Tips For Bringing People Back After COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected businesses large and small.  While as of this writing it is unclear we (in the US) are closer to the beginning or the end of business restrictions, we can safely assume that some businesses will not be bringing back all of their staff when the restrictions are lifted.  This will lead to some tough decisions that have legal and performance implications.  Since I’m not a lawyer, I’ll focus more on the latter.

In an idea world, companies have processes for measuring performance.  Where objective measures are used, they are relatively free of environmental conditions.  Where managers rate performance, they are relatively free of bias.  If these represent your company, then you have an easy way to bring people back—top down based on their performance.  Note that collective bargaining agreements may render any other process moot as they may have last in, first out provisions.

Let’s say for a moment that your evaluation processes don’t live in the land described above.  Then what?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Think about how the business is going to look as things recover. What parts will stay and which ones may go (or be dormant for longer)?  This will help you think about the skills and abilities you’ll need in your staff.
  2. Have managers rate employees on the skills and abilities described above NOW.  The longer you put it off, the less reliable the ratings.
  3. Be explicit about how the ratings match up with the work to be done. It is always important to document these kinds of decisions.
  4. Use the data from the managers to develop a recall list.  That way you are bringing back the people who will help the business most first.  This will help in retaining your best people if you begin rehiring before others.

You should also be thinking now about how you are going to communicate the re-opening process to your employees.  There may not be enough data now for you to craft a message now, but HR should be considering different options so that when decisions are made they can be communicated quickly and effectively.

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