Janitor pushing cart

Some BSCAI members have been having difficulties recruiting new employees during the coronavirus pandemic. And, unlike other industries that have been forced to trim payroll in the age of COVID-19 lockdowns, the need is definitely there for building service contractors to add to their staff. The primary challenge in doing so has been addressing the wide array of employee needs and concerns.

Claudia St. John, president of Affinity HR Group Inc. (a BSCAI partner), says that hiring and onboarding are "clearly difficult" in the pandemic due to the need to social distance and, for remote employees, getting them up and running in the company culture while working from home.

"While the difficulty finding labor is somewhat eased given the massive layoffs in the economy," she says, "many BSCs [had been] competing against the expanded unemployment benefit payment of $600 when trying to hire talent. They are also struggling with finding the talent who are willing to face the level of exposure that cleaning staff must face. Finally, many BSCs have their administrative staff working from home. So, being able to complete the hiring and onboarding process is disrupted, which complicates the ability to communicate with and properly onboard new talent."

Even the interview process has changed considerably. SHRM.org contributor Lin Grensing-Pophal recently quoted attorney Christine Snyder, who said prospective and new employees may be concerned right from the get-go about physical proximity to prospective employers while being interviewed.

"Particularly for non-cleaning staff," St. John remarks, "many BSCAI members have turned to video conferencing and Zoom interviews to hire talent. We've worked with many of them to refine their interview processes, to structure them more effectively for the new medium, and to ensure they make the most of the technology."

She continues, "For example, we always recommend panel interviews with more than one interviewer. With video interviews, it's much more important to know in advance what questions you intend to ask and in what order. In person, you can read body language to know who is going next and in what rotation. That's not possible in a Zoom interview, so planning ahead is much more important."

HR Daily Advisor blogger Luke Smith writes that there are a number of online video apps that BSCAI members can choose from when interviewing candidates. Such programs enable the employer to send professional invites and connect seamlessly while using their computer's built-in camera and microphone.

"Such platforms can even allow you to have virtual job fairs where you invite several candidates to a chat room and get to know many applicants at once," says Smith.

In addition to changes in the interview process, BSCs must recognize what skills are now in demand that might not have been all that important prior to mid-March.

According to St. John, "Many BSCs have offered expanded services to disinfect and remediate infected workplaces. Using new equipment, new chemicals, and ensuring that staff are cleaning surfaces correctly according to OSHA and EPA standards has required additional training and oversight. While making sure proper cleaning is important to their clients, it's even more important to those BSCAI members who want to ensure their employees are protected and not exposed during their work. Keeping employees safe and healthy has clearly been a high priority for BSCs."

Business News Daily columnist Kiely Kuligowsky also encourages employers to utilize their existing candidate pool when looking to hire new staffers. Many BSCs have pools of candidates who've previously submitted applications and may now be in need of a job as the pandemic goes on.

"If you'd like to avoid an active recruiting campaign, you can shift your focus to this existing pool of candidates and hire from there," Kuligowsky writes.

St. John agrees with this approach.

"We always recommend reaching out to those who didn't complete the application process or those who didn't get hired for reasons that may have changed," she says. "There is not a person in the U.S. today whose life has not changed as a result of COVID. Some may be in a better position to consider your position. Given child care needs and the risk that COVID presents to vulnerable positions, some may be in a worse position than before. In either case, reaching out and having a conversation is always the best approach when recruiting new talent."

Most importantly, BSCs looking to hire must let people know the "Help Wanted" sign is out! Many qualified candidates in need of work may assume that most employers are not hiring due to the pandemic. So, make it known that you are actively seeking new workers. This means making sure all of your current job postings are listed on your firm's website. Another rule of thumb is to call attention to any and all open positions on social media and other marketing avenues you use. Finally, don't hesitate to draw upon your current staffers to help get the word out.

So, does St. John have any predictions for the remainder of 2020 as far as human resources is concerned? She was quick to answer.

"I predict that 100 percent of HR professionals will be eager and excited to close the books on 2020," says St. John. "From an HR perspective, this year has presented the profession with regulatory changes; workplace disruptions; the need for critical conversations; layoffs; un-anticipated leave requests; and worst of all, dealing with employees and family members who are sick. If I were a betting person, I would wager a large sum that every single HR professional can't wait to bid 2020 'adieu' … and, with any luck, COVID-19 along with it!"