While many organizations scaled back on hiring during the pandemic, there were many that did the opposite. What was their experience like? How did they handle onboarding? Today, we have a Q&A with Todd Cunningham, chief people officer at AvidXchange.
For a company that has been fortunate enough to be hiring during the pandemic, were there any challenges to onboarding and training new staff? Anything special AvidXchange has done to create comradery or culture with someone who has never stepped foot in the office or met members of his or her team?
AvidXchange is a rapidly growing company, and our hiring did not slow down in 2020. We brought on more than 400 new employees and had to completely reimagine our hiring and onboarding process to make it effective and engaging in a virtual environment. By leaning into technology, we were able to optimize our communication with candidates and maintain hiring best practices to continue bringing the right talent into our business. E-learning tools really gave us the ability to create a virtual experience for new hires that is grounded in our company values and culture, helping us cultivate the strong connection that’s critical to employee success in a new role.
The reality is that even when we are able to bring all employees back to the office, there will be two work environments moving forward as a result of what we have learned and adjusted to during the pandemic. That calls for two different solutions to onboarding and training, but there must be a correlation and cohesiveness between those two solutions. That way, each employee, no matter where he or she chooses to work, feeds into the same culture and overall team experience.
What were some of 2020’s biggest challenges from an HR perspective, and how did you overcome them?
The steps we have taken to maintain our culture and connectivity as an organization extend beyond just new hires, really reaching across the entire business. Figuring that out initially was certainly a challenge, but it is one we overcame by keeping dialogue with our employees transparent, accurate, and consistent—while also timely—so they felt cared for during what was a very challenging year for most.
Now, we are focused on the future and what operating with a hybrid workforce will look like. According to AvidXchange’s latest research, more than 63% of business leaders believe at least half of the American workforce will continue to operate remotely in 2021. Creating an environment that supports an employee’s decision to be in the office or at home means reevaluating all of our touch points with teammates and equipping them with the right technology to make sure we are delivering a seamless experience.
With the workforce trying to stabilize after a whirlwind of a year, what do you think HR’s main focus will be in 2021?
Employee experience will continue to be HR’s main focus this year. Businesses are updating their tactics to ease into the changes of a new work environment, including figuring out how experience and culture impact teamwork. As part of that, HR leaders recognize they must keep their employees’ mental health a top priority.
It is also more important than ever to give employees an outlet to provide feedback so HR teams can measure and evolve. By increasing internal surveys, ideally executing them in real time, we can better ascertain employee perspectives to make sure we are maximizing each team member’s experience.
How can companies create the culture needed for flexible work environments to flourish in 2021 and beyond? How does employee performance/productivity factor in?
When AvidXchange initially transitioned to a fully remote workforce last year, we saw a slight dip in productivity. But then employee productivity surged past pre-COVID levels as teams adjusted to the new normal and found their rhythms from home.
We’ll continue to look closely at productivity and employee performance this year to make sure we’re setting our employees up for success and not faltering in any areas of support. Now that we have the right channels in place to support our flexible work environment, 2021 is really about optimizing them to maintain our culture this year and beyond.
What will digital transformation in the HR space look like over the next 5 years? What new technologies will dominate (i.e., performance tracking and management, workflow optimization, project management tools, etc.)?
Before the current crisis, company culture was already shifting for most businesses. The exponential progress of technology coupled with a new generation of employees with different values and expectations was acting as the catalyst for a renewed perspective. Over the next 5 years, we will see technology play an important role as that shift continues to happen.
For all functions within a business, including HR, the pandemic has increased digital transformation and the automation of manual, paper-based processes to create more efficiency. We can no longer leave papers on a coworker’s desk for his or her review or pass out information to a room of new employees. As a result, we will see new technology tools emerge that are designed to help HR teams further automate performance tracking and process workflows within the organization, just as we’re seeing across businesses on a broader scale.
We’ll also see employee choice emerge as a larger part of digital transformation. Employees want technology that allows them to customize their experience rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach, so solutions will evolve to offer more adaptable features and functionality that each user can really make his or her own.
As more companies continue to operate remotely and look to hire across a larger geographic area, I also believe we will see innovation designed to help recruiters better identify and reach the people they want to connect with. This will deepen the pool of available applicants to help build a stronger talent pipeline for their company.