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How Can I Attract and Retain Employees Despite COVID-19?

HR Question:

While some have traded their typical highway commute for a quick walk down their home hallways, others have returned to on-site facilities on a full-blown scale. Yet, fear of the coronavirus is abundant, and rightfully so. In this new reality, employers are trying to attract new talent, while retaining those who are already a part of the team. So, how can employers attract and retain employees despite COVID-19?

HR Answer:

As more employers return to open their doors, they may face job openings that weren’t there in March – whether employees chose to pursue other options, or a round of furloughs and layoffs become necessary. Either way, recruiting teams are diligently working to successfully fill these open roles. At the same time, employers are trying to address the concerns of some existing employees, many of whom are refusing to return to work or are resigning to stay at home and protect themselves and their families.

It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has not subsided, and according to the WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard, cases are growing on a more frequent basis. So how can employers reach the qualified candidates that they need, while assuring active candidates that there are steps in place to protect them?

Develop/Implement a Workplace Safety Plan

First things first: employers must invest the time, budget, and staffing hours necessary to formulate and install proper safety controls. The CDC made available step-by-step actions to assist employers in establishing measures that prevent coronavirus infection and exposure. Measures may include proper ventilation systems, hazard assessments, social distancing, physical barriers between workstations, handwashing stations, staggered shifts, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, personal protective equipment, and more. This plan is the basis for all the other methodologies below.

Job Ads, Recruiting, & Interviews

It’s paramount that employees understand from the get-go that COVID-19 safety measures are in place and that the matter is relevant to the employers they are considering. As a result, employers are now incorporating COVID-19 safety language into their job ads, such as these sample job ads from ONGIG. The recruiting process may include flexible arrangements for the interview process, as well. Organizations may choose to host virtual interviews via platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and GoToMeeting to forego social distancing concerns altogether.


A robust onboarding process enables employers to jumpstart employee engagement and may eliminate questions later on. Incorporating COVID-19 safety education and awareness programs into your Onboarding Checklist may curb coronavirus fears. And for those who are not fearful, the learning experience may provide at least a new level of caution and an understanding of expectations to protect their co-workers. Connecting your team to credible online sources is another option that can be accomplished during onboarding.

Health and Mental Health Resources

Depression, loneliness, lack of engagement, and decreased communication are just a few of the impacts employees have suffered as a result of remote work and the overall pandemic environment. strategic HR inc. developed a list of resources to assist our clients in addressing these issues, not to mention the tremendous host of information available via reliable online entities such as the CDC’s “Mental Health” page and the “Global Healthy Living Foundation.” We encourage employers to provide ongoing communication about these opportunities and tools. For existing employees, this may mean weekly “did you know” type flyers or infographics. Another avenue may be enhanced education on the benefits and services available through the employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or the medical health insurance plan. By showing employees that the company understands their COVID-19 fears and cares about their well-being, employees are more likely to connect to the employer’s commitment to safety.

Community Support and Involvement

Not only are all eyes open to how employers are addressing COVID-19 safety in the workplace, but also on the employer’s actions (or lack thereof) in the communities where they reside. Employers can further grow their “employer of choice” brand by sponsoring or presenting COVID-19 safety webinars, having leaders serve on panels related to what employers are doing during the pandemic, or writing or contributing to articles. Another example is providing branded masks for employees. This is a simple effort that protects your team and provides brand acknowledgment.


Developing these and other strategies for addressing COVID-19 fears can go a long way to attract and retain top talent. Leadership, HR, Marketing, and Public Relations all play key roles in creating a winning plan – not just for the immediate future, but further down the line as companies face the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Take steps now to evaluate where your organization stands, research new information and resources, then go the extra mile to protect and educate your team members. The return on investment most likely will be felt both internally and externally as you attract and retain employees – despite COVID-19.


Thanks to Angela Dunaway, SPRH, SHRM-CP, for writing this edition of our HR Question of the Week!

During these uncertain times, be sure to check out our COVID-19 Employer Resources for webinars, resource guides, our Return to Work Guide, and more to help you navigate your business through the challenges you are facing.