Chief Talent Officer 250 Emergency Roundtable – Coronavirus

March 17, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Policies and Strategies

The WHO declared the Coronavirus a Pandemic on March 11, less than 24 hours before Chief Talent Officer 250 members convened with Executive Director Mary Lauria to discuss how their organizations are responding, share insights and debate best practices.

The recap below is from a call at 13:00 GMT on March 12. Some approaches discussed have already changed, as cases skyrocketed across Europe on March 13, and governments across the U.S. and other currently impacted countries have since closed schools, limited gatherings and taken other major social distancing measures.

Executive Networks will host two additional Coronavirus-focused calls in the coming days: On Monday, March 16 at 13:00 GMT (9 a..m. EDT) with the Global HR Services Network and on Tuesday, March 17 at 15:00 GMT (11 a.m. EDT) across multiple networks. Chief Talent Officer 250 members and/or a delegate are invited to both. Please contact Mike at to request a calendar invite.

Companies who participated:

  • Comcast
  • IBM
  • ENI
  • Dow


  • Dedicated company websites, signage, sr. leaders: Members reported using multiple communication channels to keep employees informed, address concerns and ease panic. Several have dedicated websites. Comcast placed signage in all U.S. locations. IBM has appointed two senior leaders to be the voice of the company on the pandemic response.
  • Leveraging ERGs: Dow reported success engaging and leveraging employee resource groups, highlighting a partnership with the Asian ERG and medical team to share information in an insightful way, reducing harmful discrimination around the virus.

Access to buildings and worksites

  • Prohibiting/restricting visitors: More and more companies are temporarily banning all visitors at all sites, with signage up. Others are limiting access to essential visitors, who are asked to fill out a questionnaire, and/or restricted to certain specific rooms.
  • Clear guidance to field employees: Comcast, which provides internet access to millions of U.S. customers who are now or will soon be working from home, has issued clear new guidance to its workers who enter homes to set up or service broadband.

Work from home

  • Mixed approaches: No one on the call, except ENI, was fully remote. IBM has already moved to remote work, with Comcast piloting the same—in anticipation of the disruptive school closures that would be announced hours after our call.
  • Provisioning employees and building capabilities: Several member companies are actively provisioning new telecommuters—delivering essentials like headsets, monitors, wifi boosters, and establishing policies to buy and invoice.
  • Productivity: Working from home is difficult for some and requires training and support. Privacy also is a major concern, especially in Europe. Questions linger: What should we expect? What should we measure? Comcast said it will be up to HR leaders to find work that individuals can do remotely—like compliance training—wherein workers feel like they’re actively helping amid the crisis.

Recruiting and hiring

  • In-person interviews grind to a halt: One member company reported one “final” executive-level in-person interview on Thursday, March 12. All participating companies have moved to exclusively virtual interviewing at a reduced volume, with the exception of ENI, which has suspended all interviewing entirely.
  • I-9 hurdle: Relief from the U.S.’s in-person signature requirement for new hires (I-9) is a priority, with leaders from three companies on the call seeking some sort of virtual workaround. Regulators have been engaged.
  • Internships & Co-ops: With universities across Western Europe, the U.S. and Asia shuttered, inquiries are coming in from interns set to begin work in the coming weeks. No member company on the call has a “clear answer” in this space. IBM reported focusing on getting paperwork in order and engaging virtually, with lingering uncertainty about start dates. Interns are not coming into offices.

The importance of the chief medical officer & trust

  • Companies’ top health officials taking on elevated roles: Multiple call participants lauded the efforts of their chief medical officers, calling them “invaluable” and “hugely influential in a positive way.”
  • Maintaining trust: Every new policy that emerges—be it paid leave, work-from-home, quarantining guidance, etc.—must be communicated in a way that clearly demonstrates that leaders are acting in the best interest of the health of their employees.

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

CTO250 Emergency Roundtable Blog

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