COVID-19 | IBM's HR Chief reveals why now is 'the perfect opportunity'

IBM's HR Chief reveals why now is 'the perfect opportunity'

Since coronavirus started to spread, employees have been instructed to work from home where possible. While many have voiced the challenges that they have faced since working remotely, they have been able to keep working.

For those organisations that have observed the financial drain of the virus – and business has started to take a hit – some staff have, sadly, been laid off.

The natural instinct for employers wanting to reduce costs may be laying off staff though, Bill Schaninger from the consultancy McKinsey, told The Economist that good HR leaders will be able to reconfigure company workflows to prevent this.

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Other companies have halted hiring to improve cashflow. While it may not be the right time to recruit new talent – and lots of employers have imposed a temporary hiring freeze to help business continue as normal – this, according to IBM’s HR lead Diane Gherson, is “the perfect opportunity” for savvy HR leaders to attract rival talent, particularly given that most people are working from home and won't be listening in on their calls.

Freeze on hiring

But just because some employers have enforced a freeze on hiring doesn’t mean that hiring experts shouldn’t keep an eye out for top talent that could benefit recruitment pipelines in future.

The extent of the current hiring freeze is illustrated in a user-generated document, created by Candor’s Co-Founder, David Chouinard, which shows a list of companies that are freezing hiring, laying off staff and those that are still hiring.

At the time of publishing this article, more than 1,300 organisations were listed in a range of different industry sectors.

Adidas, BuzzFeed, Deliveroo and Etsy were just four of the companies listed within this document.

In the ‘notes’ section of the document, users recorded where the hiring freezes were reportedly announced, whether these freezes had been confirmed and by who, and where they had sourced some of the information from.

But some companies are hiring

While some companies have halted hiring for the foreseeable future, some industry sectors and organisations have witnessed a spike in consumer demand which has resulted in a hiring spree.

Earlier this month, ecommerce giant Amazon announced plans to add 100,00 new global full-time and part-time positions to meet the surge in demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to Barrons, the new hires in its fulfilment centres and delivery network are intended “to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public”.

But the online retailer isn’t the only company recruiting staff to cope with increased demand. According to The Sun, both Aldi and Asda are taking on temporary staff to help replenish stock more quickly and to provide additional assistance to shoppers.

Virtual hiring

With strict lockdown measures preventing Brits from travelling unless it is critical, it is likely that most job interviews will take place virtually for the time being. But what is best HR practice for doing this?

Speaking to HR Grapevine, a recruitment expert at a luxury fashion brand, shared five tips for successfully conducting virtual job interviews.

  1. It's easy to get distracted by messenger or emails whilst in process, switch this off otherwise it's just rude.

  2. I was interviewed via facetime with quite a senior HR director a couple of years ago, she had a lovely kitchen but I couldn't help notice she had a very messy AGA (cooker) and lots of used pots and pans (this was 10am, I think she had rushed the kids breakfast and sent them packing). So, all I could think about was that she must [be] very messy and very disorganised. I withdrew from the process.

  3. If you have a bad phone signal, bad systems, don't engage in this format. You will look unprofessional and shabby.

  4. If there is an element of visual, try to look your brand/or as you would in a working day at the office.

  5. Be on time. The same rules apply. It's not okay to run ten minutes behind just so can finish a long email and keep the candidate hanging on.

Putting people first

Throughout this turbulent time, it is important that employee safety and needs are prioritised.

Earlier this month, HR guru Josh Bersin wrote on his blog that the right response to coronavirus is: People first, economics second.

“The real point is that people are scared, and as a result, we have to create a sense of trust, shared responsibility, and safety,” he wrote.

This is something that each HR leader should be prioritising at the moment.

Do you have any tips for conducting virtual interviews? Let us know in the comments…

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Comments (2)

  • Ruby
    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 11:41pm BST
    How incredibly shallow: "So, all I could think about was that she must [be] very messy and very disorganised. I withdrew from the process".

  • Steven
    Tue, 31 Mar 2020 1:29pm BST
    It's one thing to highlight which companies are currently in a hiring freeze (including my current employer), but what are your options when you have already been offered a new role, accepted it, handed in your notice and withdrawn from half a dozen other applications, including two that were inviting you to interview?

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