Worker in a factory hero.jpg

Leaders: Now is the Time for Mindful Decision Making

No question, we are experiencing a significant and unparalleled moment in modern global history. Last week, in something of an unusual but encouraging development, the U.S. Congress worked together to create bipartisan legislation that creates an economic life-preserver for workers, companies, and industries that are in the cross-hairs of financial distress.

We applaud elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels who are marshalling resources to care for people, activating executive orders intended to keep people safe and calling for help to weather this crisis in the American tradition of all-hands-on-deck.

With economic indicators pointing in the direction of a significant global recession in the next few months, workforce issues (e.g., layoffs, staffing, etc.) will surely multiply quickly.

Labor economists direly predict that new unemployment claims will continue to jump into the millions over the next few weeks. With so many states asking citizens to either shelter in place or stay at home, the service economy is in deep trouble. Retail outlets, food and beverage establishments, social clubs, airlines, hotels, and dozens of other business deemed non-essential have little or no work for their employees.

However, not all companies are experiencing the crisis in the same manner. One practice we are observing is companies voluntarily taking on additional cost due to high business demand.

For example, Amazon is increasing the overtime rate to 2x the hourly rate of pay. Peloton Interactive is seeing strong demand for exercise equipment, and is providing additional compensation for workers who deliver to the customer’s home or workplace.

Food manufacturers such as Mondelez International and J.M. Smuckers are offering pay increases, hazard pay, and special bonuses in order to keep grocery shelves stocked with life’s necessities. CEO Richard Branson is donating $250 million to preserve jobs for his furloughed airline and cruise ship employees.

Another rising trend is an all-out appeal for more workers. Industries such as healthcare, pharmacy services, internet-based commerce, certain types of manufacturing, and supply chain delivery are seeing business running at peak levels. Amazon is forecasting the need for 100,000 additional full and part-time workers. CVS Health has over 50,000 job openings across the U.S. Home-delivery service Instacart announced it is hiring 300,000 new employees.

Major grocery retailers such as Walmart and Publix have announced they are hiring laid-off workers during this crisis. Twin Cities manufacturer 3M ramped up production of n95 face masks, doubling global supply in just days. A number of regional and national distilleries are now making hand sanitizer to keep employees working and to provide a valuable commodity in short supply.

But make no mistake, many other businesses and industries are in steep decline, such as the travel industry and automobile manufacturing. And while we know it may be an instinctive reaction to lay off workers amidst decrease in demand and volatility in the capital markets, we strongly encourage business leaders to think strategically about managing your workforce.

We know many of you are in deep conversations about the impacts of this crisis on your workforce, and on your bottom line. With those insights, extend your reach for solutions into your enterprise ecosystem (i.e., contractors, alumni, trusted partners). Kevin Martin, Chief Research Officer at i4cp reminds us that organizations with this perspective are much better positioned to:

  • Upskill/reskill talent in ways that benefit both the organization and the individual.
  • Cross-train people who have adjacent skills (i.e., key foundational skills) so they can provide additional capacity—or substitute for others with key skills who are unable to go to work.
  • Borrow or leverage talent/capability from other sources.

While some corporate leaders have stated publicly their need for more workers during this crisis, they acknowledge that employees will likely return to their chosen careers once the crisis subsides.

Think about your need for qualified workers, whether it be diminished or not at this moment in time. Manage your needs from the perspective of a global pool of talent, some in demand, some not, and reach out to your counter-parts at other companies who may be interested in a temporary talent exchange.

We have heard it said many times: workers did not ask for this. So until we take the collective precautions necessary to emerge from this global health and economic crisis, we encourage business leaders around the world to invest in your workforce, get creative in managing talent, make careful, thoughtful decisions, and above all, optimize this opportunity to demonstrate an oft-repeated mantra that employees are your most valued resource.  

Mark Englizian is a senior strategy adviser at i4cp, and a former HR executive who advises CEOs and Boards of Director on human capital issues. He also chairs i4cp’s CHRO Next Board, a group for aspiring HR leaders.”