The world is starting to peek through the fog of COVID-19—and so is the economy: The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently above 24,000 and already on pace to have a summer as strong as 2019. As states begin reopening, “unpausing,” and rebuilding their business sectors, many companies are strategizing the best way to bring back their workforce. But the rebuilding process will require a solid foundation, a strong frame, and plenty of scaffolding before your organization’s structure is stable. Here are some tips for HR professionals looking to rebuild their organization’s ability to execute after COVID-19.
Rehire in Phases and According to the Budget
Perhaps George Washington said it best when he mused, “We must consult our means rather than our wishes.” The wisdom used to pull the new country from the ashes of the American Revolution also holds true as we emerge from COVID-19. While the organization may “wish” to bounce back to where it was when people were popping corks to usher in the new year of 2020, that optimism must give way to a new “normal” realism.
As you decide who to hire back, current revenue figures should guide your choices. This may involve reimagining the foundation of the organization: you may have to shift from being personnel-focused to revenue-focused.
Focus on Revenue Generation
In an ideal economy, hiring great people eventually results in a strong, financially viable organization. However, in the post-COVID-19 economy, the foundation of your recovery team should consist of revenue-generating hires. With a focus on revenue generation, your organization’s “means” may soon catch up with its “wishes.” The objective is not to reunite the old team for a dramatic, soul-stirring climb out of the ashes of uncertainty. To be a true phoenix, you want to build the revenue-generation machine of the organization and then rehire other staff as needed—if needed. This may include:
- sales staff to help connect with former and new customers;
- managers of large, key accounts to bolster your revenue base; and
- a skeleton product-development team focused on post-COVID solutions.
Communicate with Complete Transparency with Those You Bring Back
As you rebuild your workforce post-COVID-19, the term “rehire” is almost a misnomer. Every rehire will, in many ways, be like a new hire. The transition into a new, stronger organization is going to require novel skills, different thinking, and a lot of flexibility. In order for your organization to have the power to execute on its promise, those coming back need to understand that their role, like others across the entire world, has changed. Let them know that they play a crucial—and new—role in building an organization designed to flourish in the post-COVID-19 business environment. Be completely transparent as you communicate:
- Why they’re being brought back. Talk about the skills and habits of mind they have that the organization values. Go into detail about how you feel these are going to be key factors during this recovery period.
- Why they’re being brought back now. The timing of their rehire is as important as what they are being hired to do. Explain why you feel now is the best time to bring them back and what they can do right now to help the company get strong enough to bring back others.
- Communicate your expectations clearly. This may include new responsibilities. After the storm, everyone has to help clean up. Let those you bring back know this up front. Outline what they will have to do and provide a loose time frame regarding how long they will have to shoulder each responsibility. Make sure they know the time frame is fluid and will necessitate flexibility on their part.
Communicate the Organization’s Recovery Plan
In rare cases, an organization will be gradually phasing back into “business as usual.” If your customer base is still relatively broad and deep, this may work for you. In most situations, business will be anything but “usual,” at least for a while. This may involve designing new systems or even adjusting elements of the company’s core philosophy. Regardless of who you bring back in the door, take time to explain the new direction of the organization. This will help get them on board and positioned to execute their responsibilities with a sense of purpose. To get your hires on the right page:
- Paint a detailed picture of the recovery plan. Include milestones and specific benchmarks they may be asked to achieve to help keep the company moving.
- Openly convey lessons the organization has gleaned from the pandemic and how the hire can play a role in applying what has been learned.
- Be transparent about any long-term effects of the post-COVID-19 economic climate, particularly if they have forced your company to shift some of its core objectives or mechanisms.
Hire for Specific Needs, not Positions
In time, every role that previously comprised your organization may get filled. For now, the objective should be to fill needs, not positions. Focusing on needs instead of positions isn’t some sort of subtle semantic shift: It comes with ramifications that may help bolster your company’s ability to execute.
For example, your organization may have set the goal to return to last year’s sales figures. While you could just rehire your furloughed sales manager, maybe they’re better at steering a moving ship than hoisting the sails and catching a new breeze. You may want to consider a more energetic go-getter to get you through this time and then reach out to the sales manager when the ship is once again smoothly skipping along. A need-focused hiring process may lead to a restructuring of the organization.
Restructure with a Hybrid Workforce:
Maintain Solvency with Freelancers
Can your organization run leaner? In the process of helping your company survive the pandemic, you probably observed opportunities to trim or revamp your workforce. One of the best ways to slice off excess spending and to enhance efficiency is to use a hybrid workforce. By incorporating freelance talent with payroll staff, you give your company the flexibility it needs to adjust to everything from new products to pandemics. A freelance-powered workforce allows you to:
- find talent for specific initiatives without committing to funding a long-term position;
- infuse an existing team with the skills boost it needs to meet a challenging goal; and
- ramp up—or taper down—in response to changing economic conditions.
As the fog of COVID-19 evaporates, the path forward is getting clearer every week. That’s the good news. The great news is you can adjust the vision of your organization to see obstacles in the foreground, critical decisions just ahead, and opportunities on the horizon.