Need Applicants? Fear Of Covid Is The #1 Cause Of Applicant Resistance

Realize that recruitment messaging can mitigate this “fear of contracting COVID.”

There’s no need to be subtle here. Understand that a fear of Covid, which is the top applicant resistance factor, can mostly be neutralized. So convincing applicants that you have an exceptionally healthy workplace is literally the highest impact action for dramatically increasing your number of job applicants.  And by the way, it’s the only one of three common foundation resistance factors (health, school issues, unemployment benefits) that employers can directly impact.

This Covid health fear has been elevated to the top resistance factor partly because of widespread vaccine reluctance and the devastatingly high impact of the Delta variant. And because Covid fear is extremely high among diverse groups, realize that reducing that fear may help improve diversity recruiting results. Because it can dramatically increase the number of applicants for each job.

Today’s recruiting leaders must accept it as a primary responsibility to convince every applicant that they will be working at an exceptionally healthy workplace. This fear is so strong that I estimate that in the case of unemployed hourly workers. By simply eliminating any reasonable health fears among your likely applicants, you can increase your applications by as much as an amazing 20%!

If you can only do one thing© – ask each new hire during onboarding to identify both the strengths and the needs improvement areas in your workplace safety recruitment messaging. 

Action Steps For Convincing Applicants That You Have An Exceptionally Safe Workplace

There are a variety of proven actions that smart recruiting leaders can take to minimize most health fears. Below are the top 12 recommended actions, with the easiest to implement steps listed first.

  • Use a marketing research approach – rather than speculating or guessing. It’s critical that your recruiting function utilizes market research techniques like surveys and interviews. In order to identify the actual fears that your potential applicants have. And then what provided information would dramatically reduce each of their specific fears. Also look at the post-interviews to find out if Covid is impacting employee turnover.
  • Effectively place your messages – once again, you must use market research data to identify where your “healthy workplace messages” are most likely to be seen and read. Obviously, you want to use your own Internet and social media sites. But you must also include this message in your actual job postings.
  • Test and refine your messaging – once you have sculpted each of your draft recruiting messages. Don’t assume that they will work. Instead, test each one. And then use the information from the tests to refine each message.
  • Continue your messaging – even after a qualified applicant has formally applied. It’s essential that you then continually reinforce your initial “healthy workplace” messaging. And, of course, reinforce your message again during new-hire onboarding.
  • List and explain your “safe workplace” actions –  provide compelling arguments covering each of the major safety concern areas, including whether you must be vaccinated or tested to work. And what you’ve done regarding masking, social distancing, thorough workplace cleaning, and ventilation. Also, cover how you handle older workers/pre-existing conditions and the remote work options for this job. Mention when you have mechanisms for receiving employee feedback, including employee representation on the Covid safety committee, frequently asked employee questions, or an anonymous employee hotline for Covid issues. Show how you have protected your employees from customers that might spread the disease to them.
  • Make sure that they experience your healthy workplace approach during their interviews – the words in your messages won’t mean much if each interviewee fails to experience your healthy approach during their interview process. So make sure that your interview process includes visible steps for protecting interviewees. Those steps might include remote interview options and masking and physical distancing during face-to-face interviews.
  • Reveal your liberal sick leave coverage – offering sick leave to hourly employees will, by itself. Send the message to everyone that you don’t want to force employees to come to work when sick for their health and to protect coworkers and customers. Also, applicants with families will want to know if your sick leave policies give them the option of staying home and taking care of sick family members.
  • Thoroughly explain your healthcare coverage – because Covid has elevated the interest in having adequate healthcare coverage. Thoroughly explain how your coverage meets or exceeds their expectations, including results of employee and new-hire satisfaction surveys that reveal their happiness with your healthcare and Covid related offerings. Where possible, provide potential applicants access to a website that provides them with the necessary Covid and healthcare information before they formally apply.
  • Make “workplace health” an essential part of your employer branding – make sure that your “healthy workplace” messaging goes beyond the messages for any particular job. For example, consider offering a message from your CEO on how important this issue is to them. Also, consider developing a video covering all the relevant Covid issues for placement on your career and social media landing pages. You should also make every attempt to have your employees and managers help in spreading your healthy workplace message. Encourage them to talk up your health actions and offerings among their family and when they are seeking employee referrals and on their blogs, podcasts, videos, and
  • Highlight employee freedom – throughout your messaging. Ensure that you highlight the number of choices and the amount of freedom you provide your employees on Covid issues.
  • Reveal Covid safety in the local area – you may also help reduce applicant fears if you also reveal the vaccination rate, the ICU bed availability, and the positivity rate in the county where your facility is located. Mentioning whether the local schools are open and fully protected may also help alleviate some fears.
  • Consider releasing “your numbers” – you need to establish and report “workplace safety” metrics. If you’re really bold and you have good Covid health numbers. Consider revealing the “results numbers” produced by your safety efforts to your employees and the public. These facts and numbers might include the policy that you require every employee to be vaccinated, the percentage of your fully vaccinated workforce, or the percentage of positive Covid cases among your workforce during the last three months.

Final Thoughts

Dollar Tree became a benchmark firm in this area when it recently advertised a description of its focus on worker safety in advance of its national hiring day. Considering the recently released resistance research, it makes sense for smart recruiting leaders to begin building their firm’s competitive advantage immediately by instituting effective recruitment messaging program that covers every current and evolving aspect of Covid workplace safety.

Author’s Note 

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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