Many firms have let go of misconceptions and concerns regarding remote work within their companies, and most were open to having exclusively remote workers in the future. We also found that empathy-driven responses have been key to building employee morale and loyalty and maintaining and increasing productivity. While presenting many challenges, this moment in time has opened countless doors for firms globally and may well be the beginning of a new era of work.
We reached out to our clients (in technology and financial services) and interviewed them to learn their best practices and most significant challenges during this global pandemic. Specifically, we were interested in this forced digital transformation many have had to undergo as they move to remote work and if any technology changes were made for the better. We found that many firms have let go of misconceptions and concerns regarding remote work within their companies, and most were open to having exclusively remote workers in the future. We also found that empathy-driven responses have been key to building employee morale and loyalty and maintaining and increasing productivity. While presenting many challenges, this moment in time has opened countless doors for firms globally and may well be the beginning of a new era of work.
Hiring During a Global Pandemic
Universally, hiring in 2020 is already at least partially online, but firms are rarely hiring without ever meeting a candidate in person. While many have frozen hiring or delayed in this pandemic, others have had to navigate hiring remotely. Some roles needed to be staffed, pandemic or not. So how does hiring 100% virtually go?
One technology company felt it had successfully hired online and found candidates that fit into their company and were well on their way to becoming contributing team members. However, they did not see themselves hiring exclusively online in the future unless a situation called them to. "I think this change will profoundly influence the way we work in the future. People have adapted and taken to technology through force- now, we'll leverage it to grow in the future. It's shown us things can be done online. (...) A lot of technology usage will continue." Despite the success, when asked how much of the hiring process will be moved online after this current situation, they estimated between 70-80%. Indicating that while firms may now have created the capacity and found the tools to hire exclusively online, they may not choose to do so in the future.
Most said that interviews conducted online were just as good as in-person interviews. Certainly, this pandemic has many debating the necessity of in-person meetings, and video calls are still a way to meet face-to-face. Several HR directors felt that video calls were more convenient in the final interview rounds as they cut out transportation time and the need to accommodate everyone's schedules.
This situation has also allowed companies to switch up their hiring process creatively. One firm we spoke with used the opportunity of remote hiring to expand its candidate pool. Usually, they would filter through resumes, find those that match and then give their final candidates an assignment. These assignments allow them to understand candidates' thought processes, creativity, and experience and analyze if they are a culture fit for their company. Now, even if a candidate only has 50% of the required skills or experiences, they're giving them the assignments to do, allowing them to find candidates that are a good fit and understand the company's vision.
Some companies have been forced to lay off parts of their workforce. A sudden shut down of commerce globally has dramatically shifted revenue. However, for companies in a position to do so- this has posed a great opportunity. Several smaller technology companies have taken advantage of the layoffs that large technology companies have been forced to make. It has posed an opportunity for newer firms to hire highly qualified employees with vital experiences that may not have otherwise sought out opportunities at startups.
Onboarding at a Distance
Hiring in a global pandemic begs the question, how does one safely remotely onboard new employees, ensuring client and company data security as well as physical and personal safety. One tech company noted, "We've had some people join, and we've been doing remote onboardings for them. Luckily all of them had personal laptops, and we've been able to set up some IP processes to manage their data remotely. We've had a week-long induction for each of them. We give each employee a topic that they'd be presenting and discussing with other new joiners. It's helped them get a good sense of the company and what we do. (...) Usually, we'd want people to come into the office at least once- but we've been doing zoom meetings, giving them test case studies and assignments."
Some companies have been onboarding new employees by setting up ways to manage their data remotely. In contrast, others have arranged contact-less pick-up company assets, such as laptops and monitors. Either way, it has taken extensive resources and effort to ensure that remotely hired and remotely onboarded employees have the tools they need and the support to begin working and contributing.
Every company we spoke to who had remotely hired and onboarded during these past few months felt confident that they could do it again, but given a choice, they would still meet in person. This forced digitalization of long-standing practices has made way for big changes and innovations but hasn't yet replaced the significance of in-person meetings.