Company Culture
COVID-19 / Hiring / Jobs / Remote work / Workplace culture

‘Built to last’: 3 tips on managing employees and hiring efforts during a global crisis

Hire if you need to, but pull back the reins if your biz is in a healthy spot: HR pros discuss how their growth-stage companies are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recruiting for Growth-Stage Tech Companies in a Global Crisis panelists. (Screenshot)
We’re all living in an uncertain time, and perhaps more than ever, people are concerned about keeping their jobs.

To help provide some insight on hiring in the mid-Atlantic region, hosted a webinar on Tuesday, March 24, with HR pros on how their growth-stage companies are handling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by CEO Christopher Wink, attendees heard from five expert panelists:

At one point in the conversation, Wink asked the panelists how optimistic they were about hiring through 2020 and overall, they expressed some positivity about coming out OK on the other side of this health crisis. If you weren’t able to join us, we recorded audio of the conversation and published a transcript (which, full disclosure, was automated by and includes a few name errors).

We covered an array of topics during the hour-long webinar, from managing talent acquisition operations, to transitioning to remote work, self-care and more. Here’s some key points from the discussion:

Remote work is evolving, even if your company was already accustomed to it, so adapt.

Some panelists during this discussion said that their companies were already set up with remote work policies before the time of social distancing — but they’ve recently noticed some shortcomings and areas that need improvement.

Since Syapse has teams distributed internationally, the company already had remote work processes in place. Still, Neckermann said the company is working to improve its virtual interviewing efforts.

I think one of the big takeaways for us [lately] has been that even we still find ourselves learning to communicate differently, to operate differently, to be more effective and efficient whenever we’re remote,” he said. “We’ve run remote interviews for a long time and man, we found a lot of gaps in our remote interviewing process just in the last couple of weeks that we’re out there trying to fix really quickly.”

Don't skip the less-structured get-to-know-you time in interviews just because you're not in the office. Schedule it into your time with candidates.

One such gap and its fix: Typically Syapse interviews start with 10 minutes of settling in, walking around the office, answering basic questions. Don’t skip that just because you’re all at home, Neckermann said. Schedule a few minutes of unstructured get-to-know-you time into the interview itself. (Read some more tips on virtual onboarding from Baltimore software companies.)

Davis said the Jane team normally would only come into its Philly office at least once in a typical a week. She said the main thing they’re learning now is how to collaborate fully virtually. Internet bandwidth issues, for instance, have prompted the company to switch to more phone conversations instead of video calls.

“Our team is quite small already,” Davis said. “So we do already have processes in place so that we can work from home, but it’s more so preparing to do so long term” right now.

Ordway’s Koont, in D.C., emphasized that while of course it’s important to maintain work meetings, it’s equally as important to make sure your team is still communicating on a social level.

“You may have 10, 15, 20 people in a meeting that is not necessarily efficient and good use of company’s time, but at this point, having those social connections and having those times where people can just get together and talk about things is super critical,” he said.

Hire if you need to, but pull back the reins if your company is in a healthy spot.

Guru cofounder and CEO Rick Nucci hosted a town hall for the 155-person team via Zoom last week to assure employees the company was in a healthy place, said the Philly-based Gomez.

Still, “we know that we definitely need to focus [less] on the growth portion for the next immediate several months, but [are also] really just making sure we’re efficient as well and being profitable,” Gomez said.

Skinner shared that while D.C.’s Axios hasn’t announced any layoffs, the company has decided to pause most of its hiring plans. Skinner said she’s communicated those plans with any finalists or candidates on the brink of receiving employment offers from the company.

“Leadership thought through what is absolute priority and what can wait. And then once we had that list, that’s when it clicked,” she said about the moment this pandemic’s effects began to feel real for her. “We don’t want to hire anyone and then have to rescind it or let them go a month later because we just don’t know. It’s constantly changing.”

Despite the uncertain time, Neckermann said that this could be an opportunity to come up on some good talent.

“As talent acquisition leaders or people, team leaders or consultants or whoever we are, part of our job is to understand where the blockers are coming from,” Neckermann said about the pandemic’s impact. “We want to balance this with the opportunity that comes along with these kinds of scenarios, which is being out and being aggressive in the talent marketplace for very critical roles.”

Above all, transparency is key.

Talent acquisition operations are consistently changing and business models are pivoting. One thing that the panelists said was important during a crisis like this is being fully transparent with clients and candidates.

How they treat their people and what they do for them in this pandemic is going to last in their mind and their reputation.

Davis said that conversations she’s having with candidates now include questions concerning how companies are treating their employees at a time like this.

“The conversations that I have with candidates for clients who are still continuing their hiring process has been vastly different [from before the pandemic], because there’s a component in which I’m being asked what is being done at this company so that the employees are being safe,” she said. “I think that’s something that a lot of companies need to remember, is how they treat their people and what they do for them in this pandemic is going to last in their mind and their reputation.”

Koont added that assuring candidates that your business will make it through this crisis is just as important.

“I think for us, it’s about de-risking decisions for candidates and showing that we are a company that is built to last. We’ve got a great team, we have funding and we’re solving a real world problem,” said Koont. “I think those are the types of things, whereas we may have talked up team lunches or streaming music on the Sonos prior to this. Now it’s about, this is a company that is going to survive the next two-plus years regardless.”

Companies: Ordway / Jane / Guru Technologies /
Series: How to Work Remotely / Coronavirus

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