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Practical tips for blending traditional and online recruitment and onboarding

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses of all shapes and sizes have become more adept at using online solutions to keep their trade going.

As the country opens up again, we have a unique opportunity to blend this new-found knowledge with traditional recruitment and onboarding techniques to develop the most efficient and rewarding process for recruiters and new starters.

Striking a new balance

Many office-based employees have found they enjoyed the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic, despite the challenges (corralling children and pets during video calls, creating a suitable work space, missing their favourite lunchtime treat – the list goes on).

However, most now seem to support a return to the office on at least a part-time basis, to benefit from the upsides of being with colleagues while enjoying a better than pre-pandemic work/life balance.

It’s a balance that will also benefit potential new employees. Over the last year or so it’s been difficult for them to get a proper feel for a company’s culture and working environment, with remote working and interviews carried out over video calls (sometimes in a rather haphazard way as companies learned their way around new ways of working).

It’s an issue reflected in big-business thinking. Jamie Dimon, CEO of investment bank JP Morgan, says that “Most professionals learn their job through an apprenticeship model, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world. Over time, this drawback could dramatically undermine the character and culture you want to promote in your company.”

Five top tips for recruitment and onboarding in 2021

Many changes that businesses have recently put in place to facilitate remote working can also be used to promote a great recruitment and onboarding experience. Here are our top tips for how you can use them to supplement traditional techniques.

1. Make the most of online communications

Two popular choices for online communications and collaboration are Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which include video conferencing, instant messaging and file sharing within their functions. There are also options such as Whereby, which focuses mainly on online meetings.

Project management software is also available that can be used for time logging. While I wouldn’t recommend close monitoring of people’s time at their computers, these can help staff who are working flexibly to keep on top of their hours and the tracking of chargeable hours for a business’s clients. There are many options out there, including and Toggl.

I personally have found that using WhatsApp for keeping in touch with both applicants and potential employers really useful. It helps get communications through faster than with more traditional emails and it feels more inclusive. I also find that conversations can happily go off on a useful and interesting tangent when people are more relaxed and potentially away from their computer.

There are some notes of caution to sound though.

While online collaboration platforms can be incredibly useful for remote teams, functions such as ‘do not disturb’ can be particularly disadvantageous for new starters, who don’t know people well enough to understand how firm that instruction is. It’s like when people used to close their doors – colleagues who knew the person well knew whether it was safe to knock, but new starters would be afraid to as they didn’t really know ‘the rules’.

Also, new starters may be particularly nervous about going offline at the end of the day (like no one wanting to be the first to leave the office), so it’s crucial not to abuse the ability to send online messages at all hours, just because that’s when you’re working. It gives a bad impression of the workplace and new starters may feel that their home life is being intruded on more than they want to accept.

2. Optimise your interviews

The experience of actually being in the same room will never be completely replicated on an online video call. However, by being prepared properly in advance of an online interview you can still make the best of it.

First, treat it like an in-person interview. Make sure you run to time and that you and any other interviewers have all the paperwork to hand, including any information you may need to answer questions from candidates.

Second, switch off your phone and mute any applications that may ping distracting notifications. Make sure the applicants knows that they are your only concern and that their time is also valuable to you.

I strongly recommend that anyone shortlisted is invited into the workplace so they can take a look at where they will be working for at least part of the time and get a feel for the people they will be working with.

You should also continue to supplement your interviews with skills tests, which you can arrange to be submitted online if necessary through email or via platforms such as Google Docs, Dropbox or WeTransfer. Online assessment tools can also be found from providers such as Vervoe and Hire Vue.

3. Blend your onboarding methods

Share paperwork with new starters such as policies, procedures and contracts using email or one of the file sharing platforms to make the process of new starter documentation go smoothly.

If teams are working from home, you can also set up video introduction calls and key meetings in advance so the new starter has a calendar of induction events, giving them a solid framework on which to build right from the start. You can also encourage teams and managers to send welcome messages ready for the first day.

If teams are working part-time in the office, make sure the new starter knows who will be available for a face-to-face chat and when, and allow them the flexibility to choose when they also come in over the first few weeks, so they have the chance to create those connections.

4. Help new starters develop a great home-working environment

Not everyone has experience of working remotely. It may be useful to send out details of the software programmes an applicant will need to use at home and offer them advice and support from your IT team (or just a team member who’s good at that stuff) to help them get set up if needed.

Make sure new employees are aware of what makes a good home office – ask your HR team if they have any information on ergonomics that they can share and so on, to keep people healthy and well – no laptops on the sofa!

Remember that they will also need stationery supplies for working from home – perhaps you could supply those during a visit to the office before they actually begin the role? Also, make sure staff are aware of any policies on expenses to avoid any misunderstandings.

5. Make the office a special place

By improving the office environment for all staff, we can help make it a more welcoming place for potential employees and new starters too. Consider finding the space for more shared areas to support collaborative working and quiet areas to promote wellbeing. Encourage managers to have open door policies so staff can pop in easily, and an open house approach for services such as HR.

Think about ways to add value to an office visit – can you introduce charity collection points, bring in local therapists for free wellbeing sessions, or perhaps even lunchtime cooking lessons?

As long as you follow the relevant COVID restrictions, you can make a visit to the office more of a treat than a chore. Also consider ways to support staff travel if people remain concerned about using public transport.

Through great recruitment and onboarding, you can boost your staff retention and reduce expensive turnover. Your recruitment agency can help you with virtual recruitment and advise on how you can improve the onboarding experience. Give me a call to discuss the practical support we can offer.

*Reference in this blog to any specific product or company does not constitute endorsement or recommendation.