infrastructure. 

This is the era of uncertainty, and nobody knows how long it will last. Some companies will hire and expand, some will contract. But in every case, leaders need plenty of options to withstand the current fluctuations in just about everything related to their businesses. It makes sense that organizations across industries are turning to other-than-full-on headcount to make it through the recovery. They don’t want to burn out their people, especially their star players, but they have work to accomplish and goals to meet. Where is the middle road to success? You’ll find it in the flexibility of temporary and contract workers. Once again, it’s time to rethink how you recruit and retain your people in response to change. 

By now, we should all understand that investing in your people first is how to create success. And the definition of “your people” is changing. Employment looks very different than it did in the past. Increasingly, companies are finding they can do what they need to do with a combination of full-time permanent positions and temporary support by hiring non-employees on an as-needed basis. These can be in the form of independent contractors, freelancers, part-time workers, temporary or on-call workers, interns, and any other type of work arrangement that fits the situation. By rethinking people strategies, your company gains flexibility and freedom in recruiting, and at the same time provides more of the work-life balance and independence today’s employees want and need, increasing retention.   

Rethinking Recruiting Strategies 

If you don’t already think of recruiting as an ongoing sales process, it’s long past time to realize that finding the people with the right skills and fit for your organization is critical across economic and market conditions. The pandemic has not fundamentally changed the skills gap. There have always been, and always will be, supply and demand gaps for skills. Additionally, despite the business challenges of 2020, more than 60 percent of companies see identifying quality hires as their top challenge this year. You may not be hiring at this moment, but never stop recruiting! 

In addition to reevaluating your strategies for the type of worker you need at any particular time—full- or part-time, gig or temporary—recruiters should stay on top of new policies and tools that can elevate job offers. For example, working together, businesses and governments have developed “work sharing,” which enables employers to reduce workers’ hours, but not their pay or benefits, with the government picking up part of the cost; “strategic employee sharing” between businesses as their needs fluctuate; and “portable benefits” tied to the person rather than the job. The IRS is also creating new options like leave-sharing plans where employees can deposit into an employer leave bank for other employees affected by Covid. 

Continually recruiting and being aware of your options at every level will greatly increase your ability to compete for top talent who can help you manage through our current uncertainties. 

Rethinking Retention Strategies 

Work cultures based on head and heart have always increased retention rates. And if there was ever a time to rethink whether your culture incorporates both, it is now. People are hurting. They are depending on leaders to provide some financial and emotional stability—as well as understanding that time with family is critical always, and especially in challenging times. It’s not just healthcare companies that need to be careful they don’t completely burnout their workers, it’s every organization. Let your heart guide you to the many employment options that may make rational sense for your people and your business. Wellbeing is the foundation for high performance and resilience in every type of workplace. 

One critical way you can show both head and heart is through frequent, transparent communication. Employees are looking first for accurate information. What does working from home look like? Will I be paid the same amount? What happens if I get sick and will my costs be covered if I do? Can I take time off for a sick family member? When will we return to work? Keep all lines of communication open and adopt new ones. Make the CEO visible through video. Open social networks for personal communications and collaboration. Ramp up the volume and frequency of messages. Listen and tell continuously.  

People virtually never complain about over communication. Good communication brings people together and supports change.  

Another head & heart interaction is to adapt your benefits to our new reality, even if it’s temporary: 

  • Provide sick time and paid family and medical leave to every employee.  
  • Be more flexible and make individual, reasonable accommodation. 
  • Do the maximum, not the minimum to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees. 
  • Support workers who have been furloughed or laid off by providing things like: continued benefits, severance, job sharing, and education about possible government benefits.

Employees will remember not just what you did for them during the pandemic; they’ll remember how you made them feel. When employees feel that you are using your head and heart to do all that you can for them, you’ll benefit in so many ways: They’ll tell others what a great company you are, improving your recruitment efforts. They’ll want to work for you longer, saving the costs of rehiring and training. They’ll be more productive, increasing revenues and profits. And, most important, they’ll make you feel good about yourself in meeting the challenges of this moment by traveling the middle road that connects your people and your business. 

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