The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced us to live and work in unprecedented ways. For the government contracting community, the economic backlash of this threat has compelled some contractors to close shop, while others are able to operate more or less normally, thanks to teleworking capabilities and other social distancing safety measures. As we all adjust to this “new normal,” contractors must strengthen relationships with their internal teams as well as their industry/teaming partners to stay afloat.
Can You Afford to Build Your In-House Team?
To say that COVID-19 has decimated our workforce would be an understatement. Since mid-March, approximately 36M Americans have filed unemployment claims. More than 4 in 10 companies have implemented a hiring freeze. Facing the threat of economic recession brought on by the pandemic, even those firms able to continue normal operations may be reluctant to make new hires—leaving qualified applicants unemployed and positions unfilled.
If your company was looking to fill an important position prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, you may still need to fill that role in order to best serve your clients. In this case, it’s in your business’s best interest to decide if hiring right now is both strategic and cost-effective. Make sure to consider the expenses and logistical challenges of hiring at this time, and even look into outsourcing your recruiting efforts, to diminish the time burden on your team.
How Should Your Team Hiring Practices Change?
When hunting for applicants, remember that safety is a primary concern, both for your current employees and for the prospective hires. Many applicants are unable or unwilling to meet for in-person interviews or work on-site to fulfill the role, and the more people that enter your facilities to interview, the greater the risk of exposure for everyone. Your business will be forced to adjust your job fulfillment procedures to accommodate the unique challenges presented by COVID-19.
Stephanie Eberhart, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of TalentRemedy, a full-scale recruiting firm, says employers must be mindful of how the state of recruiting has adjusted during the pandemic.
“Recruiting has made a tremendous shift since the pandemic forced a “stay-in-place” order in mid-March throughout the nation and companies have been forced into remote operations,” said Eberhart. “Both large and small size companies have had to furlough and lay off some of their workforce. In some industries the recruiting has shifted to an “Employer” market, meaning that employers can now be much more selective about who they hire and what they are willing to pay. In addition, recruiting and hiring teams have had to scramble to implement virtual hiring strategies and virtual onboarding practices.”
To comply with state-mandated stay-at-home laws and CDC guidance on social distancing, many employers have implemented Zoom or Skype interviews to screen and hire applicants. By the same token, employers that offer fully remote working arrangements will have the leg up for attracting qualified candidates.
Eberhart says that all businesses looking to hire must be mindful of applicant needs.
“This is a good opportunity for organizations to realize that flexibility is key to attracting top talent whether we are experiencing a pandemic or not,” Eberhart noted. “For years many companies have believed that they could “never” have a virtual workforce and missed out on outstanding talent. This pandemic has proved otherwise. Great talent is self-motivated and self-managed and can work and perform whether in a corporate office or in their home office.”
To learn more about the changing environment of recruiting during COVID-19, be on the lookout Eberhart’s appearance on The New Normal, a miniseries by Global Services, featuring our industry partners.
Implement Your Best Teaming Practices
Due to the implications of COVID-19, some contractors are unable to meet contract obligations. FAR provisions such as the Excusable Delay provision provides protections from default liabilities during epidemics and quarantine restrictions. Contractors should carefully examine contracts to see if they contain Default and Excusable Delay clauses. If the contracts contain these clauses, it is still a contractor’s responsibility to establish the epidemic was the real cause of the delay it experienced and delays could not have been avoided. Throughout this process, contractors should always maintain close communication with the CO, COR, and their teaming partners to discuss existing or potential impacts on performance. Schedule daily or weekly phone/video conference calls with all parties involved to discuss the state of your contract performance—communication is key, especially now.
Think Ahead: Keep Your Team/Company Visible
If you have subcontracted with a prime on past contracts, make sure to check in with their team. Inquire if there are any opportunities to provide your services in the near future. It is important to not let these connections fall to the wayside: now is the time to let your partners know you are available if, and when, they need you. On the flipside, it is just as important for prime contractors to stay in touch with their subcontractors. This is especially important for large primes with Small Business subcontractors, as your relationship with them will be key for pursuing contracts with SB set-aside requirements.
As in-person events have been cancelled until further notice, Business Development (BD) personnel for small, mid-size, and large businesses are faced with a new environment where they must tread lightly. We know that for the sake of many government contractors, BD activities cannot stop indefinitely. But the approach must shift, as sensitivity is needed at this time. We encourage your BD team to seek digital spaces to build connections, such as LinkedIn, where you have access to 2.1 million federal workers, identified by agency.
Lean on your community at this time. Reach out to partners and inquire about lending your expertise to one of their webinars. This exposure will place you in the front of your partner’s audience, allowing you to reach people outside of your network. Expanding your reach will connect you to new companies that can turn into potential partners for Joint-Ventures (JVs) or other teaming arrangements.
Remember, teaming arrangements are typically in place long before the final solicitation for the relevant contract is released. Are you using this time to find and develop relationships with potential teaming partners digitally?
Keep Your Head Up
To be successful in GovCon, you need to nurture your relationships with both clients and teaming partners. Stay informed, stay connected, and offer support. As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work! Even though we are living in an uncertain time, we must plan ahead— opportunities are just over the horizon!
If you would like to learn more tips and tricks for building your team during COVID-19, make sure to look out for Stephanie Eberhart’s appearance on our The New Normal, miniseries. If you and your teaming partners need assistance on an upcoming bid, reach out to our team of proposal experts today!