Employers can still recruit and retain reliable employees in the COVID-19 era, says HR expert Carol Kardas.

“COVID-19 has asked us to really think differently, to act differently, and to look at how we’re dealing with our employees on a different, sort of flexible basis,” Kardas, founding partner of KardasLarson LLC, said Sept. 15 at CBIA’s annual Wage & Hour Conference.

Mark Soycher and Carol Kardas
CBIA's Mark Soycher and KardasLarson's Carol Kardas speaking during the Sept. 15 Wage & Hour Conference.

But the good news, she said, is that job applicants are available as many talented people have been furloughed or laid off.

Employers simply have to adjust to recruiting and retaining employees in a virtual world, Kardas said.

“You don’t have people coming in for interviews,” says CBIA's Mark Soycher, host of the virtual conference. “You’re not taking them through the plant operations to show them things and getting up close.

“How do you hire and hang onto people in this disconnected environment?”

'Electronic Everything'

“Think electronic everything,” Kardas said. “Everything you’re going to be doing from now on probably is going to be of an electronic nature.”

That starts with placing a digital job ad.

Kardas said she recently spoke with the folks at Indeed, who report that employers are including certain phrases in ads like “hiring now” and “filling several positions,” while stressing flexible work policies, including work from home.

"How do you hire and hang onto people in this disconnected environment?"

CBIA's Mark Soycher

“Make sure people know who you are,” Kardas said. “Talk about your company.”

She also suggests automating the process by putting applications online, and advises employers to review job descriptions and try to explain the central functions you’re seeking.

Employers should include a handful of qualifying questions in the ad.

“That way when I start to get resumés, I can easily tell whether someone meets the major qualifications of that job,” Kardas said.

Group Interviews

While video interviews and conferences are part of the process, Kardas suggests starting with a phone call.

“You’ll get a preliminary touchpoint so you can understand if this person meets the criteria you’re looking for and will be successful in that position,” she said.

Next, she suggests an online group interview, placing the people who will interview the candidate in one room, each with questions to ask.

"Everything you’re going to be doing probably is going to be electronic."

KardasLarson's Carol Kardas

And tell the candidate it’s a group interview.

“More and more people are having issues talking into a camera,” Kardas said.

“If they’re going to be talking to four or five people, you want to be sure they understand that and are prepared for it.”

Onboarding

Employers should let candidates know if they’re moving forward without them, and employers can maintain contact with candidates they like through texting or email.

Once hired, new employees can meet coworkers in chat rooms or an online social hour, she said, adding that on-boarding should be a two- to three-week process.

Then, stay in touch with your new hire.

"Communicate, communicate, communicate. Managers cannot isolate themselves at this time."

Kardas

“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” she said. “Managers cannot isolate themselves at this time.

“Communicate on a daily basis if you can and use the 'we' language so you can maintain inclusiveness among employees.”

Provide a clear description of what’s expected of employees, Kardas added.

“You’ve got to really begin to hold those individual coaching conversations,” she said. “Remember, people aren’t next to each other, there’s nobody to talk with.”

Benefits

Employers should also make sure employees understand their benefits, including vacation, sick leave, and personal time, she said.

Kardas was one of several experts to speak during the conference that featured instant surveys and allowed participants to ask questions in real time.

Eric Gjede, CBIA’s vice president of government affairs, gave a state legislative update, and discussed how to make your voice heard on behalf of your company and the HR profession.

Employers should make sure employees understand their benefits, including vacation, sick leave, and personal time.

Craig Dickinson of Littler Mendelson covered how overtime rule changes and COVID-driven necessities of getting the job done may have changed employees’ job assignments, thus jeopardizing exempt-nonexempt classifications.

John Letizia, managing partner at Letizia, Ambrose & Falls, addressed how nontraditional employment situations—such as remote working—are now essential, but, nonetheless, confusing.

Paula Anthony, senior counsel at Berchem Moses PC, spoke on the costly mistake of misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

And Soycher moderated an afternoon discussion on interacting with state and federal labor agencies that featured Sarah Thomas, assistant district director, U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, Hartford, and Yaya Peretto, wage enforcement agent, Wage & Workplace Standards Division, Connecticut Department of Labor.