By Lauren Weber
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (April 16, 2020).
As the pandemic began knocking out swaths of the economy last
month, CVS Health Corp.'s chief recruiter, Jeff Lackey, conferred
with his contacts at companies that would suffer some of the
biggest blows -- airlines, hotel companies and retailers.
His message: I want your people.
CVS -- where Mr. Lackey heads up talent acquisition -- is now
taking on the most ambitious hiring drive in its history. To
recruit the 50,000 staffers it needs to meet a coronavirus-fueled
surge in business, it is partnering with Gap Inc., Hilton Worldwide
Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and dozens of other companies
to employ their laid-off workers. More than 900,000 people have
applied for CVS jobs in just the last few weeks, including roles
stocking warehouses and stores, answering phones at call centers or
stepping in for CVS staff who end up sick or quarantined.
Across the economy, thousands of workers are being redeployed in
one of the fastest labor shifts in postwar history. As the
coronavirus reshapes consumer needs and behaviors overnight, some
workers are jumping into new roles within their companies. Others
are being recruited by new employers through collaborations
unthinkable in the intensely competitive labor market that existed
just a couple of months ago.
"I'm grateful for the spirit of the partnerships," Mr. Lackey
said. "I tell people, we only have one enemy right now, and it's
The efforts amount to a human-resources challenge for companies
moving people around or hiring new employees. They are racing to
assess people's skills and train them for new roles, all at warp
speed for what is often a slow-moving bureaucracy within
To pull off the recruiting effort, CVS created dedicated hiring
websites for employees at many partner companies and shortened the
hiring process to as little as a day or two. The company was
flooded with 500% the volume of applications its recruiting
websites normally receive. The surge overloaded the system for a
Gap Inc., which recently furloughed 80,000 workers because of
store closures, is encouraging those employees to take temporary
part-time jobs, including at CVS and a handful of other companies
it is collaborating with. Meghan Kelly, head of global talent
acquisition, said her team developed a "SWAT team approach" as Gap
mapped out the furlough plan. "One stream of work we looked at was,
what are the top tier of retailers that are hiring that would
potentially be a fit for our associates," she said.
Though it is uncertain when companies will return to business as
usual, Ms. Kelly and other executives say they hope most furloughed
employees who have been redeployed elsewhere will return to their
Similar collaborations are popping up around the world.
Supermarket chain Kroger Co. created an exchange to bring on
workers furloughed or laid off from food-service and hospitality
companies such as Sodexo, Sysco Corp. and Marriott International.
In Germany, grocers Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord signed an agreement with
McDonald's Corp., allowing the burger chain to refer employees for
temporary roles at their stores.
A group of major companies including Accenture PLC, Walmart Inc.
and Nordstrom Inc. are rolling out another exchange this week that
would let those in urgent need of workers tap laid-off or
furloughed employees at other participating businesses. Consulting
company Mercer LLC, a unit of Marsh & McLennan, is launching a
For some redeployed workers, new roles come with higher risks
and more anxieties because many of those jobs involve closer
proximity to consumers. Others say they find satisfaction in taking
on an essential or other in-demand job amid the pandemic.
At Toronto-based TD Bank, more than 2,000 employees have
switched to new jobs temporarily, mostly handling the surge in
calls from customers looking for financial relief, such as
deferrals of mortgage or credit-card payments, and from the bank's
own employees seeking help for Covid-related concerns, said Melanie
Burns, the bank's senior vice president of talent. In its U.S.
operations, the bank moved 450 people from units like automobile
finance, where they were mostly processing loan applications, to
critical services, such as front-line call-center roles.
Lisa Haasz, a TD Bank human-resources manager, used to spend her
days creating staffing plans and career-development programs. She
raised her hand in mid-March when the company asked for workers to
staff the overloaded human-resources helpline.
The next day, she did a one-hour virtual training session. A few
days later, she was taking calls from bank employees seeking
guidance because they had been exposed to someone with the virus,
or were feeling sick and needed information about HR policies.
"It can be exhausting," said Ms. Haasz, age 51, who lives in
Elkins Park, Pa. "I'm working nights, I'm working weekends, it's
not what I'm used to." But helping relieve the burden on the
staffers who do this work full-time feels good, she said.
After telecom giant Verizon Communications Inc. closed about 70%
of its corporate-owned retail locations in March, many store
employees had no place to work, said Christy Pambianchi, Verizon's
chief human resources officer. So thousands of hourly staffers now
take at-home customer service and sales roles, she said. The
company is also encouraging other employees with idle time to
complete needed industry certifications or training while they work
Transitioning people has required a rapid retraining effort.
Verizon's learning and development team has had to quickly develop
new virtual training programs.
To reduce training time, businesses are hiring from industries
where skills already overlap. Dave Phinney, owner of distillery
Savage and Cooke in Vallejo, Calif., stopped producing liquor a few
weeks ago and now makes 15,000 gallons of hand sanitizer a week.
For that work, he has hired 20 or so former bartenders, wine buyers
and waiters to fill plastic jugs with sanitizer and affix caps and
labels, and he says he may hire up to 30 more. He pays them $22 to
$25 per hour.
"We had a lot of people wanting to volunteer, and it was an odd
business decision to say, 'We'd prefer to pay and put people to
work,'" he said.
--Chip Cutter contributed to this article.
Write to Lauren Weber at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 16, 2020 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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