In response to requests from multiple clients, last week we held two dynamic virtual roundtable sessions with HR leaders from the STL region, KC and Cleveland around various topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

They were fluid conversations amongst peers, sharing how they are coping with the new normal, adapting or adopting new practices, and potentially the most interesting topic of all – how they are preparing for the future. 

Following are discussion highlights and some resources that might be helpful to you and your organization during these times.


  • Several companies continue to hire at the same or an increased pace. For the most part, they’ve had to change to virtual recruiting models. Background checks and Onboarding processes have been adjusted (more on this below).
  • For those whose hiring has slowed, recruiters have been asked to shift into more of a sourcing mode. They are building candidate pipelines while at the same time “getting their house in order” for when hiring picks back up at a pace they’ve never before experienced!
  • Another idea shared for recruiters with downtime is to consider how to temporarily redeploy internal talent in other areas of the organization where more help is needed.

***There was pretty uniform belief that hiring will resume sooner rather than later, and perhaps at a very demanding pace. 


  • Some organizations that are considered ‘essential’ are continuing to onboard in-person while maintaining social distancing.
  • Others have gone completely virtual, delivering content through various online meeting platforms. 
  • LinkedIn recently shared a really nice template for virtual onboarding that you might find helpful. 
  • And if you haven’t seen their traditional/in person onboarding program, you might want to give that a look too for future use!

Pre-employment testing

A growing number of organizations are delaying the pre-hire requirement by including new verbiage in the offer letter; that the offer is contingent upon successful completion of pre-employment testing at a later date.

Staffing and Scheduling

Several creative ideas were shared around scheduling and staffing:

  • Some organizations are operating more in a team type model, rotating teams in and out of the office, or in different locations, in the event a COVID-19 positive case is identified.
  • Where full-time work for employees isn’t an option due to family or another situation, one leader shared that they are offering the opportunity for team members to take temporary unpaid time off, or reduced schedules, without impact to vacation balance or benefit eligibility.
  • Others shared that they are covering the benefit premiums of those impacted by a reduced schedule. 
  • For those who are remote and need to visit the office periodically for mail and scanning, this is being coordinated carefully and employees are quickly in and out without contact with one another whenever possible.
  • Another important topic that came up in this area was how to handle the fears of essential workers who must continue to come into the office.  Chapman and Co. Leadership Institute has shared some incredible resources recently around how leaders can respond with empathy. We think you will enjoy this article on Building Trust During COVID-19 as well as recorded webinar titled There are Better Alternatives to Layoffs. You should consider following them on LinkedIn too for some great leadership articles and offerings.

Communication and Connection

Most organizations have implemented daily stand ups or meet ups within their department and even across departments which has proven very successful – something to consider continuing in the future!  If you aren’t familiar with the Agile framework, here is a very simple image of questions you might ask in a daily stand up.

Meetings are also popping up just to check IN not ON employees to simply ask “How are you doing?”  These might be virtual coffee chats, lunches, happy hours, game time and more.

Several HR leaders shared other ideas to engage team members by:

  • Encouraging the use of video whenever possible
  • Assembling a central place on the company intranet including a daily message or video from the CEO
  • Sending GrubHub gift cards to team members to order in during a virtual team lunch
  • Virtual town halls to allow employees the opportunity to hear from leaders and ask questions
  • Weekly positivity challenges – show your new co-workers, home office, pet and more
  • Offering team members access to new well-being resources like Happify, WellBeats and Zipongo
  • Team yoga sessions over Zoom!

What the future holds…

Perhaps the most interesting part that came out of both roundtables is how these HR leaders and their organizations are beginning to look towards the future.  “Our work will be forever changed by this experience (and if it isn’t…we aren’t leading well!).” Here are some thoughts that we heard:

  • Begin doing some “Start, Stop, Continue” exercises.  Really re-think processes, reports, etc.  What is really needed for success? 
  • Where can people effectively and productively work from?
    • A new normal
    • As an employee perk
    • To reduce expenses, especially real estate
    • Without geographic restrictions, a means to attract better talent
  • How do we lead, communicate and engage differently?
  • Paying closer attention to how you support your team members that were already remote.  Now that you have felt this experience yourself, how can this be improved?
  • Communication skills will be in increasing demand as a requisite.
  • How to leverage technology even further?
  • What are we doing today to prepare for the potential hiring onslaught that’s coming our way?

Our ROI team thanks all who joined us and contributed to last week’s dialogues. Special thanks to Julie Tuggle-Nguyen and Hazel Cormier for asking us to gather a group of HR leaders and facilitate the conversations.

Stay tuned for a future roundtable (hopefully ‘live’); “What has changed in the world of work, and what changes do you foresee in the next 1-2 years?”