Three months ago, we all believed that we were safe in Europe and only Asia would be affected by the coronavirus epidemic. However, the outbreak has spread around the planet. The obvious health issues aside, the virus is bound to hit global economy hard and may lead to severe economic slowdown, even worse than the 2008 financial crisis.
The majority of companies were not expecting the events to unfold the way they did. As the crisis we are experiencing made us all face the unusual and dynamically changing situation, HR departments encounter utterly new challenges, while their regular tasks need to be fulfilled in totally different conditions.
One of the substantial changes is a quarantine. It is not extremely inconvenient for SSC/BPOs since their employees may work from home. However, such arrangements require that all processes, which previously involved direct meetings, should be conducted on-line. Many centres continue recruiting, new employees need onboarding, processes require continuity, and new forms of the document flow should be designed. The HR had to respond quickly.
Unsurprisingly, many analysts already envisage the crisis, given closed service and shopping centres, limits on movement, disrupted supply chains and halted production. In turn, many people will lose their jobs. Although tourism appears to be affected most severely, the SSC/BPO industry may suffer as well. To find out how HR departments face the challenge, from 25th to 30th March 2020 manaHR carried out a brief questionnaire among 40 organisations operating in the SSC/BPO sector, 75% of which are based in Kraków. Other respondents have their registered offices in the Silesia, Wielkopolska, Łódź, Świętokrzyskie and Pomerania Provinces.
The percentage of confirmative answers to the above question leaves no doubt that companies are already preparing for the economic outcomes of the pandemic. Even if, for the time being, a situation at certain organisations seems normal, it is impossible to predict how the reality will look like in three-months’ time. Up to 63% of companies are planning to reduce their spending. How are they going to do so?
88% of the survey respondents planning to reduce their expenditure intend to revise their recruitment plans. Note that people are frequently recruited not only in response to a specific demand but with potential customers in mind. Predictably, there is not going to be any abundance of new customers in the nearest future, so the reduced recruitment activity is understandable.
The next issue is a revision of event budgets. Company events organised for its employees are intended to enhance employees’ loyalty and satisfaction with work. It is also a good element of the employer branding strategy. While in addition to some employer-branding advantages, external events help to expand a company CV database and acquire candidates, during the economic slowdown they become an unnecessary source of substantial costs. This view is shared by 76% of companies taking part in the survey which gave positive answer about reducing company expenditure.
Taking care of the team’s development should be one of superior’s priorities. Nevertheless, up to 72% of the abovementioned companies have decided to introduce changes to the budget intended for those activities. Technically, the high costs of training make companies prefer to postpone this investment till conditions are more favourable.
Many companies are going to change their pay increase budgets. Soon, pay rises may be frozen for at least a couple of months. Though some employees, especially those qualifying for the rise, may not be satisfied with such course of action, it should be noted that companies take necessary steps to guarantee employment for all their current employees. It is worth emphasising that relatively small number of companies is thinking of lay-offs. However, there are people who will lose their jobs. Even now, for example on Linkedin, many people posted their stories of being laid off because of the pandemic. Interestingly, software developers are affected as well, though until recently they have been the most sought-after group on the market.
A change in bonus budgets is considered by only 36% of companies planning to reduce costs. How come pay rises are limited and bonuses are not? Bonuses are related to employee performance. The greater extent to which the objective is realised, the higher the company’s income. So as not to lose the motivating factor and guarantee constant inflow of cash, companies are unwilling to interfere in this field.
Some companies take changing benefit budget into account. Note that the basis of benefits package is healthcare and life insurance, i.e. two issues extremely important for the employees. Once stripped of them, the employees could be more dissatisfied than they are with frozen pay rises.
A part of respondents is going to cut expenditure in other ways. With offices closed, when most of us are working from home, organisations may save on office equipment, cleaning services or fruit deliveries.
It is impossible to make any sound projections about the nearest future. There are many scenarios, starting with the optimistic, which assume that the pandemic will ease down till summer, through most dreary ones, according to which the virus will mutate to become even more deadly. Therefore, companies are unable to plan anything and, for the time being, the only good solution is to cut costs as much as possible while keeping on providing customers with top quality services. The only thing is certain, though – we will not be able to return to the reality as we knew it.