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How to re-engage furloughed employees when you’re ready to rehire

How to re-engage furloughed employees when you’re ready to rehire
Profile photo of Bill Malcolm
Written by Bill Malcolm

When it’s time to rebuild your workforce, a major source of talent can be employees who were furloughed or laid off. Bill Malcolm shares strategies for communicating with former employees to keep them engaged and connected before it’s ready to rehire.

How to re-engage furloughed employees when you’re ready to rehire
5 (100%) 1 vote

While 2020 posed many challenges, for me, two stood out in particular. The first was the record number of companies experiencing mass layoffs — particularly in the travel and hospitality industries. The second was recovering from those layoffs once things began to reopen and business was ramping back up.

As the Director of Talent Acquisition at Travel & Leisure Co. (now parent company of Wyndham Destinations), I had to address both of these challenges head-on. Last year, as stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions impacted the travel and tourism industry, we were faced with a dilemma we never could have imagined. While we were able to pay employees who had to stay at home for a while, we knew that wouldn’t be sustainable forever. And with no idea of how long the pandemic would last, we were forced to restructure by way of layoffs and furloughs.

While there was much uncertainty, I did know that this wouldn’t last forever. And in the wake of this restructuring, my team and I immediately got to work staying connected with and providing support to our furloughed and laid-off employees. We did this for three main reasons:

  1. To keep the communications open with our associates during the company’s restructuring
  2. To support them with resources they would need to navigate the pandemic, and
  3. To provide us with a qualified talent pool when business bounced back and positions needed to be filled quickly

With the travel and hospitality industry opening up again, and many of our associates returning to work, I wanted to share more about our experience and how you may be able to borrow this approach to support your company’s recovery.

Register now for RallyFwd - May 5, 2021

Rally note: Bill will be sharing many more of his strategies and learnings at the upcoming RallyFwd Virtual Conference on May 5, 2021. You can register for free today!

Building a strategy to effectively communicate with furloughed employees 

If I were to sum up our approach in one word, it would be “communication.” More specifically, communication that was helpful, hopeful and provided next steps. To do this, we created an internal website through PageUp (our CRM) called “Connections.” For our laid off associates, the site consisted of links to job descriptions with direct points of contact and all sorts of other resources they could use to fast-track their way through a new job search process. 

And our approach to communicating with furloughed employees was quite similar, however, the resources we provided were a little bit different. We created a similar page for furloughed employees, but with job search help for temporary roles in industries that had an immediate hiring need (think UberEats, grocery delivery, medical, etc.). After all, we wanted them to return once their roles became available again. 

However, providing resources was just one piece of the puzzle. We knew that we had to do more to keep our former team members engaged with us. So, we started using the Connections website to actually communicate with our furloughed employees on a regular basis. We began having our CEO post a weekly video where he provided company updates to let people know what action we were taking, and how we planned to work to rebuild back stronger than ever.  

Since we have employees across the globe, we had to make sure that all of our messaging was relevant to each location. Having a great CRM played a major part here. We uploaded all furloughed associates into PageUp (like we would with candidates) and tagged them based on their department, area, country and any other defining characteristics.

This labeling approach helped us create segmented groups to send more personalized and relevant information. For example, if an associate lived in Uruguay, we would send them a message translated into Spanish. Additionally, we tailored the landing pages based on where they lived to provide them with localized information in regards to temporary job opportunities, medical and benefits information as well as COVID-19 information from their country’s health departments.  

And finally, to stay top of mind and ensure all of our associates saw our content, we sent them messages and updates via text and email. Associates were then directed to the Connections site where they could watch our CEO video and see all the latest updates. 

Wyndham Destinations email from CEO

An email from the Wyndham Destinations CEO letting former employees know about updates on the Connections site.

Keeping engagement up: Why consistent communication should be a priority  

As the economy has begun to re-open, we’re thrilled to say that we’ve managed to bring back many of our associates in phases. When asked for feedback, the people who returned explained that they had felt hyper-communicated with. 

Even though we were only sending out messages once a week, our associates felt like we were doing our best to give them the support they needed. Particularly because they knew that if they wanted more information they could always check in with our Connections website — which was updated daily. 

At the end of the day, our strategy wasn’t complicated. Our strategy was to put people first. However, I do want to point out that a lot of this work was possible thanks to the relationship we had with our CRM vendor. If we didn’t have such a strong relationship with our vendor in the first place and had they not been as up to the challenge as they were, we wouldn’t have been able to stay connected with our associates nearly as well as we did. 

How you can reconnect with your former employees 

If you’re looking to reconnect with your former employees as you begin to ramp up your hiring efforts, here are 3 tips to keep in mind: 

  1. Look for a solution internally. You and your team know your company best, so begin by looking at the talent and people remaining in your organization for possible ideas. You can start by meeting with your senior leaders to understand what resources you already have and what resources you may need. But be sure to incorporate other teams like talent acquisition and corporate communications in your search for a solution as well. 
  2. Be open to testing out multiple solutions. For example, for us, the idea to provide associates with information about temporary job opportunities came from one person, while using our CRM to build targeted pages came from another while using our CRM as an internal communication platform came from someone else! Without so many diverse perspectives on the case, we may not have come up with the successful strategy we did. 
  3. Communicate authentically. Remember, it’s been a very challenging time, and some of your former team members may still be quite sensitive, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out. Although some may not be receptive or even available at this time, if you approach them with kindness, support and authenticity, I strongly believe you can begin to rebuild those relationships and come back stronger than ever. 

—————

I hope the lessons I’ve shared from our experience can help act as a guide for your own efforts to rebuild a thriving workforce. If our experience is any indication, if you stay true to human interaction, let the question of “how can we help?” serve as your north star and have a strong relationship with your vendors to help make your strategy a reality, I guarantee you will have a successful re-hiring strategy. 

If you’re interested in learning more, I’ll be speaking at the upcoming RallyFwd Virtual Conference on May 5th! Don’t miss out, you can register for free today! 

How to re-engage furloughed employees when you’re ready to rehire
5 (100%) 1 vote

About the Author

Profile photo of Bill Malcolm

Bill Malcolm

Bill Malcolm is currently Director, Talent Acquisition at Travel + Leisure Co. leading people operations to attract, empower and retain the best talent. He’s been in the recruiting field for 20 years, including 14 with the United States Department of Defense. Malcolm combines conceptual competence, analytics, interpersonal, motivational, and relationship management skills with detail orientation to effectively attract, develop and retain top talent.

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