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Since the nationwide implementation of social distancing measures put in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, many companies have shifted to operating a remote workforce. Since mid-February, Forbes reports that almost half of all American companies have asked their employees to work from home. For many business leaders, this has resulted in major disruptions to daily operations, and the process of recruiting and onboarding poses particular challenges.
Attracting new employees to your business, helping them acclimate to and feel welcome in your company’s culture, and setting professional expectations for their new work environment are critical components of establishing a positive professional relationship and enhancing the “employee experience” for newly acquired talent. But how do you successfully pull this off in a remote work environment? In this blog post, we’ll discuss tips for recruiting and onboarding new employees remotely, and get some personal perspective from Camille, one of our new team members who just went through the process herself.
In the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus, candidates are now looking at how companies are handling the current situation and their company culture more than ever. The majority of candidates are asking questions related to this during the recruiting process. It is important for companies to have clear communication about what steps they are taking to ensure the safety of their employees. Given the current state, your company may want to consider adding a screening question before interviewing a potential candidate about their work from home capability.
The biggest challenge that hiring managers are facing is not having the opportunity to meet candidates face to face. To adapt the interview process to work for a remote workforce, more employers have started conducting virtual interviews via phone call or video conference. When you’re interviewing a candidate remotely, make sure to set up an optimal virtual environment—don’t hold the interview in a space where you can be easily distracted by children or pets. Know your equipment, and test it out ahead of time for video and sound quality, especially if you’re using a platform that you’re unfamiliar with. Dress professionally and come prepared like you would for a normal in-person interview. Lastly, be yourself and try to make a connection. The physical disconnect of virtual interviews can be awkward for both the manager and the candidate, but it begins to feel more natural once the conversation gets going.
CAMILLE: It can be more difficult to establish a personal connection during a virtual interview. My biggest piece of advice is to look at the camera as opposed to the screen. This allows the person you’re interviewing with to feel like you’re making eye contact, which is important in any interview. As we turn to technology to fill the gaps left by the lack of in-person interactions, adjusting to technologically-mediated communication expectations is particularly important.
Paperwork is as inescapable as death and taxes, and even in times of crisis, documentation must be done properly. In the absence of an in-person HR team, this should involve calling each new hire and following up with email communication to help guide them through their new hire paperwork to completion.
Verifying I9 documents for employment eligibility (driver’s license, social security card, etc.) can also be done remotely. While these documents are usually examined in person, a new hire can send electronic copies to their HR team for verification. In the wake of the coronavirus, many companies are opting to use legally binding virtual signing systems, such as DocuSign.
CAMILLE: My onboarding process seemed seamless. It was definitely a bit strange to have everything happening online instead of interacting with HR in person from time to time, but the combination of the user-friendly system and the helpful HR team members made the experience stress-free. I was able to email HR with any questions I had, and they were very responsive.
First Day and Week at Work
Without the benefit of starting work in a physical office, remote employees acclimating to their new role may experience information overload if you try to introduce them to everything at once. Instead, set clear expectations about their role and how it fits in with the rest of the company’s operations. Set up an itinerary for them to follow during their first week that will help them acclimate to their position, co-workers, new technology platforms, and broader company culture. Essential stops on their virtual itinerary should include:
A virtual tour of the company
Setting up and familiarizing themselves with critical systems, accounts, and communication platforms
Tending to any additional training requirements
Meeting their co-workers in a virtual team meeting
Smaller introduction sessions with key team members
Discussing success metrics, deliverables, and key projects that they will be working on in the coming months
Reviewing job expectations and setting up weekly check-in meetings with their supervisor
CAMILLE: Learning my new role remotely has definitely been a unique challenge, and the learning is still in progress. I’ve certainly missed the human-interaction aspect of starting a new job. The conveniences of being able to pop over to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question are missing, as well as the ease and excitement of building relationships. However, my co-workers have been super helpful, welcoming, and accommodating, so I’m grateful for that. Video calls have helped make communication a bit richer, but I’m excited to meet everyone in person. My best advice for others who will be going through the new job process remotely is to be authentic, make the best of the difficulties, and never be afraid to ask questions. People are really patient and kind because they know that adjusting to our new normal is a significant challenge.
For many employers, the shift to operating a remote workforce has been a big transition, but there are benefits to hiring remote employees, including reduced costs and higher productivity. HR departments and businesses across the country are already making adjustments to their culture to attract and retain employees to operate remotely. Recruiting and retaining the right employees is the first step in building a productive remote workforce for your business. The next step is arming them with the tools, knowledge, and resources to perform their best while working from home.
Michella joined SWBC in November of 2010 in the Human Resources Department. She is currently an Assistant Vice President of Human Resources and is responsible for Employee Relations and Staffing.