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    Workstream | 32 min read

    Responding to Pandemic Challenges: A Webinar on How Businesses are Adapting

    Businesses today need to be flexible and have the capacity to quickly adapt operational processes in response to the impact of the coronavirus. Otherwise, they run the risk of going under due to the current economic downturn.

    We hear it straight from our panel of distinguished panelists: what do we need to do to survive? How do we best communicate to our employees? What are the new industry norms when it comes to hiring and safety protocols? All these questions are answered, and more, in today's webinar on adapting to the particular challenges of these trying times.

    Lydia: The theme of the webinar today, we’re talking about adapting to COVID-19. How businesses are responding to it, the changes they have made in terms of HR policies as well as sanitization efforts, using thermometers, how they are thinking about re-opening, and the different loans. Joining on our webinar today, we have panelists and we will go through and introduce each of ourselves in the order here. One thing I would love to know is what everyone’s sheltered-in-place new habit or skill that they have picked up? What is something that over the past 2 months you have found yourself doing? Let’s kick it off with Alex!

    Alex: Hi, I am Alex Anderman, I’m in San Francisco with The Halal Guys. We have stores in the Bay Area and Vegas. My shelter-in-place is, as I am a classically trained chef, I was trying to teach myself how to make sourdough bread, I am one of those. I can't believe how much of a hard time I've had trying to figure it out, but I made my last batch this Sunday, and it worked perfectly, so it will only get better over time. 

    Kimika: Hi, I hope everyone is doing well, I'm excited to be here. I've been doing HR now in the retail and restaurant industry for 12 years. I absolutely enjoy it, and I'm overseeing the HR for Bonchon US. We have about over 100 locations in the US, 2 corporate-owned locations are within those and we are international as well. Something that I picked up over the last months is baking, and I perfected vegan baked goods including biscuits, and I promise they do taste normal.

    Steve: Hi, I am Steve Acra, I’m the owner of the D-Bat Colorado Springs. D-Bat is an indoor baseball and softball academy. In our facility, we also have TrackMan golf simulators. I think if I was to try something during the stay home, I've been trying to improve my Big Green Egg smoking capability; everything from brisket to ribs to prime ribs.

    Quyen: Hi, my name is Quyen, here in Seattle, Washington. I own Vinason Pho & Grill. We are a local sustainable Vietnamese restaurant. Something that I picked up over the course of the last couple of months is a little bit more reading, to get off of the screens and lock my eyes on some good books.

    Lydia: My name is Lydia, I'm Head of Marketing and Growth at Workstream, based in San Francisco. The thing that I've picked up was doing a lot more batch cooking. In fact, I got to the point where we have now broken our sink composter, and trying to find someone to repair right now is terrifying. But yeah, lots of batch cooking.

    On the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

    Lydia: To kick things off, one thing that is top of mind for everyone are the different options for the PPP and other credit. Yesterday on our prep call, we discussed what the different options were for people and what they were thinking about that. Kamika, I would love to know your thoughts in general, how do you think the PPP is working?

    Kimika: At Bonchon, for our corporate locations, we’ve chosen not to use the PPP mainly just to avoid a lot of the red tape. There’s some, as you guys know, who already dabbled in it and are currently in the program, we do have to hire back a certain number of employees by a certain time. It's pretty hard to do when you're trying to scale with rehiring and bringing back those employees that were either furloughed or took some time off. So, right now we are not in any of the PPP programs.

    Lydia: Quyen, what do you think about the PPP?

    Quyen: I am a big supporter, in the sense that it is much needed right now for a lot of businesses that are open. I know they are timeframe and restriction involved, and we've been very fortunate to be open at the moment and we've had good luck with this transition into almost a purely take-out model for the last month and a half. I've been very happy to be able to keep the employees working, and having the PPP helped with a lot of the overhead and is extremely helpful for us to hopefully ride out this phase. 

    Lydia: Alex, I’m curious what your thoughts are with The Halal Guys.

    Alex: We've taken the PPP and right now we're trying to bring back a bunch of people to meet the qualifications of (its forgiveness) to a grant from a loan. The hard thing is even though we are still open, our business has converted to mostly delivery and takeout, so we've seen sales drop anywhere from 30% to 50% per store. We've even closed down one store which is in the casino. My fear of bringing these people back, because it's a short time period program of eight weeks, is that we're going to bring them back, and if the business doesn't pick up again, we're going to have to slow back down again. So, in a way, in the 8 weeks that we're doing the program, we’re artificially injecting labor into the system. The good aspect of it is that it's allowing us the opportunity to trade up, to interview new people and bring them in, and possibly elevate our staff.

