When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, not all employers handled it well

Unsurprisingly, no one was prepared for what 2020 would bring. With little warning, non-essential businesses were shut down or forced to transition to a fully remote work environment and many faced tough decisions that involved pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. Others scrambled to ramp-up hiring to meet pandemic-driven demands and take necessary precautions to keep their employees safe and healthy.

Whilst some businesses have risen to the challenge and responded to the crisis with creativity, kindness, and empathy, others' efforts have fallen short ‒ to the dissatisfaction of their employees. In fact, when TopCV asked professionals to evaluate their employers' behaviour towards them throughout the pandemic, the majority (65%) admitted they would consider leaving their job because of the poor treatment they received during this uncertain time.

From shoddy communication about major issues such as working hours, layoffs, and pay, to an unwillingness to provide the necessary flexibility to handle family responsibilities, companies have failed to meet workers' expectations during this crisis ‒ and will likely face a mass exodus as a result.

If you're like many Brits who are unhappy with their employer's treatment during COVID-19 and want to quit, it's important that you carefully vet your next job opportunity to ensure that your future employer will be a better fit. Use these tips to ensure that they share the same set of values as you.

Reflect on what matters most

Before you begin your job search, consider how recent events have changed your opinion of your current employer.

  • How do you believe your employer dropped the ball during the pandemic?

  • Has communication been poor, inaccurate or nonexistent?

  • Do you feel they mishandled employee layoffs or furloughs?

  • Were they unwilling to provide the flexibility needed to homeschool your children or handle other new responsibilities that coincided with COVID-19 and the lockdown?

  • Did they substantially reduce your pay or hours without warning?

  • If you're considered an essential worker, have you felt as if your employer failed to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of you and its customers?

By pinpointing the issues, you'll be able to identify criteria that can be used to evaluate new job opportunities and find the right match.

Once you've determined what matters most to you in your next role, search for organisations that embody those traits. For example, if COVID-19 has made you want to continue working remotely or that you value companies that truly support working parents, then seek out employers that are known for being the best companies for working remotely or great workplaces for parents. You can also target companies that have made headlines for giving back to those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Find out what others are saying

Whilst a company's website ‒ particularly the "About Us" and "Careers" sections ‒ and social media accounts will provide some useful information, don't rely on these alone to assess a potential employer. Remember, employers create the content for those pages and platforms to entice potential candidates to join their team, so naturally they'll paint the company in the best possible light.

To help you gauge the corporate culture and decide if a company's work environment and its values are right for you, it's best to seek feedback from those who've worked at the organisation. Check out sites like Glassdoor, CareerBliss and Vault to read employer reviews from current and former employees, to get a better sense of the company's values. Better yet, delve into your network to find someone who was working at the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, to get a firsthand account of how things were handled, what was communicated, and how employees were treated during this uncertain time.

In addition, run a "Google News" search for the company's name to see if anything pops up in headlines from the past few months, such as a notable layoff or furlough, praise for their employee wellness programme or crisis communication plan, or a hiring surge to meet pandemic demands.

Interview your interviewer

Thanks to social distancing and other measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, most interviews will continue via videoconference or over the phone for the foreseeable future. However, just because you're unable to tour the corporate office doesn't mean that you can't properly evaluate the company culture and work environment.

In addition to asking the usual questions during your interview to gauge the corporate culture, going forward, it will be important to learn how an employer treated its employees during the coronavirus outbreak. The last thing you want to do is quit one company that mistreated its staff, only to join another one that doesn't handle things any better.

Approach this topic with care. You don't want to put your interviewer on the defence. Start out by saying, "I'm unsure if any company was prepared for how the pandemic would affect their business. How did your organisation handle the crisis with its employees?"

Then, depending on the interviewer's response, follow up with a couple of these questions to probe further:

  • "What changes did your team make in response to the crisis? (e.g. operating hours, staffing levels, budget reductions)?"

  • "What allowances were made for those employees who had children at home?"

  • "How did your team stay connected whilst working from home?"

How your interviewer responds to this line of questioning will help to determine whether the company took necessary precautions for its staff, demonstrated sensitivity to the employees' needs, and tried to make everyone feel more connected and well-informed throughout the crisis. A word of caution, though: don't take your interviewer's answer at face value. If an HR Manager is wooing you to join their company, their response will highlight the positives, whilst avoiding the negatives. In addition, don't be afraid to ask what the company is doing, or planning to do, to maintain employees' safety, health, and well-being as offices begin to open once again.

Be strategic with your exit

If you cannot fathom working for an organisation any longer whose actions (or inactions) during COVID-19 are misaligned with your own values, then it's time to consider changing jobs. Vet potential employers to ensure that your next move is towards an opportunity that's a better match.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic left you searching for a job? Get a free CV review for feedback on this all-important document.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Fast Company. It is reprinted with permission.

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