Written by Eropa Stein, Founder at HYRE
We began 2020 with our sales at an all-time high! Our major client base was in hospitality and we were growing rapidly. We had a great year to look forward to. Our customers were happily using our all-in-one employee scheduling and temp staffing platform, so much so that they were referring it to other industry leaders.
Then, when COVID-19 hit, our world turned upside down.
Our sales plummeted to $0 in 48 hours flat! I will never forget the swarm of cancellation emails we received on March 13th, 2020. Over the next week, the news got worse – the government announced that the lockdown would remain for the foreseeable future. This lack of clarity regarding when business would be back to normal was extremely stressful for the whole team. It felt like our future was uncertain and the business itself was out of our control.
Our clients were preoccupied with lay-offs and budgeting, with only skeleton crews to schedule. They suddenly had no need for scheduling software or temp staffing solutions, and thus, no need for Hyre. We totally understood that and empathized with them… but at the same time, we had to survive. If we couldn’t service our main clientele (the only ones we knew at the time) then we had to find a different niche. We had to go back to the drawing board.
We started seeing a pattern emerge – an even greater need for frontline staff in other segments of the market. Long-term care homes were crying out for staffing assistance, and managers were suddenly in the midst of a staffing and scheduling nightmare. That’s when we realized that our tool could help the healthcare industry manage frontline staff in the battle against COVID-19. We immediately pivoted, shifting our focus to helping long-term care homes with their scheduling and staffing needs.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but we are proud to currently be working with some of the biggest names in the healthcare industry after overcoming a tumultuous year.
The process of pivoting to healthcare in HR Tech
In the age of COVID-19, HR tech is lifesaving. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19 to our most vulnerable communities, managing the people they connect with is of the utmost importance. Casualty rates are the highest among senior populations, which is why restrictions on who they come in contact with have been put in place. We take our responsibility in this matter very seriously and work to empower managers to keep their workplace safe.
With such big changes during (and due to) the pandemic, organizations need to be well-equipped with tools to manage frontline staff and be able to easily find replacements. Simply put, staff caring for senior residents needs to be in tip top condition to curb the spread. That’s why our clients use Hyre.
How does it work? Any time an employee is thought to be infected with COVID-19, a qualified and COVID-tested replacement can be found on Hyre’s temp marketplace, which is connected to our shift scheduling platform. Shift supervisors simply move their vacant shift to the temp platform allowing vetted temp staff to pick it up.
We provide a digital trail on our scheduling platform so that team members who were in contact with a COVID positive employee have their shifts suspended until they obtain a negative test. We also automate the COVID symptom checking process before every shift. Any vacant shifts that arise from either staff being in contact with a COVID-positive employee or staff exhibiting symptoms will be replaced automatically with another employee of that facility, or temp staff from the Hyre platform (up to the discretion of the shift manager).
Within weeks, the biggest names in the industry started using Hyre’s shift scheduling and temp staffing software.
The challenges we overcame during our pivot
Adapting to a new target market in HR tech
Long-term care homes are not traditionally tech-savvy, and our new clients experienced more difficulties learning how to use our platform than our previous clientbase. Thanks to our awesome operations team, we were able to identify their pain points and improve our onboarding process so that they could get up and running in minutes.
Demand for different types of workers
During COVID-19, the demand for both light and heavy-duty cleaners skyrocketed. We currently offer temp staff postings in over 30 roles, but cleaners and dietary aides have been the highest in demand. The solution? As more people are in need of work and money during these tough times, we are glad that we can connect them to higher-paying shifts, particularly in these two surging areas.
Our tool was originally designed for events, and certain features were designed with them in mind (e.g. dress codes for black or white tie events). Since then, we have adapted our platform to serve long-term care homes and we plan on creating more custom features for specific industries as demand rises. We adapted, but there is of course more that we can do with our platform to really fit the healthcare industries needs.
Managing the spread of COVID-19
Managing people properly is key to managing the spread of COVID-19, and keeping businesses running safely. That’s why we built new tools into our shift scheduling and temp staffing platform that would require staff to submit a COVID negative test result within 48 hours of picking up a shift.