    Communicating with Staff

    Lydia: It is a great opportunity there, there certainly are a lot more people who you can interview right now. You mentioned store closures – I'm going to remove the sides and focus on chatting with each of you – I would like to jump over to Steve. With your business, you had to close your location. Could you go into that process of how were you notifying your staff, and have you remained in contact with all your employees through the past two months?

    Steve: We were notified by the health department in Colorado Springs through communications with the governor's office that we would have to close our facility on the 16th of March. We are still closed and through discussions with the health department this morning, there is not an anticipated re-opening date yet. We are a 23,000 square foot facility that does indoor baseball, softball, golf, and fitness, so our employees are specialized. They are typically a former collegian or present collegian or professional baseball or softball players and/or golfers. Our numbers aren't extensive in numbers, we have 12 employees, but we serve 400 plus members in private lessons, (scheme) lessons, those kinds of activities. We did not want to lose them, so when we talked about closing with the group, as an owner, we paid them to stay while we were trying to understand what the government help would be in the form of the EIDL or the PPP, knowing that we would need help as a business and that our customer retention numbers would probably be lower when we re-opened than it was when we are closed because we are a business that's made up of discretionary spending. Families spend money in our facility not because they have to eat, but because they enjoy the game of baseball or softball. With the unemployment being what it is across the United States and family incomes being decimated, our challenge is going be a little bit harder on the backside. We did do the PPP loan. It does have the 8-week payback or the 8-week usage time frame to be converted to a grant, as Alex said. So, we're paying people to stay home, trying to keep them off the unemployment rolls which was part of the initiative of the program. 

    Lydia: Kimika, with the PPP program and the way it's set up, the sort of confusion of it, what do you think of the other tax credits and having to choose between PVP versus what else is out there?

    Kimika: We have an accountant who handles all of our PPP, fortunately, he's been able to advise us on what decisions we should be making. So, I personally wouldn't advise on exactly the differences between what to choose for your specific company, so I would leave it there.  

    Lydia: Just in communicating with your team in general, Kimika, you talked yesterday in the prep call about the virtual happy hours and other things you guys are doing to stay connected. Can you share what's been great that's working for you guys in terms of keeping morale up and maintaining communication with the staff?

    Kimika: Absolutely. Before I dive into the communication, one thing that we were able to do is a lot of the employees did want to take that opportunity to not work but without having been let go. They're keeping their benefits and they're still able to collect unemployment because they're not collecting wages. A lot of our employees are able to take advantage of the benefits and the additional benefits for unemployment that the majority of the states have put into place for the weekly maximum limit. Some of them are getting their full pay because of what they've been making in the past previous quarters. We're definitely proud to be able to say that people that are still with us have not been furloughed and that they are collecting the same wages that they were collecting while working, but at the same time they are able to stay home, feel comfortable and be safe. 

    The way that we have been communicating with them is through emails and surveys. We've been trying to get a pulse check on who's ready to come back before some other people. That way, the first round of people, let’s say that when New York does the lift the ban for downstate New York, which is the New York City area, you’re going to maybe expect 25% occupancy. Right now, Texas when they opened, they told their restaurants that they can do 25% occupancy. With that in mind, we're not going to be bringing back 100% of our people. Keeping that in mind, we have been trying to see who wants to come back. That way, you have higher morale and engagement when you have the staff that’s just returning from COVID. The worst thing you can do is bring back somebody who felt forced, who felt that they didn’t have an option when you might not even need to bring them back now. You can probably bring them back in a month where they might feel more comfortable and maybe the occupancy would have increased to 40%. 

    Another way that we have also been trying to keep the engagement with our corporate team, is virtual happy hours. We do Friday happy hours and 4 o'clock Eastern, and we just have games. We did 2 truths and 1 lie last Friday, we’ve got to learn a lot about each other, and we got to see who had good poker faces. We’ve also encouraged book clubs; I know one of my leaders is doing a book club with his team. We also have encouraged the employees to give us their feedback. We’ve been reaching out to them saying, “We want to hear you. How are you feeling? On a level of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you currently with your status of employment. Being sheltered at home, how comfortable are you? Do you feel set up for success? What are some of the things that you need?” Out of those surveys, I've been able to address some people's immediate concerns such as, as I mentioned before, that they had bad Internet. Now there’s something that we can do, either send out a router or something, it’s something we can consider. We consider as the manager, to know that this person might have a slower response time with emails, etc. or let me call the person instead because I might get a quicker response. Making those small adjustments makes it easier for your remote teams. It's not always the field workers that we’re also thinking about, we also have to think about our corporate teams and white-collar roles that are currently in these new predicaments of working remotely when they haven't had to do it before. So, we’ve been trying to make it fun for people, we've been trying to keep the engagement. We've also done a random gift, Bonchon branded masks, as well as socks and sneakers. We’ve been using 100% of the proceeds to donate back into the National Restaurant Association for helping individuals who lost their jobs in the restaurant industry. We're really proud to be part of that and also still at the same time create engagement and an exciting time to be with Bonchon.

