Hiring in the Time of Coronavirus

Everyday, there is new information on the spread and impact of the coronavirus, including how it is impacting populations and markets domestically and abroad. The reach and effect of that impact is currently unknown, and that uncertainty raises many questions for businesses struggling to maintain performance and productivity. I’m writing to address one question many companies are currently facing: How to navigate hiring and on-boarding amidst this uncertainty and ambiguity?

Clients who have already engaged us to help them expand their in-house legal departments have been seeking guidance about how to push these processes forward while maintaining sensitivity to employees’ and candidates’ personal health as well as the fluctuating markets. If you are facing these same concerns, here are some practices and guidelines to help.

Not All Hiring Needs Should Be Frozen

As the business impacts of the coronavirus grow, managing those impacts will be prioritized by individual businesses and their leadership, and some companies are instituting a hiring freeze to conserve resources. However, a hiring freeze won’t always be the right answer – especially for companies who need to right-size their legal departments to ensure adequate coverage of business-critical needs. Engaging a search consultant who can dedicate their time and energy to the business of finding and vetting candidates will free up the time and energy of your own staff to focus on those priorities while still progressing toward right-sizing your legal department to appropriately manage the company’s risks and exposures (including new risks and exposures that are arising as a result of the international scope of the coronavirus). A search consultant can also help you evaluate the investment (time and financial) of making a new hire versus outsourcing that work to determine which outcome best serves the business needs of the company.

Flexibility Will Be Required

Approaching the hiring process with flexibility and guidance will help maintain progress in the hiring process while balancing companies’ and individuals’ needs and concerns. Some suggestions for how to be flexible are outlined below:

Technology is Our Friend

Many companies are already taking advantage of technology to allow their employees, especially those in geographies where the virus is more widespread, to work from home. This same technology can be leveraged to allow the interview process to move forward through the use of video and phone conferencing. Thus, key stakeholders can “meet” candidates in process without risking exposure or jeopardizing the containment of the virus. 

Some Delays Are Likely Inevitable

Many companies are uncertain what, if any, long term impacts the coronavirus may have on their performance and how that may change the needs of their businesses with respect to their legal departments. In these instances, a hiring freeze may be appropriate. Other companies, particularly those that have instituted a work from home practice, may not be in a position to appropriately on-board and train incoming hires. However, top-level talent may have already been identified and vetted for various positions with that company. The question then becomes how to keep those candidates engaged and interested until forward progress can be made. Some companies are opting to reach an agreement on hiring, but holding on the onboarding process until it is clear that the virus has been contained. Others are freezing hiring on a broader scope. In either situation, transparent communication, trust and strong relationships between the company and the candidate are essential to enable the process to move forward once the freeze can be lifted. 

Key Takeaway (TLDR version)

Coronavirus and its impacts on the market are in many ways outside of our control. However, working with a trusted executive search consultant can help navigate this ever-changing climate and position your company to minimize the negative impacts on the efficiency and engagement of your legal team in the face of this outbreak and beyond. 

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