Communicating with recruitment teams during the coronavirus outbreak
These last three or four weeks have been some of the most challenging that the Canadian recruitment industry has gone through in recent memory. The prevailing mood is uncertainty.
For most leaders of recruitment businesses, the shock has passed. Agencies have made decisive moves to weather the storm today—temporary and permanent layoffs, salary cuts, and restructuring—and started to turn their attention to what comes next. Difficult decisions abound.
At desk-level, the landscape is much more fractured. Feelings about job security, prospects of short-term success, and confidence in leadership vary tremendously from sector-to-sector and company-to-company. There are now many recruitment professionals who have been laid off indefinitely and wonder if they’ll return to the industry at all.
We have found internal staff confidence has closely tracked the reliability, depth, and pace of internal communications from leadership. Put simply, staff are more confident when they know the company is up-to-date, has a plan, and is paying attention. Staff confidence is collapsing in firms that are downplaying the seriousness of the crisis or delivering a volatile message—when one day the company line is that everything is ok and the next it’s laying off experienced employees.
It is critical that leaders keep their teams abreast of updates from the public sector, including municipal, provincial, and federal governments and public health officials. Internal staff are looking to their leadership to connect what they’re hearing in the news to life at desk-level.
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan has evolved rapidly to create and deliver new programming to support individuals and businesses. Program announcements have come out through the prime minister’s daily updates, various press conferences, and government publications. Public health officials at all levels of government are regularly delivering updates and new recommendations.
With each new trickle of information, staff are wondering:
– How does this affect my job security?
– How does this affect the company’s financial stability?
– How does this affect my clients and candidates?
It’s a lot for anyone to take in. Leaders have an opportunity to qualify, explain, and moderate this stream of information to help maintain internal staff confidence, deliver more value to clients and candidates, and ensure that staff fully understand the operating environment.
For example, the announcement of a 75% wage subsidy for Canadian businesses quickly raised hopes among individuals that layoffs would cease and rehiring would begin. Most individuals simply don’t have the whole story: the wage subsidy would be processed via a portal that wouldn’t go live for three to six weeks with subsidy payments to follow potentially weeks later. Ottawa cannot speak for your business: with each update, leaders should clearly articulate any impact on the business’ short-term strategy and set realistic staff expectations.
A regular internal communications cadence has the pleasant side-effect of ensuring that your team are kept up to speed and able to act as a reliable source of information for your clients and candidates. We have all been speaking to candidates that we can’t help in the usual way right now or to clients who simply don’t need staff but we do have an opportunity to help them navigate this new environment.
Consider offering separated staff the opportunity to receive your updates, too. It gives you the opportunity to stay connected to them and make sure you are delivering a clear and consistent message that manages their expectations. It’s better that they hear a straightforward answer from you than have to piece the picture together from the papers, the grapevine, and the rumour mill.
After nearly a month of doing business in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, the definition of success has changed. For many teams, it just isn’t a matter of hitting activity or revenue targets right now. As much as hiring has continued in some sectors, it has drastically slowed in others. Internal measures of success need to reflect this reality. Every member of the team needs to clearly understand the short-term strategy, how they’re expected to contribute to its execution, and what they’re going to measured against.
So, the name of the game is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Every little bit of certainty that you can provide goes a long way to instilling in your team the knowledge and confidence they’ll need to be able to continue to have meaningful conversations with clients and candidates. Supplementing official announcements with internal context will help your existing staff stay ahead of the game, keep furloughed staff engaged, and ensure your team doesn’t fall prey to misinformation.