    New Rules and Guidelines – Wearing of Masks

    Lydia: That's really exciting especially the branded masks, that's a lot of fun. With getting people to wear the masks, I'm curious, If you don’t mind me switching to Alex, I would love to know how it's been going in terms of sharing the new rules and guidelines with your company and making sure that people are wearing the masks that they need to be doing at work?

    Alex: With masks, it was hard. There's a whole bunch of rules that came down that we had to follow – 6 feet separation, creating a 6 feet space from the customers, masks, we have to put up postings on the door about how often we clean and sanitize the restaurant, high traffic areas. With masks, the hard thing is that it is hard to find masks. They're expensive and it took me a 4 to 6 weeks to get them, and then the ones that I ended up buying for my team, it was the same style that was being used at KFC and Chipotle, but it's a T-shirt material that goes over the face and they don't last forever. But what I’ve noticed is that my team has adapted on their own, and they go and buy their own masks. 

    The harder challenge is that sometimes people choose not to do what we ask them to do. You walk into a store and you see a customer come in without a mask and you ask them to put on the mask, and they oblige. The harder thing for me is that when I walk in and I see one of my teammates did not have on a mask. We should all know better. Just sending that correction to them because the perception from the customer coming in, and they're very quick to call out through whatever social media channel, that the mask is only on their mouth and not on their nose, or they are not wearing a mask or gloves. So, it's a constant struggle in getting teams to do what we need to do within the store, which is in part to like why we are setting clear expectations of people. I don’t want to sound like a hard person, I try to let everybody control their own destiny, but if you are not going to follow the guidelines that are being set by the County that we have to enforce within the store, then you're forcing us to have to find and upgrade staff and to bring new people in. I'd rather keep working with everybody that we have, but these are challenging times and we have to [do it]. We wear masks to protect you from me and when we're inviting customers into our stores, we have to be leading and we need to be showcasing what the County wants us to do.

    Progress of Interviews and Trends Observed

    Lydia: Especially right now, we live in a world where anyone can take a photo and post it on Yelp or social media, we have to be especially vigilant with your team. Quyen, how are you doing that with your team? And also, yesterday when we were chatting, you mentioned doing more of the interviewing now. Both Alex and Quyen, I’m curious how your interviews are going right now, and what are you seeing with the applicants you’re meeting? 

    Quyen: To follow up on the mask question, I had a team meeting this morning with all of my store managers, from operations to the GM of all 3 locations. It is a challenge, but we kind of made it fun in the sense of the mask aspect. I offer them the opportunity to design and order their own masks, to get creative with it, and I will fully reimburse everything, to kind of put that into their hands. The fact that it's uncomfortable because it's something that obviously we're not used to here in the western part of the world, it is a challenge for some of them, but we are very vigilant. We got to start from the top down of constantly reminding our managers or shift lead that they have to enforce the new protocols. 

    With staffing, that is a challenge, but we've been having a great relationship working with Workstream. This week, I interviewed 3 new applicants for a marketing position. We used to outsource the marketing aspect, but with the extra funds that we are receiving from PPP, we are getting creative of how we spend it, and being able to spend it wisely towards a better social presence and building brand equity. We are hiring new positions and we've been very fortunate to be able to retain a lot of our staff. We are only operating at 60% payroll right now, up to 65%, so we need another 10% to 15% over the next five weeks in order to meet those standards. Obviously, with virtual interviews and using third-party like Workstream to filter through the applicants, and having the labor force open up with the extremely high rate of unemployment, I feel confident that you are able to level up in terms of having more qualified candidates, people who are motivated to work, who don't like to be home, who like to be out and about and being part of the team environment. I try to look at the positive in the hiring process and have a positive outlook in terms of the people that want to come back to work, or the people I want on the team who are not taking advantage of the situation, but putting their best foot forward and not looking at the short-term picture, but rather thinking of long-term. I'm very excited about the pool of applicants that we're going through, and hopefully, we can bring on a few more members to our staff. 

