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Author: Julie Jarvis

Published date: 2020/08

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COVID-19 has had a significant impact on UK workforces; some have been more in-demand than ever, while others have had to adapt to remote working, being placed on furlough or even made redundant. 

While difficult employer decisions are often necessary to ensure business survival, they come at a price. Such a laser focus on getting through this time meant that many employers have neglected to acknowledge the lasting effects on how current and future employees perceive their brand

Indeed, the way employers have treated their staff during the pandemic will be the ‘acid test’ for candidates. The result? Get ready to answer some tough questions about your actions throughout this time. 

Here, we look at some of the potential questions you might be faced with from candidates. You won’t be able to talk your way out of them, so now’s the time to take action before the damage becomes irreversible. 

“Did you let any staff go during the lockdown?” 

What they’re really asking: How many did you let go? What roles? How did you manage this? Am I at risk?

If you did let employees go, you should be honest about it. Even if your decisions were regrettable, be open about what you got wrong, what you learned and how the business has adapted in light of this. The candidate wants to know whether their role is precarious and what processes you have in place to manage redundancy situations and look after your people. 

What action can you take now? Skills mapping is an effective and fair way to assess which roles actually require permanent members of staff and where contingent labour might be more appropriate. Such an exercise means all positions will be carefully considered so you can avoid future redundancy situations as much as possible. 

“What’s the business’ approach to wellness?” 

What they’re really asking:What measures do you have in place to protect my mental and physical wellbeing? 

Our last blog post examined the changing face of workplace wellness in light of COVID-19. Employee concerns and priorities have shifted considerably, and you need to rethink your benefits if you haven’t already. Candidates want to know that the workplace is COVID-secure, that there’s the potential for remote working and flexibility around sickness and care responsibilities. In short, workplace wellness is less about gym memberships and Headspace subscriptions and more about social distancing measures, robust cleaning protocols and tailored health support. 

What action can you take now? Now’s the time to address whether remote working is going to become a permanent fixture and re-examine the relevance of your wellness benefits. 

“Is there an opportunity to progress my career?” 

What they’re really asking:What learning & development opportunities do you offer? If I’m working remotely, can I still progress? 

Much like wellbeing benefits, candidates want to know that policies are reflective of our ‘new normal’. For remote workers, there will inevitably be concerns around progression and what the hierarchy looks like in your business. For example, if there’s no longer a requirement for line managers or middle management, is there a logical upwards career trajectory for more junior members of staff? 

What action can you take now? Much like the skills mapping exercise, now’s the time to look at a realistic hierarchy for the business moving forward. Take the time to build career progression plans for each permanent role and ensure any learning & development initiatives are in line with this. 

Help is at hand 

Over the coming weeks, PRS will serialise our Great Expectations 2021: What questions will you be asked? series, which offers advice on how you can bolster your employer brand and be ready to face some tough questions about how you treated your workers during the pandemic.