Whilst digital technologies are greatly enabling recruitment in a time ofÂ pandemic, onboarding is also a critical piece of the puzzle.
By Simon Kent
It has been a long time since the recruitmentÂ process was done entirely in person. The emergenceÂ and abundance of online tools, from job sites toÂ video interviews, means it is possible to get a clearÂ understanding of a candidateâs potential and theirÂ successful employment without being in the sameÂ room as that individual. In the age of the pandemic,Â this ability is not only nice to haveâitâs a must-have.Â In fact, a recent Gartner poll found that 86 per cent ofÂ organisations are incorporating new virtual technologyÂ to interview candidates.
According to Denis Pennel, managing director of theÂ World Employment Confederation (WEC), the currentÂ crisis has seen some markets for the recruitment andÂ employment industry decline by 50 to 75 per cent inÂ as little as a fortnight. However, web-based tools areÂ keeping the function alive.
âThanks to the digitalisation and IT solutions that theÂ industry has been investing in over the last years, we areÂ still operating even in a lockdown situation,â he says.Â âDigital and IT solutions include job boards, online skillsÂ assessment, video interviews, e-signature of contracts,Â supporting onboarding of candidates via on-line tools,Â and so on.â
As a result of the virus, some businesses haveÂ significantly slowed down hiring, focusing insteadÂ on reskilling and reorganising their workforce toÂ adapt. But this doesnât apply to all industries. PeterÂ Lovell, director of talent acquisition at video gameÂ development company Jagex, says his company is goingÂ through a âgolden ageâ of recruiting. âLike much ofÂ the games industry, weâve seen a spike in the numberÂ of players and overall engagement, and this growth hasÂ helped us to develop an even stronger employee valueÂ proposition,â he says.
Rather than playing it safe, the company more thanÂ doubled the number of offers it usually sends out inÂ March and April, partly because of the influence theÂ pandemic has had on some employeesâ outlook on life.Â âWith the disruption to normal routines, more peopleÂ are asking themselves if the job they do is right forÂ them, and candidates are responding to us at levelsÂ that they havenât before,â says Lovell. âFor example,Â our average response rate to targeted LinkedIn activityÂ was 25 per cent but this has risen to 85 per cent sinceÂ lockdown started.â
Lovell says Jagexâs recruitment process has become moreÂ efficient, with Zoom powering a faster recruitmentÂ cycle. The business can now go from finding a prospectÂ to interview to the offer stage in days rather thanÂ weeksâa capability that has come with a significantÂ investment of effort and resources into remoteÂ onboarding, making sure newcomers feel they areÂ still joining a great company even when working fromÂ home.
âWe feel very fortunate to be in this position,â addsÂ Lovell. âNot all businesses can thrive in a lockdown, evenÂ in the games industry. Itâs a testament to our robustÂ strategy and already strong recruitment and HR teamsÂ who have shone in the current situation, and who proveÂ that long-term investment in these areas will always payÂ dividends.â
Ann Swain, the chief executive officer of recruitmentÂ representative body APSCo, highlights the need forÂ employers to be ready to leverage technology to makeÂ recruitment work, even if that requires a change inÂ their preconceptions of how to bring people intoÂ their organisations. âEmployers will need to be adeptÂ at replacing face-to-face interviews with telephone,Â video conferencing, and on-the-job interviews. This canÂ be achieved with apps like Skype, Zoom, WebEx, andÂ Microsoft Teams.â
She adds, âCompanies should also overhaul onboardingÂ processes to enable new workers to operate remotelyÂ from day one. It goes without saying that all contractualÂ aspects will have to be settled remotely, with servicesÂ like DocuSign and Hello Sign available for digitalÂ signatures.â
Even in a virtual setting, organisations should onboardÂ new employees with similar practices. âNew startersÂ should then be given a warm welcome and introducedÂ to colleagues remotely. Ensuring that the new starterÂ feels part of the company culture is essential forÂ completing a successful onboarding process, coronavirusÂ or not,â she concludes.
Ben Kiziltug, head of international and UK countryÂ manager for HR software provider Personio, reports thatÂ his business has onboarded more than 30 employees sinceÂ the start of lockdown, ranging from interns to C-levelÂ executives. Whilst appreciating the new skills required inÂ the context of the pandemic, the company is still focusingÂ on organisational fit for its new recruits.
âWhilst working from home skills are relevant currently,Â we continue to prioritise candidates who share the sameÂ values and principles as our team and who best fit theÂ role,â he says. âFor us, transparency, communication,Â and technology have been crucial to the recruitmentÂ process. Interviews have taken place remotely and ourÂ digital HR platform has ensured a smooth and remoteÂ onboarding process for those who have joined us. NewÂ employees receive their necessary equipment as well asÂ Personio branded goodies to welcome them and ensureÂ they feel like a useful part of the team.â
As part of its response to the impact of the pandemic,Â the company created a cross-business employee task forceÂ to report on the support needed to make remote workÂ actually work. Focussing on a diversity of challenges,Â from productivity to health and mental well-being,Â one idea raised by the task force was the provision of aÂ dedicated desk made of cardboard for every worker. TheyÂ also provide employees without home Wi-Fi with internetÂ sticks and offer coaching and mediation services to thoseÂ who suffer with stress and anxiety.
Kiziltug emphasises that one key to successfulÂ onboarding has been enabling current and newÂ employees to talk to each other despite their distancing.Â âCommunication between new and old employees is keyÂ to create a successful remote working environment,â heÂ says. âScheduled remote coffee meetings ensure thatÂ new employees feel integrated quickly and the cultureÂ of the company is not lost.â
At a time when employees seem polarised betweenÂ either being in limbo with an uncertain future or rushedÂ off their feet with work, employers in need of greatÂ talent are unlikely to be disappointedâif theyâre readyÂ to search and recruit efficiently and effectively. âWhilstÂ there are few positives in the current situation, forÂ those that can adapt and continue to hire, there willÂ be access to great candidates without the usual intenseÂ competition for talent,â says APSCoâs Swain. âHowever,Â this will mean that remote hiring and onboardingÂ processes will need to be as slick as possible, with all theÂ necessary tech in place to conduct this.â