    Workstream’s Tax Credit Capabilities

    Lydia: It’s very exciting right now with the hiring opportunities. One thing that we're seeing with what's going on is that people are looking for more tax credits. For instance, at Workstream, we've built-in ways for you to be able to screen for people who would be approved for the work opportunity tax credit. That way, something that you might want to build into your process is an automated question, where as soon as somebody applies from any of the boards that you post to, you can ask them to fill out a quick survey to see if they would qualify as a veteran or one of the other options. If they do, move them ahead immediately to be able to schedule a video interview time with you, because then we have an integration with wtc.com where it will get all the paperwork over there and you can get $9,600 per new hire in tax credits for hiring somebody such as a veteran or an ex-felon. That’s something to think about is you're going through the hiring process right now with people. Has anyone looked into those tax credits such as WTC before or file that for their applicants?

    Alex: When I started with Workstream, that was one of the two things I wanted to see if they were integrated into the system; they weren't yet. One was E-Verify, and the second was WOTC. This is the first I'm hearing of it that it is live, and if they qualify, then you'll help process the paperwork through the WOTC system. I'd love trying to hire these people that qualify for this, I always have been going after this tax credit since when I found out about it. So, if you are processing it, that makes it easier because before it was that they would check the boxes and I would have to get my assistant to try to do it and it doesn’t always work.

    Government Updates

    Lydia: Yeah it doesn't always work, and you have to do it within 28 days of the person starting, or you can't do it. It’s a huge headache, but I'll share some more information with you after this call. Steve, I haven't been chatting with you nearly as much, I want to jump back to you. You’ve been so communicative with your government; you're calling the governor, getting updates on this. How's that been going and how have the politicians in general been in responding to your questions about re-opening dates and what you can expect as a business?

    Steve: I would say very much so to date. My business is in Colorado Springs. The local chamber of the small business development council, they've been very active and hosting conferences such as this with the local, the state, and federal politicians that represent Colorado. We've had a lot of calls with the federal representatives. As you might guess, there is the left side and the right side, and for a lot of the answers, there's a lot of ambiguity in the power that the governor holds in all of our different states. They're all willing to answer, but I think the common thread amongst most of them is that they don't know the answer. They are all waiting for what the federal guideline might be, how it impacts in their respective state or county as it may be. They are quick to answer especially when you call, for us, but the unknown is there. I just told my employees half an hour before this call, that we're always another 14 days before we re-open. We happened to be a business that is also membership-based as opposed to a restaurant. You don't have to be a member to use our facility, but you can be. We elected, when we close, to suspend all those memberships, so that is a significant revenue stream on top of everything else that we lost. So, it's pretty important for us to restart or get to a point of… We’re constantly reviewing our business plan going, we're now going to be at 80%, 70%, or 60% of our plans, so we can make decisions on employees and costs. One of the things that I'm sure that for you guys that are already open, are the associated costs of cleaning, the disinfecting, the daily things on top of the other costs that you used to incur, which are pretty critical to us especially as big as we are. 

    Typical Cost of Sanitization

    Lydia: I'm curious, what are the typical costs for sanitization that you guys are paying? What have you implemented at your location?

    Steve: I can start with what I invested in. I haven't implemented any of them since the doors are still locked. We spent a significant amount of money on an atomizer because we do have 23,000 square feet, so that we can clean the turf, the cage area and all, rather than having to do it by hand. Those costs are anywhere between $750 to $1,500 or even more. The cleaning material that goes in it is even more expensive. But rather, the complication is not the cost sometimes, but being able to get it. We still have problems with things like Glycol, disinfecting gel, those kinds of things. 

    Q&A – Training vs Hiring Sanitization Staff

    Lydia: One of the questions we've received is: “Have people brought in outside sanitization staff, or does existing staff take care of those tasks?” For the restaurant locations that are still open, are you using outside cleaners, or have you trained your existing staff?

    Kimika: At Bonchon, we've been training our existing staff. Having more of a team-oriented type of perspective to it, being accountable for yourself as well, so even from a corporate standpoint, as we’re leaving the office or meeting room, make sure that you're wiping down the seats, the desk, the doorknob, and the light. I know it sounds excessive, but that's just what we’re doing and that’s just the world that we're in right now. The same applies to the store; it is a team effort. I mentioned yesterday, when we had a case of a COVID scare, while it was a negative test result, that’s great, we did shut down the store and did a deep cleaning, and that was our team. I think it is a good idea also to do an external as well. I think employees would appreciate that as well, but of course, that's additional expenses

    Alex: The Halal Guys are doing it internally right now. But the hard thing is the supplies, like Steve was saying. Last week was the first week that hand sanitizers came in, top-line vendor. You can’t get half the stuff you need. Masks are still hard, gloves are not a problem, sanitizers now in, for disinfectant spray, we’ve had it on hand already, so we're using it but it's just a matter of retraining the staff. According to the guidelines that are counties have, we need to clean all surfaces every couple hours within the store. It adds another challenge to it.

