When COVID-19 hit, nearly half of small businesses had to furlough or lay off staff members. But as the economy reopens and businesses rebuild, you may be ready to hire or rehire. Deciding how to staff your business may be heavily influenced by the ongoing crisis, even as you rebuild for the future. These four steps can guide you through the hiring process.
1. Determine your current needs
First, examine whether your business model shifted due to COVID-19. If so, your staffing needs may be different. 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 anyone you let go. However, whether you rehire workers may depend on whether your current needs have changed (step one). If you still need your former employees’ skills, rehiring them can offer big benefits, like a shorter learning curve and loyalty to your business.
However, if you’re hoping to rehire former employees to reduce paperwork, be aware that you may need to file the same tax forms and other paperwork that you would with a new hire.
Plus, some furloughed workers may not want to come back — whether over safety concerns (especially for in-person work) or because they found work elsewhere. 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.
Action tip: Resist the temptation to reach out to previous employees informally. Instead, document any attempt to rehire former employees in writing, including details about the terms. If Congress passes new aid packages or updates the rules governing the forgiveness of loans backed by the Small Business Administration (like the Paycheck Protection Program), this documentation may be helpful.
3. Plan your hiring process
When it comes to searching for talent, you may want to think outside the box. If, after the first two steps, you’re still not sure exactly what type of role or employee is best suited to 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 to answer COVID-related questions
In addition to standard questions around compensation and benefits, potential hires may ask you about your response to COVID-19. Think about how you’ll answer questions around safety precautions, sick-day policies, health insurance, and remote work.
Candidates may also ask whether a role has room for growth or if it’s temporary and rooted in COVID-19-specific changes to your business. They may also be curious to know how you would handle their role if COVID-19 upticks again or if your business faces any new forms of uncertainty.
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.