Hiring freezes have been a common cost-control measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-two percent of companies had frozen or reduced hiring in March of 2020, and another 28 said they will or might do the same. As shelter-in-place orders are rolled back, those hiring freezes have begun to thaw.

But employers, employees, and candidates are coming back to a very different landscape. Whereas the unemployment rate in February of 2020 was among the lowest on record, the unemployment rate has since skyrocketed to the highest on record. 

As People teams prepare to begin hiring again, they may be faced with a large backlog of open roles to fill and a high number of applicants for each role. They may also be navigating these challenges with a reduced headcount. 

Here are some ways People teams can prepare for the future of hiring and onboarding:

Build your talent pipelines now

If you expect to have more roles open than your team will have the capacity to fill, it’s crucial to build your talent pipeline nows. Get your talent team together with your hiring managers to proactively source talent that may be a good fit for your roles. Also let employees know which roles are open for submitting referrals.

You may choose to bank prospective candidates in your applicant tracking system for now, or suggest that your hiring managers reach out to start building relationships. But be honest with them. If you’re not hiring right away, or if you don’t know when your hiring freeze will thaw, you should let your prospective candidates know.

A talent pipeline with qualified candidates can help you get a headstart on hiring when you’re able, so you can fill your backlog of roles faster.

Be prepared for a high volume of applicants

With record-high unemployment, you will likely see a much higher volume of applicants than you have in the past several years. If you’re working with a reduced headcount on your People team, you may need to rely on your hiring managers and applicant tracking system to screen and follow up with those applicants.

It can also help to streamline more of your hiring and onboarding processes, so you have more time for reviewing resumes and conducting phone interviews. For example, integrate your applicant tracking system with your People Operations Platform. This will allow new hire data to sync so the employee onboarding process can kick off. A platform like Sapling can automate much of the onboarding process, from account provisioning to reminder emails.

It’s crucial to handle the influx of applicants with a great candidate experience so you may preserve your employer brand. The talent market may favor employers right now, but it could very well go back to a candidate-driven market in the near future. You will be more equipped to handle a large influx of applicants if you prepare for it ahead of time.

Adapt your process for remote hiring

Some companies are allowing remote work until further notice, while others may be impacted by future workplace closures or shelter-in-place orders. Preparing to hire again means preparing for remote hiring—even if that’s not how you intend to hire. Some states have already begun rolling back reopening plans, and you don’t want the inability to hire in person to impact your hiring plans. 

Take a look at your recruitment process to see how it may need to be adapted. Do you have video software that you can use in place of your onsite interviews? How can you convey your workplace culture without things like an office tour, or a lunch interview with the team? How can you adapt work assessments or presentation interviews to be done remotely? Utilize the right tools, like Zoom, a video tour of your office, or Uber Eats to reimagine your recruitment process.

Also be sure to prepare your candidates and interviewers for a remote hiring process. Remember, this is new to everyone. Give candidates tips around how they should set up their computers for the best video and audio quality. Remind interviewers to leave time for breaks in between interviews so your candidates can grab a drink or use the bathroom.

Adjust your employee onboarding program

Your onboarding program may need to adapt, depending on the state of your company. For instance, if you’re onboarding remotely, you might consider grouping new hire start dates together. This gives your newest employees a chance to bond with colleagues who are all navigating the challenges of starting a new job in a COVID-19 world. It may also reduce your administrative burden by allowing your team to accomplish some onboarding tasks in a group setting. 

However, if you’ve already welcomed employees back into the workplace, an onboarding class could make it difficult to allow social distancing. In that case, individual onboarding session may be more appropriate. 

In either case, a streamlined, automated employee onboarding process can help new employees feel welcome, while freeing up some of your time. A checklist or onboarding software can ensure you don’t miss anything important. For instance, send a welcome message to new hires and let them know what to expect for their first day or week. Make sure your employees have the equipment they need to do their jobs—and think ahead so you have plenty of time to deliver equipment to remote employees. Remind managers to check in with their new hires on days 1, 7, 14, 30, 60, and 90, even if it’s over Zoom.

Final thoughts on the future of hiring and onboarding

There have been a lot of changes to the workplace—and the world—since the beginning of the year. Hiring and onboarding are no exception to that. As your hiring freeze thaws, make sure to consider how you may need to adapt your processes to fit into a COVID-19 world.


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When the Hiring Freeze Thaws: The Future of Hiring and Onboarding