    Q&A – New Normal in Respective Industries and the Actions Taken

    Lydia: Loraine Wong asked: What do you think will be the new normal in your respective industries, and what are your actions to shift towards that direction?

    Alex: One of the new normals for us is, we used to do a very high number of catering to offices which were all chafing dish food, like buffets, we would sell them food and they would put out the display and people would just take whatever they wanted. Now, that's pretty much eliminated, everything needs to go towards individual box lunch types of food. Within the restaurant itself, you got to think that you're losing 50% capacity of seating that you have in the restaurant. You are going to need to create distancing for the customers, so that's going to be a challenge as well. Because of that, we've gone to our landlords and we're trying to renegotiate with them, because we rented places based on occupancy numbers, and all that has changed under these new guidelines.

    Lydia: Interesting. Quyen, Kimika, I’m curious as to what do you think will be the new normal? And also, I think it's dependent on location, so Alex is in California, Kimika is in New York, Quyen you’re in Washington, and Steve you're in Colorado. State by state, when do you think the new normal will be and what are you doing to get ready for it? I think that California will hold out, to be the last to re-open.

    Kimika: Well, New York is probably last, so we probably have a little more time. It is looking like through phases and hearing out the New York bigger restaurants, hearing them out and seeing what's going to work for them and what challenges that they're concerned about. It's looking like we will open in phases, and like I said earlier, with occupation restrictions. For corporate, the new normal is remote. I’ve been sharing with employees like “hey if you like it, then enjoy it”, we're not rushing you guys back to the office. But as I said, I was doing a pulse survey, we can't forget about the people who are not indoor people. I do have a small percentage of my corporate team that's like “I don't like it, I'm ready to go back, I'm going crazy”, and for those people, we want to make sure those are the first people that we will let back into the office. As far as stores, I would say the new normal is probably what everyone else is doing, being obsessive with cleaning and temperature checks. We do take temperatures, we do infrared.

    Infrared Technology and other Tips

    Lydia: I’m curious who are you using for the infrared checks, and how that came about?

    Kimika: Safe Space Scan, we haven't started using them, but we're interested in them, and I recommend it. If you go to maybe YouTube and type in Safe Space Scan, go find the video, it's amazing. It is like a tablet that you stand in front of, and it will tell you if your temperature is normal, or not normal and you have to go see administration. Or if you walked up to it and you don't have on a mask, it would say “you don’t have a mask, please put on a mask to enter the building”, so you don't have to have this human interaction that's within the six feet limit. Even though masks and gloves will make it okay to be within 6 feet, we don’t want to put the person or the manager whose job duties now are to measure someone's temperature, all day, every day, every shift; it is a risk to them possibly. This would alleviate that. I think it works for any industry. You can put that tablet anywhere and use that for indoors, outside, anything you want. Right now, we're doing infrared scanning with a mobile device for your hands, where you can just put up to someone’s forehead without touching it, and it will let you know if the person is within the normal temperature. 

    Lydia: Cool, that's something I would like to know if the restaurants I'm going into had something like that.

    Kimika: Something I would recommend for other restaurants or even other industries as well, you have the clients that are walking or interacting with your staff, it is a good idea to invest in health check stickers. That’s something we're starting so that when clients are picking up their food with takeout and delivery, they know that this person they're dealing with is checked, healthy, and don’t have to have any concerns. We also are looking into posting outside on the window, the list of everyone who's working that shift, and who has completed their health check. That way when someone is walking in, they can feel comfortable and know that we have done our duties at Bonchon, and walking into our facilities, you’re safe. So, I think that is something that can be applied to any industry 

    Lydia: Yeah, I have to admit, I recently got the coronavirus test, because my husband had this hacking cough for a week and it got to the point where I said he should go and if he's going, I might as well too because you can't avoid it. Thankfully, we both came back negative. It was really easy for us to go and do our own health check. We did the drive-thru in San Francisco booked at night, we were able to get in at 11 am, and did the whole up the nose. It was very uncomfortable, for anyone else that has not done the test yet, I was shocked how uncomfortable it is. You see the swab, but you don't realize that it’s going that far up. Things you have to do these days. 

