Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance, Recruiting

5 Tips for Bringing Back the Furloughed Workforce … The Right Way

An overwhelming 38.6 million people have filed jobless claims to date, and this number continues to climb. Thankfully, a majority of companies do intend to bring their employees back, with 77% of furloughed employees expecting to be rehired once stay-at-home mandates are lifted in their area.


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However, this will be no easy feat for companies across all industries. From a hiring perspective, one question remains top of mind: How do we successfully reopen America and bring back furloughed employees the right way?

Furloughing employees was not unheard of before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it has never been done at this scale—or throughout so many different industries. Many leaders are in uncharted territory when it comes to mapping out a plan for reintegrating their workforce.

Companies need to consider that some jobs may no longer be possible or necessary in a post-COVID-19 world, and some furloughed employees may have sought other employment options in the meantime. To bring back some semblance of normalcy to the workplace, an efficient plan of action will be critical.

Here are five tips to consider when bringing back furloughed employees:

1. Be empathetic. A lot of people are grieving during this time. Some are grieving for loved ones affected by the coronavirus. Many are grieving for the way things used to be. These feelings of uncertainty will continue as we start to reintegrate the workforce, especially as workplace norms change and evolve.

It’s up to executives to lead by example and be empathetic to how people are feeling as they reenter the workforce. That may mean new flexible work schedules, access to counseling services, or even the introduction of new cultural programs.

2. Be quick to rehire, but don’t rush. We are all in a rush to return to the workplace. However, rushing to make hiring decisions could lead to mistakes, such as placing people in jobs they feel unprepared for or are not interested in pursuing.

As you look to repurpose talent, be sure people are trained in their new environment, are comfortable with their role, and know when to escalate issues they’re not ready to handle themselves.

3. Give department leads time to adjust. In some cases, department and team leads may have had their hours reduced or were even furloughed themselves. Once they’re brought back full time, make sure these managers have the time they need to adjust to this new norm themselves before expecting them to refocus and reintegrate their teams.

Strong leadership and communication will be absolutely critical during this challenging time, so it’s important to prioritize their re-acclimation.

4. Emphasize learning agility. Learning agility will be a key quality in successful workers. People who can adapt to and learn their new/altered positions quickly will have a much better chance of succeeding in today’s new work environment.

This should take the highest priority when justifying who you bring back on—even over technical expertise. Going forward, you’ll be evaluating people’s long-term potential—and soft, enduring skills—first and foremost.

5. Continue to support diversity initiatives. When deciding which furloughed workers to bring back, make sure your team continues to use the objective measures that were in place pre-pandemic. It is crucial for a company’s diversity mix to stay where it needs to be amid all of the business challenges that have come with COVID-19. Failing to prioritize diversity could lead to the wrong hiring decisions and, in turn, can damage the quality and strength of your workforce.

As many companies look to bring back furloughed employees, the plans of action set in place today will define their future success. Now more than ever, there is no such thing as too much communication, and companies and leaders who take the time needed to master this new norm will be poised for success in a post-pandemic world—and will get the best out of their employees along the way.

Greg Moran is the Chief Executive Officer, OutMatch. Moran has more than 20 years of human capital management, sales, and leadership experience. He is also the author of Building the Talent Edge: A Field Managers Guide to Recruiting the Best (Spring 2005) and Hire, Fire and The Walking Dead (June 2006, W Business Books).

Previously, Moran served as Founder and VP of Sales for PeopleAnswers America, a provider of behavioral assessment software to mid-market and large companies in North America. Before PeopleAnswers America, he founded and served as President of Pinnacle Technology Solutions, an executive search, staffing, and human capital management services firm. He has also served as Vice President of Best Resume/Career Management Services.

Currently, Moran serves as CEO of OutMatch, a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based talent intelligence platform, where he manages strategy, culture, and execution, as well as leads a team of over 120 employees, to drive overall performance and company growth. Based in Dallas, Texas, OutMatch has $25 million in revenue and 30% annual growth, as well as works with a wide range of clients, including Adidas, Lenovo, and Virgin Atlantic.

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