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How to limit recruitment costs post-COVID-19

Thursday, June 18, 2020 @ 2:05 PM | By Erich Johnson

Erich Johnson %>
Erich Johnson
In part one of this series, I discussed the potential actions your firm may have needed to take to respond to this crisis to ensure the survival of your firm and its legacy. In that same vein, in this column, I will highlight some strategies that you may have taken or should have taken to ensure you keep your people.

1) Good cashflow pre-COVID-19 with great culture

If you fall into this category, consider yourself lucky, because you are a rare breed. If you already had a great culture, it is only likely to get stronger as a result of going through this new experience together, and you are keeping your teams engaged with weekly or daily check-ins (as needed), and regular group activities unrelated to work (like a virtual puppy parade, charades, or if your team has a dark sense of humour, virtual cards against humanity). You only allow employees to go into the office if it’s an absolute necessity or have a skeleton crew on rotation. You may see natural attrition from your team, but overall, you will likely keep everyone, and they won’t be reaching out to me to see how I can find them a new opportunity.

2) Rough financial outlook pre-COVID-19 with great culture

If you put your people first in this scenario, you brought in your HR manager, or a third party and treated them as a valued partner to help you create a people-first strategy by looking at every expense that you can cut first, before making cuts to your people operations. You still likely had to do layoffs, whether through permanent reductions, furloughs or worksharing. You are providing regular communication to your employees (professionals and staff) about what the firm is doing to maintain great client service but also protect your people, and you’re scheduling regular touchpoints with every member of your team to check in and see how they are doing regardless if they are still active on your payroll or not. In this case, when the new norm sets in, you should be able to call everyone back in, and if you have a very human-centric approach, almost everyone will come back to you, and you will have gained their loyalty for life.

3) Rough financial outlook pre-COVID-19 with bad culture

Congratulations. For the time being you have saved your firm from closing its doors only to be bled dry by heavy recruitment costs down the line (including lost time, lost productivity, training time and agency fees). You may have also used the tagline “we are an essential service” as a catch-all reason for why you don’t want to invest in improved technology to allow your people to work safely from home. I do acknowledge that you may have been in a very rough financial situation to begin with making it impossible to invest in technology but call it as it is as opposed to using an excuse.

Alternatively, you still allowed your employees to work from home, but do not communicate with them regularly to provide them with support or provide them with transparency as to what the firm is doing to maintain their positions. Your teams are operating out of fear, and definitely have one foot out the door. Most likely, none of the people you were hoping would come back will come back. They would much rather stay at home and find a firm that will treat them more as a human than a resource, or maybe even they will go out and create their own firm with a few other folks from your firm. When the market stabilizes even further down the line ... let’s say January/February 2021, you will see massive attrition from your firm. What loyalty you did have was lost solely because of the way you handled your firm during the crisis.

That last scenario is pretty dark. In all three, the future is not written in stone. Firms in categories 1 and 2 can still somehow screw up the communication piece, not check in as regularly as they should (check in is not to be confused with micromanaging), not heed the advice of their HR teams, inappropriately access the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy and face scrutiny from the Canada Revenue Agency down the line, and even worse, not follow through on their commitments that they set out at the beginning to hire back their employees. Firms in scenario 3 can recognize their mistakes and right the ship by practising humility and admitting to their employees that they screwed up and asking them for their feedback and input into how to right the ship.

The good news is that most firms fall into scenarios 1 and 2, which means, I can finally see a reduction in the needs for recruitment services. I’ve heard from some firms that have regular meetups with their whole teams one to two times a week, have a virtual lunch room that people join to eat with others, or have reached out to every single person in their firm (staff and professionals) to get their opinion on what the new normal should look like and learn what it will take to make them feel safe at work.

This is why I have hope that COVID-19 has the potential to put me out of business.

This is part two of a two-part series. Part one: Why COVID-19 has potential to put me out of business.

Erich Johnson is the leader of Randstad Canada’s legal recruitment practice and sources for lawyers, law clerks, paralegals as well as other legal operations roles. You can reach him at erich.johnson@randstad.caor on LinkedIn.

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