    Q&A – No-show Applicants

    Lydia: We have some more questions that came in. John Mckale wants to know: “Hi panelist, I want to know if maybe you have been experiencing a wave of job applicants who don't bother replying after the initial application. It's almost as though they're applying blindly and it's frustrating”

    Kimika: I feel like that’s all the time. I don’t think that it is just now, I feel like that happens often. You have candidates that will apply, you reach out and say, “Hey we like you, we like to chat further,” and they don’t reply. It could be, one, yes, I've noticed more applications over the years are applying blindly and I blame technology. You have apps, one-click applications that make it very easy for people to not even have to open the job description link and still be able to apply. So, I would say don’t get too frustrated about the lack of responses because that way you're weeding out the people who weren't really interested, and you can focus on those who are responding. Also, maybe tweak the job descriptions to sound a little more selective. It'll probably help alleviate and eliminate those who are just applying to apply, who are reading the job descriptions, and at least to think that “maybe I’m a fit to this job, or this sounds a little more selective and I’m not too interested.” That might help with some of the accuracies between people who are actually interested and who are responding.

    Lydia: Yeah and we're seeing a lot more people add simple screener questions before they look at resumes so that as soon as they apply, they get a question such as “what shifts are you available, how far away do you live from the location.” They don't look at their resume until they've got like “they immediately got a text message, and they answered those two or three simple questions, and now it goes to the next stage to look” Alex and Quyen, are you seeing a lot of people who are not responding, and how are you guys filtering through?

    Quyen: I think that, like Kimika has pointed out, it is normal. One of the reasons probably is because they're trying to meet their unemployment requirement in terms of reaching out and hitting the numbers of applications, but it's part of the point points that we have to deal with and I don't think it's anything new. I haven't paid any mind. To the people who do respond, I look at it in the best light and I try to set up as many interviews as I can, hoping that I can improve my overall team. So, I'm willing to go through as many filters as possible in hopes of creating better team members and better culture for our workspace. 

    Alex: We’ve always had people not show up for interviews. I liked what you were saying about adding these screener questions to show interest before you schedule them for an interview, hopefully, that will cut down on the rate of these people not showing up. Most of the time it's been, even before Workstream, it's been like 20% of the people would show up for interviews. I think that a lot of times people applied to jobs just to apply for whatever reason, like Quyen said, just clicking down a job board and applying to everything that you see. Getting them to interact with you before they even come in, maybe that will help make a stronger candidate for my GMs when they go to interviews. Right now, they have open availability on their calendar to set up interviews, so that if people show up, we will just interview them, although most of them don't show up

    Lydia: One thing you can do is to have the automated reminders, so you force them to confirm that they are going to be showing up for the interview. By the way, we're splitting this panel between some people are Workstream users, some people are not, that way it doesn't become just talking about Workstream features the whole time, it is why we invite panelists outside. For those who are on Workstream, you can ping the live message chat, and the customer success person in real-time will set that up for you, to make sure that you have all the reminders and a few standard screening questions, also to make sure that your text messages are automatically sent when people apply so that they apply to fewer jobs overall. 

    Screening Interview Questions 

    Lydia: I want to be respectful of everyone’s time. The last question I have for you guys is, “What interview questions you're asking to screen right now? How interested people are in the role in general?” Kimika, I'm going to share some of the questions that you’ve sent my way. I think they're incredibly useful right now especially as a lot of people are applying for things that maybe are just temporary, and how do you screen for that while also making sure that they are good cultural fit? I would love for Kimika to take this one.

    Kimika: Absolutely. These are a couple of questions. There are tons of questions that you guys can choose some, and it depends on the role and the industry and what you're looking for in the person. In addition to what kind of question you're asking, another really important piece is what you're looking for in the answer? So, before you ask the question, you should know what you're looking for in the answers. One question I think is really helpful is: “What does a company XYZ mean to you? What does Bonchon mean to you?” It is something that I would ask the candidate and allow them to define the brand for me because that allows me to see how passionate they are about our brand, how excited they really are, how knowledgeable they are, or are they just interested in our passive candidate. I think it's important that you have passionate candidates for those frontline workers, your restaurant workers, the people who are interacting with your clients and customers, you want them to your brand ambassador. I feel like this question allows you to be able to see that, and it is revealed in their answer.

