Now is the best time to invest in your internship and entry-level hiring program!

Written by Joe Bamberger.

As the world is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and companies all around the United States are contemplating furloughs and other cost cutting measures to save their businesses – the time is now to invest in your internship and entry-level hiring programs. This is not to understate the fact that businesses have tough decisions to make and many team members may end up losing their jobs – but an investment in long-term planning needs to be happening right now to prepare you for the future.

At a minimum – companies need to honor the offers they have already extended.
With your interns and co-ops that you have already offered positions or that are currently working – you need to get creative in allowing them to keep/continue with their projects. How students are treated during this time will leave a lasting impact on organizations and their ability to recruit in the future. Keep in mind that any decision with them will absolutely get communicated to their campus and networks and it will become challenging to rebuild the success you have created there. Students word of mouth and opinions matter to their peers and faculty members- they have a bad experience, and everyone knows about it.

Intern projects during this time should focus on research and activities that will help your company adjust to businesses that will thrive in the new economy. If you have clients whose industry is getting hammered by the current situation, what products or services can you offer to new industries that are thriving?

Interns and entry-level hires are key during a down economy.
Intern programs allow you to continue to build a strong pipeline of talent. Keep in mind that regardless of economy, team members are still retiring or moving on to other opportunities. There needs to be a pipeline of younger staff to transfer that knowledge to. Bringing in entry-level talent also allows you to focus on training staff in your unique company way which means you will not have to deal with training away bad habits or relying on contract workforce to ramp back up. Not to mention that entry-level talent and internships tend to be a much lower cost for a higher and more creative work output.

Focus on hiring for new skills needed.
The way we work and operate in business is changing right in front of us. Working in a remote, technology driven environment could be the new normal. Not to mention that the sales landscape will be favoring companies that have e-commerce capabilities. Use this time to start a pipeline of candidates who fill the skills gap you have.

As hard as this is for most employers – now is also the time to evaluate performance. As you contemplate layoffs, your focus should be on keeping your top performers and staff that has unchecked potential. Look to remove your below-average players and replace them with new talent that puts you in a better position for recovery.

Don’t ruin your momentum and look to build market share.
For those of you who have read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, you are familiar with the flywheel. Momentum is hard to generate, and it becomes easier once you have it. Putting a stop to your campus recruiting will set you back farther than you can imagine. Keep your flywheel moving – while your hiring needs might be lower in the short term, the effort you put in on campus should remain constant or increase. Most of your competitors for talent will be taking a step back which means now is the perfect time to build market share in the candidate marketplace. Get your brand in front of students, show them you are still hiring and being creative with opportunities, and become the employer of choice in your market!

Acknowledge that things aren’t normal.
Spoiler alert – no one is on campus. Which means you need to get creative and rely on technology to get in front of students. The way companies attract talent is going to change. Embrace it and put yourself at the forefront of the change and students will notice. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 41% of employers are considering virtual recruiting for the fall semester vs going back to a traditional format.

Internships may change – get creative with your internships and come up with solutions to make them effective. Here are some good Tips for Engaging and Maintaining Interns in the World of Social Distancing.

Don’t be afraid of change. You can’t attract talent the same way you did 3 months ago. Acknowledge that things aren’t normal and get creative to make it work!

Economies eventually improve and any mitigation plan is incomplete without a plan towards recovery. Your plan should include having your workforce in a position to hit the ground running.