How HR can rethink workforce planning, hiring

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on coronavirus strategies and priorities for HR leaders–from HR’s top experts.


It was only recently that HR’s biggest challenge was finding and retaining employees amid a historically tight labor market. What a difference a global pandemic can make: It now appears the U.S. and much of the world is headed for the biggest economic contraction since the Great Depression. Unemployment has already hit double digits, and economists predict there’s more pain to come.

Kevin Oakes, CEO and founder of the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), recently crowdsourced to his organization’s members the question of what HR needs to prioritize now and the biggest “rethinks” it needs to undertake. i4cp has set up an employer resource center to highlight what specific organizations are doing to adjust to the situation in creative ways that other organizations might borrow.

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“Many companies are having problems, but others–like Peloton–have businesses that are exploding.”

First in the series: How HR should communicate in a crisis

One important theme, says Oakes, is around workforce planning and hiring. “Some companies are doing massive layoffs and furloughs while others are doing massive amounts of hiring,” he says.

For companies that need to cut staff, China offers an intriguing example: Rather than laying off employees, says Oakes, many companies there have built a process for lending their talent to other organizations.

“Sharing talent is a new concept in the U.S., but some companies here are already doing it,” he says, citing McDonald’s and Aldi as an example. The fast-food chain, which like other restaurants has had to ban in-store dining, has lent some employees to help stock shelves at Aldi markets so that the grocery chain can keep up with surging demand. “I think we’ll see more of that going forward,” says Oakes. “Companies will be looking at how they might leverage external talent to augment the projects they’re doing, given how screwed up hiring is right now.”

Workforce planning will also need to be rethought, says Oakes, as senior executives delay their planned retirements and high potentials consequently see less opportunities for moving up. “You don’t want to lose those folks, so you’re going to have to do something to retain those high potentials.”

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“Every industry is going to be impacted in different ways,” he says. “Whatever strategies you had in place prior to this year are probably going to have to be thrown out and redone.”


Coming Wednesday: What HR priorities are being affected by remote work?

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.