    Asking them what they enjoyed most about the specific role in the industry, “what do you enjoy most about serving in the hospitality industry”, it allows you to see what makes them happy in that role. Because it's important that the people that you're hiring are going to be happy in the role, and they're not there for a check. We've seen it all, we’ve all hired someone who's just there for the check, but you can see the difference between those who are there for the check, and those who are there for the actual business, and they actually are invested into the business. They either see themselves becoming leaders, or they truly love what they do. Day-to-day, they’re grinning because they enjoy serving customers, making customers smile, mingling with the customers. That question will also help reveal some of those characteristics in your candidates as well.

    “Give me an example of a time you partnered with a coworker to deliver best in class service to a table or customer” I’m always a big fan of scenario-based questions, which would usually be “tell me about a time or give me an example” type of question. It's very realistic, and it allows you to allow them to walk you through how they would interact in a real-life situation. This helps you alleviate and trim down the number of candidates that you're offering and the turnover as well. Because oftentimes, we find that we hire people and we feel like this is nothing like the person I met in the interview, and the chances are maybe there weren’t enough, or at all, scenario-based questions asked that would help you see what kind of behaviors and actions that they have in real life environment situations.

    “Tell me about a time you served a guest that became dissatisfied with the service or experience. How did you handle the situation?” It is very important that you ask questions that will highlight how a person handles conflict, and how are they going to mitigate that situation. You want someone who is mature, someone who is going to be even tempered and also not always seeking out the manager. Oftentimes in my experience, like I said I have been doing HR hiring people and interviewing for 12 years in retail and restaurant industry, you get the person that will tell you, “I will get the manager, I will get the manager involved”. They think that it is a good answer, but it's not always the best answer. Some of the greatest answers that I’ve heard are the accountability kind of answers. The answer that [shows that] the person is mature, and they take the situation into their own hands, where they adapted and applied what they have learned from the business, brand, and their managers to alleviate the situation without their manager. Then they usually follow it up with communications to the managers such that managers are aware of the situation and how they handled that. 

    “Tell me about a time you experienced conflict in the workplace, whether it was management or coworker. How did you handle the situation?” Similarly, you want to know how this person handles conflict, not just with customers but also with people they work with. Oftentimes, you might see someone in your department or your company that either has a chip on their shoulder with management, or they're just not really good with authority. This allows you to weed those out as well. So, make sure when you're asking questions, you are ensuring that everyone is being honest, and they’re able to give you clear, concise answers. That way, you'll be able to have the right fit for your culture, the role, and the business.

    Zoom vs In-Person Interviews

    Lydia: Great, thank you so much. Quyen, you've been doing more video interviews now. How are those going? Are you able to get a sense of people through the video interviews, or do you have any tips you have for conducting Zoom versus in person?

    Quyen: I don't see much of a difference. I believe having a video conference has helped quite a bit. You can gauge peoples’ reactions and almost the same body language. I haven't found it to be much different other than the fact that it's very helpful that, I like people who are on time, who shows up a little bit early, who checks in with me and said, “are we on in the next 15 minutes?” It shows me that they're accountable and are ready to take on and are excited about the opportunity. Just little minute details that I think might help in terms of if somebody really wants the job. Obviously, there are people who are like “my dog just ate this, and I need to run to the emergency”. There is a lot of baggage that comes with that as well, but for me being on time is very key, and I found that this is much more convenient overall. This might be the new normal.

    Jobs in Demand in the Coming Years

    Lydia: Yeah, there are a lot of new norms. Steve, maybe you can take this next question. What do you think will be the jobs that are going to be in demand in the next few years?

    Steve: Jobs in demand? It's interesting because I think across our entire workspace, we're going to have fewer facilities – If they are a restaurant, baseball academy, retail store – than we do employees today or pre-COVID. So, the demand is probably going to be across all those spaces as we have fewer jobs to be had. That's going to be the very challenge. In the restaurant industry, you are probably going to be able to be more selective in the employee that you hire because there's going to be a bigger workforce to draw from. In my case, we use former ballplayers as instructors. And as the impacts of things, like the Major League Baseball, doing away with 42 of their teams and their overall structure, that's going to put more ballplayers on the market to do things like individual lessons for us. We just going to make sure that we have the clients that want to pay for the lessons.

    Recommended Programs

    Lydia: Anyone else has any ideas as to what the jobs will be in demand? I think right now is a good time for people to be bulking up on skills. They're not going to become professional baseball players overnight, but there are a lot of opportunities now to be taking online courses and getting certified if they're having a hard time finding work. Are there any programs, or perhaps Quyen is the big reader of the group, that you guys recommend people pick up and think about to make themselves more of a better applicant, and have more opportunities?

