I recently co-hosted a live panel debate with Jeff Herzog, President of recruiting business FPC National. One of the key things we wanted to uncover was how the jobs market and hiring plans have been impacted by Covid-19.
5 key questions were put to the panel and this is the second of five videos and transcripts that share the insights with everyone who missed attending the session live.
Here's the full video for question 2, a transcript of which follows underneath
Our panel comprised the following experts alongside Jeff Herzog and myself (Tony Restell):
Jeff Herzog: Julie, you and I happened to be in one of the hottest areas in terms of where the virus started. It was an epicenter; and I know you have a lot of employees in Nassau County as well, but I know you were particularly - especially being an HR - you were particularly affected by the virus and had an early patient.
If you wouldn't mind, taking us back to then. Tell us about that situation, but also what you were planning on doing in terms of hiring, and how has this whole pandemic changed the focus going forward?
Julie Bank: Yeah, sure. It's been such a whirlwind, but we were hit very early on. We had an employee who was probably less than the fifth person in Nassau County impacted, where there was a lot of misinformation and no information.
And I found out on a Saturday morning and I had 48 hours to figure out - what does this mean? Now we know what it means, more so, but back then, we really didn't. And speaking with the CDC and speaking with all these government agencies who really didn't know back then.
So it was a lot of quick decisions, we made the call that we were going to close the office, a few hours later, we were instructed that we would need to close the office, and this was one of my smaller offices.
We had to deploy an office that was not set up for virtual work to be a virtual work environment. I'm talking about calls and claims staff with dual monitors, towers.
This was not an organization that was ready to go virtual. And, we got it done.
Thanks to our superior IT team and a lot of, 48 hours of really long nights where we were deploying machines to individuals and we got an office of 40 people working by Wednesday.
I mean, we got the call on Saturday - and by Wednesday, I had everyone phased in. But by Wednesday, everyone was working remotely, so we got it together pretty quickly. It was a huge turning point for us. It made us think, listen - we have other offices... New York City. We have another one in Long Island, we have another one in New Jersey.
This could happen anytime, we gotta go. We gotta move people. So with that, we put a pause on our hiring plans.
We were actively recruiting. We had call center staff that was about to start a week later. We paused that. We really paused everything.
Being a health care company, you would think that we were staying on point, but we felt that work shortages also, we were hit with a decrease in volumes because elective surgeries were cancelled, the hospitals were inundated, but they weren't focusing on billing and claims they were, transitioning people in front office.
It was a crazy time. So what we did was we deployed our staff, our goal was to keep our employees paid and working. And that's what we did. And we focused on resource allocation and pivoting roles, flexing staff, getting assignments done; and now, as the dates are opening up where we see the light. Now we're going to be looking forward to adding to our team, we will be recruiting.
There are spaces that we are laser-focused on, whether it's technology. So it feels good that we feel that we're getting out of it. But getting out of it is going to be different from where we were before.
We're still remote. We don't know when we'll be back in the offices. We know that we have obligations to our clients, to our providers, to our systems.
We're going to get the work done, but it's certainly going to be a new normal for us. And I think again what I mentioned before, just opening up the candidate pool where we didn't do that, we never did it in the past, because we had leaders who were fiercely against it.
Now, seeing that it could work, I would say, there was a benefit, of all this, that was something right, because now we could take advantage of people with competencies across the country that we just wouldn't have been able to touch before.
So you know that's been a little bit of a light for us, for sure.
Jeff Herzog: Excellent. Thanks, Julie and... Kudos to your team to be able to pivot so quickly, it is not easy.
And one of the other questions we're going to ask we'll talk about it a little bit later is redundancies going forward.
And, how do we have contingency plans?
Obviously, years ago when there was a fire in the building, a lot of the time people didn't know what to do. So these fire companies come in and they made it a regulation to know who the person on the floor is, that's going be calling your team and where to meet.
So you make these plans based on when things happen... and I guess there's going to be a big push to make sure going forward that we have these contingency plans in place for any number of reasons.
Julie Bank: I think that's what it's about. I think a lot of organizations already had business continuity planning.
We have a book this big. We have a task force. We had it. But, we did not have it for a pandemic.
That was going to wipe out every single office that we had, and that was the gap. And when I speak to other people, that's what I'm hearing. It's not that they weren't prepared. We weren't prepared for this.
That in a minute, every office was down.
Jeff Herzog: Yeah, interesting stuff. I don't think anybody could plan for this. Even though we were supposed to many years ago, never actually did.
Anybody else want to talk about sort of the difference between their hiring plans today versus what they were when the economy was chugging along and we had 3.5% unemployment. Any other thoughts?
Jenn Ryan: We're looking more and more at, I think, two things, one I would talk about from a skill standpoint, for engineers and case managers broad, rather than... more broad than deep.
So, we often have them looking for niche personnel in a certain type of manufacturing. And given that the bubble is moving, maybe one segment's down another's up.
We're looking for people that are broader, but the other thing I would say... is that we're asking people and I've been talking about it as freedom and a framework.
We need people who can identify when you're working remote, you need to be able to identify a need and move toward it, even for an individual contributor.
So I think we're spending more time on how the person approaches work rather than looking at a boilerplate set of credentials.
And we're really doing more situational interviewing to look for that.
Jeff Herzog: Amazing that it took... It's almost like it's counterintuitive.
You're thinking you're going to be more situational when you're sitting face to face with somebody. But we're being forced to do this because of what is being asked of us.
And I think it's good, because instead of the interview being a checkbox, bullet points and a checkbox.
Do you have this?
Do you do this?
It is more looking for some of those soft skills and some of the ability. It will be interesting to sort of get people's perspective of, the question of the future could be:
How were you successful during the pandemic?
Because that's going to tell you a lot about the person and what they were able to accomplish in a very stressful time.
Julie Bank: Well, Jeff. I also think that's a question that candidates are going to be asking on us and when I'm speaking to candidates now, and it used to be talk to me about healthcare healthcare, healthcare... they want to understand.
And now it's, what did you do and how did you treat people? And, that's the number one question that candidates are posing. Are you an employer of choice? How do you treat your people?
Because I need to understand that before I'm going to think about joining your team.
Jeff Herzog: And, not just millennials, right? Everybody is asking that question.
Julie Bank: Everybody's asking that, and it's more than are you remote? It's, what did you do and how did you lead during this change?
Jeff Herzog: It's amazing. One of my franchisees down in Georgia called me.
It was like this epiphany because this is going back about a month ago and he said, I'm surprised at myself. He had gotten a job order from a client and he didn't ask the question. But the candidate asked him, how are they planning on protecting people going forward in light of COVID?
And we're encouraging all of our recruiters now to ask that question because you don't want to be flat footed when you get asked that question, you want to be able to say with all confidence. Well, let me tell you exactly what they are doing.
And some companies have got their plans together, very well, very documented... to your point.
Some of them are better, better plans for, whether it's continuity or just preparedness. It really is different from one company to the next, I think - you know what - employee handbooks are going to change forever and there's going to be some very interesting things that come out of this.
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