Whilst digital technologies are greatly enabling recruitment in a time of pandemic, onboarding is also a critical piece of the puzzle.
By Simon Kent
It has been a long time since the recruitment process was done entirely in person. The emergence and abundance of online tools, from job sites to video interviews, means it is possible to get a clear understanding of a candidate’s potential and their successful employment without being in the same room as that individual. In the age of the pandemic, this ability is not only nice to have—it’s a must-have. In fact, a recent Gartner poll found that 86 per cent of organisations are incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates.
According to Denis Pennel, managing director of the World Employment Confederation (WEC), the current crisis has seen some markets for the recruitment and employment industry decline by 50 to 75 per cent in as little as a fortnight. However, web-based tools are keeping the function alive.
“Thanks to the digitalisation and IT solutions that the industry has been investing in over the last years, we are still operating even in a lockdown situation,” he says. “Digital and IT solutions include job boards, online skills assessment, video interviews, e-signature of contracts, supporting onboarding of candidates via on-line tools, and so on.”
As a result of the virus, some businesses have significantly slowed down hiring, focusing instead on reskilling and reorganising their workforce to adapt. But this doesn’t apply to all industries. Peter Lovell, director of talent acquisition at video game development company Jagex, says his company is going through a “golden age” of recruiting. “Like much of the games industry, we’ve seen a spike in the number of players and overall engagement, and this growth has helped us to develop an even stronger employee value proposition,” he says.
Rather than playing it safe, the company more than doubled the number of offers it usually sends out in March and April, partly because of the influence the pandemic has had on some employees’ outlook on life. “With the disruption to normal routines, more people are asking themselves if the job they do is right for them, and candidates are responding to us at levels that they haven’t before,” says Lovell. “For example, our average response rate to targeted LinkedIn activity was 25 per cent but this has risen to 85 per cent since lockdown started.”
Lovell says Jagex’s recruitment process has become more efficient, with Zoom powering a faster recruitment cycle. The business can now go from finding a prospect to interview to the offer stage in days rather than weeks—a capability that has come with a significant investment of effort and resources into remote onboarding, making sure newcomers feel they are still joining a great company even when working from home.
“We feel very fortunate to be in this position,” adds Lovell. “Not all businesses can thrive in a lockdown, even in the games industry. It’s a testament to our robust strategy and already strong recruitment and HR teams who have shone in the current situation, and who prove that long-term investment in these areas will always pay dividends.”
Ann Swain, the chief executive officer of recruitment representative body APSCo, highlights the need for employers to be ready to leverage technology to make recruitment work, even if that requires a change in their preconceptions of how to bring people into their organisations. “Employers will need to be adept at replacing face-to-face interviews with telephone, video conferencing, and on-the-job interviews. This can be achieved with apps like Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams.”
She adds, “Companies should also overhaul onboarding processes to enable new workers to operate remotely from day one. It goes without saying that all contractual aspects will have to be settled remotely, with services like DocuSign and Hello Sign available for digital signatures.”
Even in a virtual setting, organisations should onboard new employees with similar practices. “New starters should then be given a warm welcome and introduced to colleagues remotely. Ensuring that the new starter feels part of the company culture is essential for completing a successful onboarding process, coronavirus or not,” she concludes.
Ben Kiziltug, head of international and UK country manager for HR software provider Personio, reports that his business has onboarded more than 30 employees since the start of lockdown, ranging from interns to C-level executives. Whilst appreciating the new skills required in the context of the pandemic, the company is still focusing on organisational fit for its new recruits.
“Whilst working from home skills are relevant currently, we continue to prioritise candidates who share the same values and principles as our team and who best fit the role,” he says. “For us, transparency, communication, and technology have been crucial to the recruitment process. Interviews have taken place remotely and our digital HR platform has ensured a smooth and remote onboarding process for those who have joined us. New employees receive their necessary equipment as well as Personio branded goodies to welcome them and ensure they feel like a useful part of the team.”
As part of its response to the impact of the pandemic, the company created a cross-business employee task force to report on the support needed to make remote work actually work. Focussing on a diversity of challenges, from productivity to health and mental well-being, one idea raised by the task force was the provision of a dedicated desk made of cardboard for every worker. They also provide employees without home Wi-Fi with internet sticks and offer coaching and mediation services to those who suffer with stress and anxiety.
Kiziltug emphasises that one key to successful onboarding has been enabling current and new employees to talk to each other despite their distancing. “Communication between new and old employees is key to create a successful remote working environment,” he says. “Scheduled remote coffee meetings ensure that new employees feel integrated quickly and the culture of the company is not lost.”
At a time when employees seem polarised between either being in limbo with an uncertain future or rushed off their feet with work, employers in need of great talent are unlikely to be disappointed—if they’re ready to search and recruit efficiently and effectively. “Whilst there are few positives in the current situation, for those that can adapt and continue to hire, there will be access to great candidates without the usual intense competition for talent,” says APSCo’s Swain. “However, this will mean that remote hiring and onboarding processes will need to be as slick as possible, with all the necessary tech in place to conduct this.”