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How companies are partnering to find the workers they need

Millions of people have lost their jobs in the U.S. because of the pandemic. But as restaurants and retailers have closed their doors, other businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores have been ramping up hiring to meet a surge in demand. Some companies are also partnering up to help respond to the shifting workforce. Wall Street Journal reporter Lauren Weber joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In the last four weeks, at least 22 million people have lost their jobs. Those losses have not been even. As restaurants, hotels, and some retailers have closed their doors; other businesses, like pharmacies and grocery stores have been ramping up hiring to meet the surge in demand. I spoke earlier with Lauren Weber from the Wall Street Journal, about how companies are actually partnering to help meet the shifting workforce demands caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Lauren, tell me a little bit about this partnership between The Gap and CVS?

  • Lauren Weber:

    Sure. Well, CVS is doing this actually with a few dozen large companies. When companies like The Gap started realizing that they were going to have to furlough or layoff employees, they started looking at options for finding ways to place those employees with other companies that were actually hiring now. It's interesting with this crisis, some companies are seeing a surge in demand, others are seeing a complete drop off in demand. So CVS is now working with dozens of retailers, hospitality companies, airlines to try to figure out how to match people quickly into these jobs that are suddenly open.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So this is really just about kind of taking advantage of the work that these are companies have already done?

  • Lauren Weber:

    In a way it is. These are people who are already vetted and screened by one major employer. What's really interesting to me is that two months ago, these companies were competing for some of these same workers. The labor market was at historic lows with unemployment. Now, suddenly, they're trying to collaborate in these really surprising and new ways to try to make sure as many people as possible can get a paycheck, stay off of unemployment. You know, there's a benefit to both sides of the equation, here, all sides of the equation: the employee, the company that they're going to, and the company that they're leaving.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    When you were talking to these different employers, do they see the magnitude of what's happening to this economy right now?

  • Lauren Weber:

    They do. And they're scared. I mean, they're scared for their own companies survival and for the people that they were employing. You know, for example, with CVS, they had fifty thousand jobs that they wanted to fill. These are mostly temporary positions. They might be stocking warehouses. They're working in retail stores. They're also looking for a backup workforce because they expect some of their own employees will get sick or will need to take time off to quarantine or care for family members. Like I said, they have fifty thousand jobs and within a couple of weeks of opening these dedicated hiring pages that they created, they had 900000 applications. And I'm sure that hasn't slowed down.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Obviously, they're creating systems so that employees can slide into employment easier, but do they think that this is something that can rebound quickly or that it will take a long time, regardless of whether we are in these social distancing practices or not?

  • Lauren Weber:

    I think the expectations are changing so quickly. It's evolving so fast. Early on in this crisis, the idea was we might quickly recover if we could get stores opened again and the people back to work. I think it's becoming clearer that it's not going to be quick like that and nobody quite knows what it looks like. One issue for these employers like Gap or Hilton, Delta, the other firms that are trying to help place their employees that they have furloughed or laid off, they want to keep some connection to those employees. Their hope is that eventually they're going to start rehiring. They're going to start opening back up and they're going to need to fill roles just as quickly as this time they needed to drop people from their payrolls. So, you know, one element of why they're doing this, I think, is to maintain goodwill with their employees and maintain the relationship so that when they need them back, those people will willingly, perhaps happily come back to their previous employer.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So Lauren, one of the things that companies try to do is find something else for an employee to do. When the scale is this enormous, how successful are they doing that?

  • Lauren Weber:

    It's a huge challenge for human resources departments to try to redeploy people internally. But a lot of companies are seeing some part of their business drop off while another part of their business escalates. For example, financial services. Not many people are applying for auto loans right now, but tons of people are applying for small business loans. So companies are moving people around internally. That's where you have the possibility of some tension coming up, because some people may not want to be redeployed. In some cases, people are being redeployed to jobs that they feel are more dangerous or put them at higher risk. For example, we heard from somebody who does commercial internet installations and he basically climbs towers and rarely interacts with people. He's being asked now to do residential installations and he's concerned about going into people's homes. On the other hand, he's glad to have a job. So it's putting people in some difficult positions when they're being asked now to do some of these frontline jobs that may expose them in ways that their prior role wouldn't have.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Lauren Weber, thanks so much.

  • Lauren Weber:

    Thanks for having me.

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