Should you rehire former employees or create new roles? Here are four things to consider.

Many small businesses had to cut workers during the COVID-19 crisis, making hiring a central part of recovery. But business owners may be faced with new challenges when it comes to hiring, from changes in employee and consumer expectations to surges in demand for products and services. Deciding how to staff your business may be heavily influenced by the pandemic for quite some time, even as we move past the acute stages. These four steps can guide you through the hiring process in today’s “new normal.”

1. Determine your current needs

First, examine whether COVID-19 changed your business model. If so, your staffing needs may be different, too. For example, if you are now offering remote services or doing more of your business online, you may need a more robust tech team. This could mean rethinking the roles in your business and coming up with new job descriptions.  

Action tip: Make a list of the tasks you find yourself putting off or that you or a team member don’t feel comfortable doing. This can help you pinpoint the skills you’re looking for, which can in turn help you build a detailed job description that can help you fill the role.


2. Consider the pros and cons of rehiring any laid-off workers

Since small businesses can feel like family, you may be tempted to rehire previous employees. Before you do so, however, consider whether your current needs have changed (step one). If you still need your former employees’ skills, consider why they left, and whether they want to come back. If all of that seems like a fit, then rehiring previous employees can offer big benefits, like a shorter learning curve and loyalty to your business. On the other hand, they may also be less willing to adapt or pivot their roles to reflect any changes you’ve made to your business while they were let go. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons. You may even want to consider other candidates to see if a former employee really is the best fit. One thing to note: Rehiring former employees may not reduce your paperwork. You may need to file the same tax and other forms that you would with a new hire.  

Action tip: Document any attempt to rehire former employees in writing, including details about the terms. If you received government aid during COVID, this documentation could be relevant in the future, so it’s good to have it just in case.


3. Plan your hiring process

When it comes to searching for talent, you may want to think outside the box. If you’re not sure exactly what type of role you need to fill, or who could best help you rebuild, you might want to hire a worker for a contracted period of time. Or you might hire two part-time roles instead of one full-time employee. Just be sure to check the guidelines around hiring contract workers versus full-time employees in your area. Once you’ve come up with a clear role and job description, your search for talent begins. This recruitment process may look quite different than it did pre-COVID-19. Even if your business operates in person, you may have more success finding job candidates if you offer a virtual interview option. Consider what remote interviewing looks like for your company. You might offer remote and in-person options, for instance. If you’re a remote team or want to be extra cautious, create a strategy for remote onboarding as well. Creating a robust digital onboarding process could go a long way in helping new staff feel welcome.  

Action tip: Make sure you have technology in place to handle (potentially remote) interviews and onboarding, such as a user-friendly digital calendar for appointments, video-conferencing software for interviews, and secure file sharing for important documents.


4. Prepare for the post-COVID workplace

Many people have changed the way they view work and the employer-employee relationship since the start of the crisis. In addition to standard questions around compensation and benefits, potential hires may ask you about flexible working conditions or even your response to COVID-19. Think about how you’ll answer questions around remote work, sick-day policies, and health insurance. Candidates may also ask whether a role has room for growth or if it’s temporary. If your business changed significantly in response to the crisis, they may be concerned that their role will phase out when we achieve a “new normal.” They may also be curious to know how you would handle their role if any new forms of uncertainty arise in the future.  

Action tip: Make a list of the toughest questions you might get and how you want to respond. Share the list with your team and get their input. This has dual benefits: It reduces the chance you’ll be caught off guard and helps get your team on the same page.

While the COVID-19 crisis has presented clear and unprecedented challenges, a growing number of small businesses are optimistic about the future and ready to bring on new staff members. Making smart choices about staffing can help you navigate this crisis, fortify any changes you’ve made to your business strategy, and be prepared for a changing small-business landscape.


Sources: Harvard Business Review, McKinsey & Company, Embroker, Monster, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Society for Human Resource Management, Time

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