Editor’s note: Jim Buchanan  is chief executive officer at Cadient Talent, a talent acquisition firm with corporate headquarters in Morrisville. Previously, Buchanan co-founded Merlin Technologies, a human capital management company that was acquired by a private equity firm in 2015. He also served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of PeopleClick, which was acquired by a private equity firm for $100 million back in 2010 and is now known as PeopleFluent.

MORRISVILLE — This is a strange situation that none of us in the hiring industry were expecting or were prepared to handle.  We’re used to planning for business continuity issues.  We have a plan for what we’ll do in a catastrophe or a serious downturn in business.  We probably don’t have a plan for what we need to do if we suddenly have a need for a significant surge in hiring.

While many organizations are having to turn away employees during the pandemic, that isn’t the case for everyone.

Many organizations are actually hiring more employees during the crisis. We are seeing a surge in applications and hiring in companies that are essential businesses such as grocery stores, wholesale clubs and other food supply companies as well as an increase in hiring activity at medical facilities and health care organizations.

Cadient CEO Jim Buchanan

These industries have been extremely successful in terms of the applicant flow to their businesses. For our client base, essential businesses have seen an increase of applicants in recent weeks that, in some cases, is more than five times the number of applicants they were processing prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

Hiring during a pandemic

Many organizations will be hiring for roles they may have never thought they would need. A majority of those organizations will need to find these hires immediately. To make this process streamlined and effective, an automated on boarding system will be key. We’ve also seen clients use not-traditional sources such as virtual job fairs and other types of unique mass recruiting events.

Now’s the time to think outside the box.

Many employees are deemed essential and may feel that they deserve an extra bonus while they put their lives at risk. Some may agree with this, but it’s an interesting decision for any company. If companies pay a fair wage and they suddenly have five times the number of applicants who want to work for them, paying a premium is a question with which I’m sure people are wrestling.

Although this may be tempting, it is not the right environment to be negotiating. This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime and it is having an impact on everyone. We’re seeing people stepping up to do whatever they can to help those who are being impacted.  We’re taking the approach to do what we can to help companies get through this. We will worry about the financial implications later. Sometimes as a business, you have to do what’s right, no matter what.

Be discerning, hire wisely

Just because organizations need a quick hire, it doesn’t mean they should cut corners when it comes to screening employees. That can be very dangerous and have long lasting consequences. If you have the right processes in place, you don’t have to skip those important steps.

If you’re an essential business, you are likely getting more candidates than ever.  Now is the time to be more discerning and hire the right people. An automated system will allow you to get the job done quickly and efficiently. It may be tempting to just hire someone to fill a position, but that position will be open again in days, weeks or a few short months and you’ll find yourself going through the entire hiring process again.

Turnover is very expensive in terms of both hard dollars and soft dollars.  My advice is to get the right person for the right job in any environment.

Think ahead

While organizations move quickly to combat the current needs, they also must keep in mind the consequences when this is all over. Because eventually, the day will come when this will pass.

Many of the people you are hiring in these circumstances are recently unemployed.

Unemployment was 3.5 percent, so there’s a good chance they were working just a few days ago.  It might have been a job that they loved.  When the economy comes back, they may be tempted to go back to that old job.  Companies need to be prepared for that possibility, among others, at the end of this crisis.

Hopefully, this won’t happen again but we’re all learning some lessons from COVID-19 that we shouldn’t forget.