March 31 COVID-19 Emergency Member Session Recap

April 3, 2020

COVID-19 Roundtable Discussion

Thank you to the members who participated in this Virtual Roundtable Discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic. We had participation from BP, Tata Group, nVent, Dow Chemicals, Dell, Liberty Mutual, BASF, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, IBM, Danaher, Colfax, among others.

The recap below is from a call at 9:00am EDT on March 31. Some approaches discussed have already changed, as cases continue to skyrocket globally, and containment measures continue to change. Many organizations have had to implement layoffs and pay cuts. Some innovative approaches are also being taken by companies, for example by shortening the hiring process from a 2-week process to as little as a 24 hour one. This unprecedented time highlights a great opportunity for HR professionals to rise and think about ways to support the business and its people.

Recruitment and Talent Acquisition

Hiring Freeze: Many organizations have introduced a hiring freeze, with the exclusion of critical positions. Those on the call reported honoring verbal commitments to individuals whose hiring process predates the pandemic. There is discussion in some companies to re-deploy the Talent Acquisition function to safety and business critical roles, but no one on the call has implemented a formal policy in that regard. A member said that their company has begun assigning members of their global TA team to key projects around refreshing hiring programs, orientation, site moves, etc. The goal is to broaden the TA team’s skills while their volume of work is low.


Virtual Internships: With “non-essential” workers sheltering-in-place in many jurisdictions, several member companies have decided to either cancel their summer internship programs or make them 100% virtual. One member shared that they usually offer a 12-week internship over the summer, which they have decided to reduce to a 9-week, 100% virtual program. Recruiting managers are taking over the management of the program (normally its line managers who do this). Organizations with internships at manufacturing and engineering plants have decided to cancel them, since they will be unable to accommodate the interns. Other organizations with 12-month internships that start in the fall have decided to defer the start date to later in the year and some organizations are still holding off on making any decisions regarding the status of summer internships until mid-April.

People Strategies

2020 Planning: All members anticipate COVID-19 to have an impact on their People and Human Capital strategies for 2020 and beyond. Organizations are reviewing their 2020 targets and people projects for the year and seeing what they can push off. Many expressed that they will make decisions in the next few weeks as more information is available.

Technology Platforms and Employee Listening

New Platforms and Digital Work: A member shared that they have a couple of projects on the planning board and are investing in a CRM that will enable the work more broadly. Other members shared that they have seen several vendors offer discounts and free trials for virtual interviewing platforms and other tools. Some of these would not have been considered for trial periods in the past. Another member shared that their organization is doing things now that they never thought could be done digitally. This has prompted them to advance virtual work. They have kicked off a cross functional team to work on how they will reemerge from this epidemic.

Employee Listening/Pulsing: A member shared that their organization uses the Microsoft platform Yammer to communicate with employees. The CEO is an avid user of it and posts on it regularly. He also asks for feedback and questions from employees. Other leaders in the organization are following suit. They have also created groups on the Microsoft Teams platform for coffee chats and other meets ups to promote socialization.

Annual Bonus Plans

Bonus Plans and Rewards: Members shared that most of them are changing the metrics and establishing new programs. They are holding compensation committee meetings in April-May and putting together a formal proposal in June-July, when they will have more clarity around the impact of the virus and better clarity around targets. Some other members shared that they had their annual payout on the first week of March for 2019 and everything went according to the standard process. They are in the process of reevaluating the process for 2020.

New Challenges, Evolved Changes, and Shifting Priorities

On-boarding: Organizations are experiencing challenges around delivering equipment and technology to new hires in countries where mail services have ceased, as is the case right now in India. They are reevaluating whether to defer start dates in these cases. A member expressed that their organization is experiencing an equipment shortage and have decided to defer start dates for new hires, they have segmented benefits, so it is external only.

Crisis Management: A member expressed that their crisis management response has triggered longer wavelength issues—they do not know what those activities will look like in 2, 3 weeks from now or what issues will be uncovered.

Salary Reductions and Furloughs: Most organizations are either implementing pay reductions or furloughs. A member shared that they are immediately putting a furlough into place for Q2 and instilling a pay reduction for 90 days. Others are still working on scenario planning and have no planned pay reductions or furloughs in place.

Short-Term and Long-Term Planning: As the situation varies by country, members reported challenges with scenario planning on a global scale. Most of them are taking things one day at a time, or looking a couple of weeks out, at best. One member shared that they have factored different scenarios into their thinking on TA and have a strategy and scenario team focused on scenarios in the business that feed into the overall business plan. Another member shared that they are heavily relying on workforce and people analytics.

Feedback and Follow-up:

Topics where members agreed more insight and additional capabilities are needed:

  • Establishing best practices for virtual on-boarding
  • Leading formal workforce planning to understand the impact to organizational design and role design in the “new normal” (post pandemic)
  • Reevaluating the approach and policy with testing for people that have to go to work

Our standing member virtual roundtables on the pandemic continue on a thrice-weekly basis until further notice on the following days and times:

Tuesdays: 13.00 GMT
Wednesdays: 05.00 GMT
Thursdays: 15.00 GMT

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

March 31 COVID-19 Emergency Member Session Recap

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