For some companies, hiring continues during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many needing to bring new employees physically onboard to serve customer or product development needs.
In an environment of confusion, mixed messages, and fear, what should employers be doing during the talent acquisition process to ensure both new and existing employees feel confident and comfortable interacting with new staff members?
In this feature, we discuss some tips and best practices for remote hiring and onboarding. We’ve included input from experts in Human Resources and employment law.
You Can’t Be Too Detailed About the Logistics of Onboarding
Starting a new job is an exciting endeavor in any climate, but it’s also something that can cause anxiety, particularly with unknowns. That is especially true in the current business and economic climate, in which the country is emerging from lockdowns and remote working situations in a patchwork fashion state by state, county by county, and company by company.
Companies need to make very clear to employees exactly how their first days, weeks, and months on the job will go. How will they get their equipment? When will they actually come into the office?
“Even prior to the pandemic, it was always a best practice to have a written plan in place—especially for onboarding someone new,” says Ginger Barry Boyd, a partner with law firm Nelson Mullins. “That remains unchanged. Sharing a written plan provides a certain level of comfort for what the company’s expectations are for the new employee and actions the company is taking to provide a safe working environment.”
Understandably, companies have a lot of unknowns themselves when it comes to onboarding and the company situation in general. Part of a detailed hiring process and onboarding plan includes sharing what questions remain, which brings us to our next best practice.
Be Proactive in Addressing Health and Safety Concerns
The elephant in the room for virtually every company in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is concern for employee health and safety. Employers should be proactive in discussing this topic, even if candidates don’t bring it up first.
“Create an opportunity to have an honest and open dialogue about concerns related to being in the workplace or appropriateness on video as the case may be. The new person won’t be comfortable asking questions about personal concerns so you need to prompt and encourage the discussion,” says Bob Clark, CEO of Rockford, Illinois-based executive search firm Furst Group. “These would include expectations about social distancing, use of masks, office cleaning processes, and even access to sanitizer.”
Transparency and Company Health
Health and safety are not the only concerns for candidates looking to start a new job. Candidates are fearful of their job security. Many may be looking for jobs because their previous employers laid them off or went out of business.
It’s not fair for candidates to have to guess about whether the company they are interviewing with is at risk of going out of business. That unknown might make candidates pass up on an offer in favor of an opportunity that seems more secure.
“More than ever before, employers need to be transparent about processes, work expectations and the health of the business during this pandemic,” says Dawn Mitchell, VP of Human Resources for Appian. Employees are as concerned about job security as they are about personal safety. It’s important for employers to keep the employee experience top of mind and to take steps to ensure their needs and concerns are being addressed.
“During this unprecedented time, it’s integral to ensure there is a clear and concise message to instill confidence amongst your employees,” says Mitchell. “It’s even more critical to weave that message throughout every touch point of the candidate to the employee journey. From their first conversation with your Talent Acquisition team, to their interactions with your Human Resources department during onboarding—what they hear regarding the state of your company should remain consistent.”
Technology and Privacy Issues
During the interview and recruitment process, many activities that were previously conducted in-person are being moved to an online format. Additionally, managers who normally would work in close coordination with hiring and HR professionals to fill roles in their teams may now have limited day-to-day interaction with those staff, with most employees working from home. This creates not only logistical technology issues but also the risk of key privacy protections slipping through the cracks.
“In onsite interviews, there is a recruiter constantly in touch with the candidate and the interviewers and can ensure that the interviews happen as per process. In remote interviews that involvement is reduced,” says Sachin Gupta, CEO of HackerEarth. “The interviewers hence have to be trained for remote interviews and they must make sure they are not asking for any details during the interview that are not relevant to the job. This is a problem with regular interviews as well but with remote hiring, the problem is compounded because there is no oversight.”
Gupta adds that it’s important to be aware of what could be shared accidentally through virtual formats. “If candidates or interviewers are sharing their screen anytime during the remote interview process, they should make sure that no sensitive information is accessible to the other party,” he notes.
It’s also important to ensure interviewees are fully aware of what is going on with the interview from a consent and privacy standpoint. They should know about everyone who is in the room, and if any recordings are being made, interviewees’ consent should absolutely be given. This includes consent for how the recording will be used and with whom it will be shared.
The best companies know they cannot simply sit still while the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course. With uncertainty over the duration of the pandemic and its impacts on business and economic life, taking a wait-and-see approach could mean staying relatively stagnant for months.
In order to stay dynamic and competitive, companies need to adapt and grow. That means not only hiring new staff when needed but also adapting recruitment and interviewing practices to the current environment.