Rail Industry Recruiting Affected by COVID-19 (Michele Malski; SPRING Recruits)

SPRING Recruits (1)

How is the coronavirus pandemic currently affecting succession planning & recruiting,
and how do you see it affecting your business in the future? 


We are seeing the way we do business change, right in front of our eyes, on a computer screen. Although this pandemic is a serious issue to combat, the silver lining is that our precautions of social distancing are also teaching us and our companies how to trust our employees from afar to complete work, to maintain productivity, and to most importantly, care for and motivate themselves and family. Teleworking, for those this option affects, is no longer a myth used for people to slack off, but rather a viable option to care for household matters and balance work and focus on work, saving money on fuel from the drive to work, saving time in congestion from a commute, and saving on aggravation of forgetting something at home. As long as there are clearly communicated scheduled activities for work and set goals to accomplish, then those goals are accomplished and sometimes quicker than in a busy office. Employees are proving that they can lead a conference call with their toddler on their lap, or finalize budget reports with their bear slippers hibernating under the desk. 
This is also a good time to think about succession planning and getting a plan started if you haven't already. If we don't have a plan for the future, then there is no vision for today. Companies are seeing the importance of planning for, "Oh no, who is going to lead this team if Teammate A is unable to work?" The idea of mentorship plays a key role in this as well. If you have employees that you lead, take the time to get to know them and see where their goals are for their future. Having someone that reaches out and cares about your progress to meet your personal professional goals, are leaders that employees want to work harder for, whether that's virtually or in person. Keep that engagement level. Social distancing is testing us on our communication pathways and how strong our lines of communication really are. When we know who is doing what in a visual way (role write-ups or shared Google Documents, for example) with clear pathways of communication for each task, then the easier it will be to fill in for a task if needed in the future. Cross-training while we are virtual is also another way to teach others what we do for the team so others can be aware of coinciding projects or even duplicate projects. This can be as simple as writing a list of tasks you are currently working on and sharing it in a to-do list format with a group of colleagues. 
And thank heavens for technology and those that know how to best utilize it to connect with teams, clients, and colleagues. Technology. Gotomeeting, video conferencing, Skype, e-mail carriers, social media, you name it, have saved the workday. This pandemic has shown us not only that we can trust our employees from afar to get things done when we give them clear objectives, but also our reliance on technology is critical to staying connected. Instead of recruiting events, there are virtual career fairs. Instead of interviews in person, there are Skype or Google Hangout interviews. We have found a way to take the "can-do" from the uncanny events. Although it may not be in the frequency of the in-person events, specifically speaking about recruiting here, there are ways to go about our business in growing talent pipelines or finding qualified candidates right at our fingertips. And I would surmise that the infrequency of events is merely just an effect of underutilization, meaning now that more people are distancing themselves. There will be more opportunities for online events and webinars to capture that home-engulfed audience. Pre-pandemic, most people would prefer to meet and greet in person and not online for this type of interaction. Technology has come to the rescue for many organizations to stay up to date with work, and it will continue to drive our connectedness and business relations for the near future. As we continue to virtually work where possible, we, as companies, must also ramp up our security around protecting our employees online as well. 
Lastly, many of our careers are essential to the supply chain of American economics. Our transportation managers and crews practice safety each and every day, and there is no change in that. We are some of the luckiest employees to be working in a time like this when many other operations have completely shut down. We are a vital part of our nation's well being, and this in itself is something to be proud of. Those that may have lost their careers during this outbreak may need the hope of a new start. That's where the railroad comes in. We are still hiring, we are still moving freight, we are still providing steady incomes for our families, and we are still the pumping pulse of the national economy. If you want to get involved today, here is your chance. SPRING's communication list for opportunities is free for candidates to join, and we have seen an uptick in people wanting to learn more about our employer network's careers during this time. I admire all those that work in our industry: our railroaders, track laborers, signal maintainers, trainmasters, etc. I also admire the hospital staffs, the housekeeping, the technicians, the interpreters, all those in the police force, military, first responders, trucking, grocery stores, daycares, and every other business that remains open to help others survive. These heroes have a special drive within that no matter the uncertainty, they are there to help someone else: a neighbor, a community. And so I would like to conclude with a thank you to all of our essential employees for everything you do day in and out for the hope of a stronger tomorrow.