Despite the hardships of pivoting during COVID-19, it is rewarding to see our work create value in the community. Long-term care facilities have been able to look towards the future and implement our new platform, and shift managers of the hardest hit industry are now able to curb the spread of COVID-19 by using better scheduling practice. You could say it’s a win-win for both us and our new clients.
How other companies pivoted during COVID-19
Large and small business owners are responding to the challenges of COVID-19 with ingenuity! From shifting production towards PPE to adapting delivery and supply chain pivots, businesses are providing for the gap in touchless technology and safety equipment for healthcare.
Healthcare Production Pivots
With hospitals working at full capacity, the demand for face masks and PPE is greater than ever. Business owners, big and small, have shifted focus to producing for frontline workers in need. For charity or for business purposes, companies that typically operate outside of healthcare are providing for the gaps in supply.
Damien Huang, president of Eddie Bauer spearheaded the company’s initiative to shift production and donated over 15,000 N95 masks. Companies like Ralph Lauren, L.L. Bean, and Canada Goose also followed suit.
Matt Compeau, CEO of Hot Pop Factory shifted the 3-D printing company’s priorities to manufacturing face shields. Their flat-pack design is strategic and allows for more rapid, affordable shipping to frontline staff in the fight against COVID-19. They developed their face shields, sneeze guards, and ear savers with direct feedback from frontline healthcare workers. Ear savers are designed with the comfort of frontline workers in mind who work long hours in challenging conditions.
There were such intense shortages at hospitals; some were calling for seamstresses to make fabric masks. Sanni Baumgaertner, CEO of Community, an independent clothing store that repurposes vintage clothes, stepped in. Sanni launched a fundraiser to pay for materials and employee salaries to make over 5,000 masks for a local hospital.
Partnerships and Supply Chain Pivots
There are two main types of partnerships that deliver during COVID-19. One is in actual physical delivery, and the other in the delivery of technology as businesses digitize. Walmart has partnered with Instacart, 7-Eleven with Postmates, and countless small restaurants partner with UberEats or DoorDash. One provides the food; the other manages delivery.
Similarly, with tech partnerships, one provides the digital platform to access clients and the other with the value. Hyre partners with temp staffing agencies, providing a digital platform in exchange for a bigger pool of qualified candidates to give clients. Another example is Charlotte Reid from Reid-Rodell, an event firm that partners with IT firms to digitize their event experience.
Wherever businesses have gaps in their service, the solution can be finding a meaningful partnership or pivoting to add value to their supply chain.
With lots of vacant space in airlines and brick-and-mortar stores, the extra room is being used to support delivery and supply chain pivots. Empty flights are being used to transport cargo for groceries. With fewer travelers than ever before and more skyrocketing online grocery orders, flights full of supplies deliver to keep up with the demand. Meanwhile, WholeFoods has closed many physical stores to turn them into fulfillment centers. With online grocery shopping becoming so popular, fewer physical locations are needed.
Tips for pivoting HR Tech business during COVID-19
To be honest, seeing sales drop to $0 was extremely traumatizing. What’s helped our team stay positive is focusing on the things that we can control when there were so many changes in the world. Regardless of what is happening in the outside world, the way we respond to it is what’s most important. We chose to support the services that needed frontline staff the most… and with that, we were able to rebuild our platform efficiently – turning a bad situation into an opportunity. We successfully built a suite of new features in our product to help the healthcare industry with their staffing needs (and there were definite staffing needs in 2020).
Bottom line: There’s no way to go but up when you hit rock bottom, and sometimes, by pivoting, you can find an even larger client base.
Insider tip: Focus on where the needs are the highest and on what you can do to help your business and your customers succeed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eropa Stein has a Masters degree in Applied Psychology. Her BAH thesis concentrated on Industrial Organization, focusing on Burnout and Eustress in the workplace. She consulted for a few companies including a well-known event staffing agency. Throughout her time working with the agency, she learned about all of the inefficiencies of the staffing world and became specifically interested in solving shift managers’ problems related to HR processes, Payroll, and Operations.
This led her to start Hyre, an HR software company that helps shift managers in industries such as Hospitality, Logistics, Long-Term Care, etc. manage their staffs’ schedules and overall HR needs. Hyre makes it incredibly simple for shift managers to manage their day to day activities