November 18, 2020 – The job statistics have been dire. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of organizations laid off millions of American workers. More than 21 million Americans are currently claiming some form of unemployment insurance. And while the unemployment rate stands at 6.9 percent, it stood as high as 14.7 percent this past spring. A recent report from Korn Ferry, however, points to one company’s jaw-dropping—and positive—statistic. One single company, Walmart, hired 235,000 people itself, an average of more than 5,000 people a day, to meet the demand for its goods.
“We continue to see strong demand in our stores, and at the same time, we want to give our current associates the flexibility to take time off and stay home if they feel more comfortable doing so,” said Donna Morris, chief people officer at Walmart. “In stores and clubs, we’ll continue to hire key roles, such as cashiers, stockers and personal shoppers. In distribution centers and fulfillment centers, we’ll hire additional fillers and pickers. And, we’ll also continue adding roles such as more drivers to our fleet.”
Walmart said it has had more than one million applicants and hired an average of 5,000 people per day during the outbreak. The retailer has worked with more than 70 companies that have furloughed workers to offer many of them temporary or part-time positions. Others may turn into permanent roles.
“Not every firm will need to hire the near equivalent of Buffalo, NY’s population in six weeks, or indeed, ever,” Korn Ferry said. “In Walmart’s case, the firm needed to rapidly fill in for those sick or staying home from the virus and new recruits for warehouses, distribution centers and stores. But experts say there’s an important lesson here: At some point, the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic will fade, and many companies may need to fill many jobs fast. To do that successfully, they say, will take a lot more than just hanging out a bunch of ‘Help Wanted’ signs.”
Hiring Lots of People at Once
Walmart initially sped up hiring for key roles including cashiers and stockers by cutting the application process from an average of two weeks to 24 hours. Walmart shifted from in-person interviews to phone screenings to help speed up the hiring process for stores. “Once we have the application, the store calls the candidate for pre-screen, and if the candidate meets the expectations of the store, a verbal job offer is provided during the pre-screen call,” a Walmart spokesperson said. If the verbal offer is accepted, Walmart will email the candidate a job offer confirmation and background check details.
Indeed, even traditional methods of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), the name of the practice of hiring many people at once, may not be enough to get the talent firms need as the economy revives. “The changes that Walmart was forced to put into place will become the standard,” said Christian Hasenoehrl, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and global account leader.
Coronavirus and the People Pandemic: Should You Stop Hiring?
Coronavirus has been top of mind with every CEO and chief people officer. As the virus has taken hold, news has been dominated by headlines of redundancies, lost workforces and companies closing.
“In these trying times, every action is under scrutiny as we seek to both contain the virus and continue our everyday practice,” 360Leaders’ Ellie Glover says in a new report. “For us, and any growing business, questions arise around the subject of hiring. Will the pandemic slow down the hiring process and should it stop companies from hiring altogether? The concern is legitimate. We are not living in normal times.”
Experts warn that single industries may well find themselves all trying to restaff at the same time, as lockdown restrictions lift in the spring. “The savvy companies will need to know and define far in advance their job needs – which jobs and how many of them must be created, eliminated, elevated, reshaped or replaced with technology,” said Melissa Swift, leader of digital advisory for North America and global accounts for Korn Ferry. “And companies should assume that the coronavirus pandemic won’t be the last massive disruption they will encounter.”
But by far the biggest change in the hiring landscape will likely be speed. Before the pandemic, Walmart took about two weeks to get drug tests and background checks on applicants before offering them a job. Walmart cut that down to 24 hours and was willing to address any issues after making the job offer. “That’s unprecedented for Walmart,” Mr. Hasenoehrl said. “From there, the time from the offer to getting new recruits working was reduced from days and weeks to hours and days, Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon said during the company’s quarterly earnings call recently.
“An influx of technological tools can help locate and screen applicants faster,” said Ms. Barela. “An artificial-intelligence powered chat program can quickly determine whether a candidate meets minimum requirements, while another program can have applicants answer a series of other recorded questions to determine what skills and traits a candidate has. The whole process may only require 30 minutes.”
Korn Ferry said that in the age of rapid hiring, companies may be extending offers almost immediately, without a hiring manager ever having to meet the candidate. “That won’t work for every company or every role,” Ms. Barela said. “But it’s a step that some chief human resources officers have adopted to free up time for an organization’s managers. It’s a strategy that says to hiring managers, ‘Your time is more valuable elsewhere. You should be onboarding and training these people.’”
Indeed, the onboarding process will likely change and speed up too, experts say, including everything from early tax-form preparation to medical exams to preparing executives for tasks on Day One. “If a candidate isn’t sure what’s going to happen, they may not show up on Day One,” said Ms. Barela.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media