Let’s face it: the workforce has been wounded by COVID-19.
Currently, twenty-six million people are unemployed, and that number is predicted to rise. Affected employees face increased financial stress, low morale, depleted financial and health resources, and uncertainty about the future. To respond effectively, employers need to update their recruitment strategies to emphasize culture and communication.
How bad is it out there? According to a survey of twelve thousand employees conducted by PayActiv, the leading provider of Earned Wage Access (EWA), almost half had seen hours reduced as a result of COVID. The Pew Research Center Report says much the same: 43 percent of middle-income households and 54 percent of lower-income households lost all or some income because of COVID-19.
That means one in two lower-income households have seen financial security vanish.
These people are survivors. They’ve proven themselves resilient beyond measure. Still, they’re not quite the same people they were before the crisis. And they are looking for employers offering something different. Employers must adapt their old models of recruitment to meet these new candidates where they are.
Where are candidates in a post-COVID world? What are they looking for in an employer?
Firstly, candidates on the job market are concerned with the employer brand. They want to know how an employer responded to the COVID-19 crisis. How effectively did they communicate with their employees? Did the brand stay true to its values as a company, as a leader? How will they respond to future crises?
Secondly, candidates are interested in benefits employers can offer that match their current state of mind. Benefits that ease their financial stress, boost morale, and support them through uncertain times look more valuable than ever.
Finally, candidates are looking for culture. What sense of community is the employer promoting? Is there a compassionate, communicative, and inclusive culture that demonstrates to employees that they truly belong and that their contributions are valued?
As the economy reopens and recruitment begins anew, companies need to take steps to communicate how they are meeting employees’ evolving needs:
Empathize with employee needs, recognize their struggles, and support them. Those needs and struggles may not be what you expect. Did you know that many employees—82 percent—say they’re more concerned about finances than health? Candidates are in a stressful headspace and need support and empathy from employers to help them through.
Realize that the timing of pay matters and that financial flexibility is key to financial well-being. As much as 26 percent of middle-class households and 54 percent of lower-income households couldn’t pay their bills on time, even in a strong economy. That’s 80 percent of households living paycheck to paycheck before the crisis. Employers that understand the need for financial flexibility will be in greater demand than ever in the post-COVID world.
Maximize a caring culture for employees, with a focus on community-building and wellness. Retention issues arise due, in part, to a lack of appreciation. According to the American Psychological Association, one in five employees said that they don’t feel valued at their workplace. Creating a strong caring culture with a focus on community and wellness shows the employee they are valued.
As a holistic financial wellness company that offers EWA to over two million workers across the US, PayActiv recognizes the importance of meeting employees where they are.
During the pandemic crisis, PayActiv stayed true to its brand values of security, dignity, and savings by waiving user fees and creating the Access Foundation, an organization that provides direct relief and financial wellness tools to American workers experiencing financial hardship during COVID-19.
Companies that partner with PayActiv can offer financial wellness benefits that align with employees’ current needs, including EWA, financial counseling, budgeting and savings tools, and prescription discounts.
By offering PayActiv to their employees, employers support a culture of compassion created by empathizing with their employees’ needs, realizing that timing of pay matters, and maximizing on these financial wellness initiatives.
Though the workforce has been wounded by COVID-19, they are not defeated. They are stronger, wiser, and actively engaged in this changed economy. If businesses meet this challenge with effective communication, community, and care, we all will benefit.
Let’s meet them there.
 Jim Zarroli and Avie Schneider, “Deluge Continues: 26 Million Jobs Lost in Just 5 Weeks,” NPR, April 23, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/23/841876464/26-million-jobs-lost-in-just-5-weeks.
 “A Workforce Wounded by COVID-19,” PayActiv, https://www.payactiv.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-Survey-Report-Infographic.pdf.
 Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, and Anna Brown, “About Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due to COVID-19,” Pew Research Center, April 21, 2020, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/04/21/about-half-of-lower-income-americans-report-household-job-or-wage-loss-due-to-covid-19/.
 “A Workforce Wounded by COVID-19.”
 “About Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due to COVID-19.”
 “APA Survey Finds Feeling Valued at Work Linked to Well-Being and Performance,” American Psychological Association, 2012, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/well-being.
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