    Kimika: You’ve brought up a good point, Lydia. Udemy is an online University Academy where they allow you to grow your skills, and you can sign up for absolutely most random courses and skills like interviewing skills if you wanted to, or hiring skills, anything you can think of, accounting, Excel, you name it, it's on there. Also, I think LinkedIn Luna, is a really good tool for building your skills online. I believe it is a yearly or monthly membership, but I definitely feel like this is the time, to Lydia’s point, to build your skills with the extra time that you're not computing. I feel like we’ve all gained an additional 2 to 3 hours for the day, that’s what I like to look at it. I like to see what I can do with the additional 2 to 3 hours. 

    I think that some of the jobs that are going to be a lot more popular are the jobs that are right now in demand. You're looking at fast-food chains that are more on the delivery side that are hiring a lot more. You see Amazon is hiring a lot more because of shipping, and no one's really going out and shopping. I think that with the situation we're in right now, I think it's a good judgment of what the trend will be, even two years out from now, based on the type of jobs that are opening right now that are high in demand. This COVID situation is not going away overnight, the deaths will continue and until there's a vaccine, we will have to take precautions. The buzz is that it could be next year before there's a vaccine, probably longer.

    Importance of Company Culture and Screen Questions for it

    Lydia: Yeah, that's crazy. Final question, it’s the top of the hour so we'll sneak this last one in from an attendee. How important is it to find applicants that fit your company's culture? How are you testing for that in your hiring process? I think Kimika you answered that with some of the questions that you shared, especially that first one. But curious for Alex, Quyen, if there's anything that you guys are doing to test for company culture fit, or if you have any hacks in your questions that you are using.

    Quyen: I can take that first. I don't know if I have a hack but given a 30 to 60-minute time frame with most interviews, the biggest part of being part of our culture is being nice and kind. As part of the service industry, it's very important to be compassionate and understanding to the people are standing in front of you, which also gives them the ability to react, to stay cool, not overreact, and to not lose it in a lot of situations, I think the biggest trait of that is kindness and compassion. I try to gauge that in terms of maybe going through the experience, with some of the questions asking “have you handled previous situations?” Most importantly, we have a great team as far as I can see and understand, people have to have a good heart to be able to withstand in the service industry for a long time. It can get old pretty quickly and people can get worn out just from a lot of the noise. So, it's not just about having a thick skin, but also more about being on the understanding side of the service business.

    Alex: I think for us, we have frontline workers. I agree with Quyen, it's all about hospitality, and it's all about how well we treat each other internally. If we work together as a team then it's easier to take care of those external customers that come in. If an employee or an interview can’t smile and make eye contact during the interview, then it's going to be a hard time trying to get them to engage while they are in the store. We can teach you how to do all the different tasks and jobs that happen within our organization or at least at the starting level positions, but being able to look at somebody and smile and be personable, if you can't do that before, we can’t teach you how to do that. Those types of traits are what we look for. Like Kimika was talking about situational interviewing, and Quyen was talking about that as well, like “tell me about a time”, and having them describe situations that they've been in and how they've dealt with both good and bad problems, gives you a better mindset of if the person is going to be able to succeed in the organization or not. After that, 50% of those work, unfortunately.

    Lydia: 50% seems high. I think with the businesses that you're in, the turnover rate is at an all-time high. Panera Bread's CFO said it was 130%; it was bragging about how Panera is only at a 100% turnover rate. It's an ongoing challenge. At least one of the things that might come out of this is maybe less turnover. 

    Anyway, I want to be respectful of your time. Thank you guys so much for joining the webinar. We have recorded this, so we're going to transcribe it and post it on the Workstream website. I'll make sure to share the links with all of you guys. Thank you guys so much for joining, and we’ll hopefully get together again soon when all of this is over.

    To sum it up: This webinar tackled a wide range of topics that are relevant to today's climate - from the PPP to communication methods, sanitization protocols, and hiring trends.

    Workstream aims to provide targeted, efficient solutions that will help provide your business with safe, automated, and contactless hiring. Contact us to learn more. 

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    Lydia Fayal

    Lydia Fayal Hall is Head of Marketing at Workstream. She previously held leadership roles at OneSignal and Chalkup, acquired by Microsoft. Lydia has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. She is an alum of UPenn, Johns Hopkins, and YCombinator IK12. Originally from Stonington, CT, Lydia now resides in San Francisco, CA with her Australian Shepherd, Indy.

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