Recruitment and onboarding in the virtual world of work

The physical environment can play a huge role in engaging new recruits and embedding them into your company’s culture. The move to home -working led us to rethink our processes when recruiting and onboarding new employees. Jonathan Brooks-Jones, HR Consultant at Capital People, and Helena Cole, Talent Manager at Capital Law, share tips on how to engage candidates and new starters in a virtual workplace.

As employers, our main focus should be our people. The time they spend working shouldn’t be needlessly stressful or lacking interest (click here for five ways to support employees’ wellbeing and resilience). Along with your existing employees, many of us have had new starters to support and engage with during the pandemic. Let’s take a look at the recruitment and induction process and see how best to adapt our approach to ensure we select the best candidates for the role in these challenging times.

Recruitment: make it comfortable, engaging, and no ghosting!

Searching and applying for jobs remains relatively unchanged during the pandemic. The interview and assessment process, is however a different story, with a growing number of organisations choosing to do this via video calls. Provide candidates with as much information as possible about your expectations for the interview, such as dress-code, level of formality, expected duration, and so on. All this seemed self-evident in the ‘before-time’ but may not be so obvious anymore. The aim should be to make the interview process as comfortable and engaging as possible, while still getting all the results you’d usually expect.

We also need to work harder to engage with candidates. Recruiting remotely has demonstrated how much engagement happens naturally, by simply welcoming candidates onto your premises. Therefore, we need to think about how we can give candidates a flavour of our company’s culture and values. You might wish to display branding in the background of your home office or show pictures or videos of the workplace and the team.

Give detailed feedback to all candidates, especially those who weren’t successful, with specific advice on how they could improve for next time. To use more modern terminology – no ghosting! Feedback helps the candidate know what to work on and how to develop to get the roles they want. It also enhances your reputation as a good employer. They’re much more likely to apply to your organisation again and may even encourage their friends to do so too.

Induction & Onboarding: keep it fresh and fun

Many principles of ‘traditional’ onboarding techniques remain important. One is not to overload your new colleagues with too much information. Virtual working potentially harbors a new way to overwhelm employees: Death by Zoom. We have more communication tools available to us than ever before, so try to resist the temptation to use only one! Instead, use a range of methods to provide some variety and keep the experience fresh. Equally, ensure that you’re available to your new employees. Let them know if you have a preferred way for them to contact you or if you’re going to be unavailable and who they can contact instead.

The rest of the time, the aim should be to provide the office experience at home. Like many companies, you’ve probably invested a great deal of time and money providing IT and other equipment to your employees. Ensure that it’s delivered in advance of their start date, giving them time to set it up before their first day. Make sure all the necessary cables and parts are included, and that any software is pre-installed and ready to use. Also, telling them when to expect delivery shows consideration.

Another way of replacing the natural engagement and induction that happens in the office is to identify and pair individuals up to get to know each other. Arrange introductions with colleagues from all levels across the organization, from senior management to junior employees. Tell them who the ‘go-to’ people are for x, y, and z. It also establishes a valuable support network, equipping them to do the job with confidence.

This leads us to our final point, about ‘social’ networking teams responsible for planning team-building events. Lockdown has prevented us from physically meeting to socialise as a team, which makes these groups more important than ever. Events can take place online, and while it may be perceived as “yet another video call”, it should be one where participants can relax and enjoy each other’s company. Try going beyond the quiz. Maybe you could send them a parcel containing food and drinks or nurture their creative side with some plastic bricks or drawing materials?

In short: think outside the box

Maintaining this fresh approach throughout the employee’s time with you will help keep them engaged and motivated. Remote working has thrown our traditional methods and procedures up in the air, so it’s important to understand how individuals like to work – if their preferences can be accommodated without harming productivity then why not trial it?

The key ideas here are creativity, variety, and balance. It may mean redirecting your efforts and being more strategic and less hands-on. In doing so, you might find that you create a happier, more motivated, and more productive workforce.