Remote recruitment and onboarding are not new concepts. Large organisations have been building remote, international teams to tackle distant territories for decades. What is new is so many more organisations are now trying to embrace it following COVID-19.
If you’ve never led a remote recruitment drive before it can feel a daunting prospect. To be successful you’ll have to tweak existing recruitment/onboarding processes, potentially invest in technology and update your HR policies. In short, be prepared to embrace some changes.
The ultimate goal though is to make a candidate feel socially accepted and as having a sense of belonging with your organisation. Make that happen and all parties are going to be just fine. And for the record, that is actually the goal for recruiting any worker be they remote or not.
Define Your Business
Firstly, you need to decide as an organisation if you are “remote-friendly” or “remote-first”. The difference being a remote-friendly organisations allows remote working as and when needed. A remote-first organisation empowers and expects employees to work remotely forever and a day.
This distinction is crucial. Most organisations are remote-friendly and are allowing staff to work from home while the threat of coronavirus exists. In a sense, things still revolve around the office. Some staff may talk about and look forward to returning to it (one day). They see the office as the arena where key decisions are made and where knowledge and information are freely exchanged.
Granted many organisations have adapted incredibly well to remote working – but this is not the same as being “remote-first”. Remote-first means people and information are available equally to all employees. Key decisions are made online with all relevant stakeholders, and career progression is still available to remote workers.
If the threat of coronavirus ends tomorrow thanks to a vaccine….will staff return to the office? The answer to this question defines if you are truly remote-friendly or remote-first. The answer influences the recruitment process.
Existing job adverts and job specs need to be reviewed. Ditch any adverts filled with vague descriptions and buzz words. That approach needs to be replaced with clear communication about the role, the company and the expectations of the employee.
Those of us who have experience of remote working has become familiar with fitting work around other commitments such as childcare, family or leisure activities. Therefore, you need to capture the flexibility you are offering, maybe give an insight into a typical day by showcasing a day in the life of an existing employee who is already remote working.
Many of the job boards have begun to adapt and have included remote working as a category you place your advert under. However, don’t leave it to chance – spell out in your advert this is a remote working role. Some job boards specialise in remote work. I don’t think one needs to investigate these at this time. The world and subsequently the job market have changed quickly and remote working is currently a new norm.
Finally, reflect on your advertising channels. If you are genuinely a remote-first organisation then you do not need to be limited by geography. Your horizons can open-up. Likewise, if you are simply remote-friendly don’t become carried away! One day you may expect your new recruit to arrive at the office.
I have seen it documented that hiring remote workers can take longer. That is not my experience, but I understand the rationale. In a remote recruitment drive there can be hesitation and delay and an overall sense of frustration that one is not getting to know a candidate from afar. Historically there may be issues with virtual communication and how to make it happen. Those barriers have now all-but disappeared thanks to things like Zoom.
Let’s be clear – you control the timelines and you control the recruitment steps. So, think through how fast you want to move once you have engaged with a candidate. Consider what steps you want to include in the recruitment process so you do get to know them. And remember – the process of getting to know a candidate is a mutual process. The candidate should be continuously educated about the company, the role, the team and the culture.
If your timelines become naturally longer than a standard recruitment process because you have more stages in the interview process and more “touch-points” with the candidate – fantastic!
But, if your timelines become longer for no obvious reason than hesitation or technical inadequacies, you need to review your procedures and rally key decision-makers to engaged. An overly long recruitment process without explanation negatively impacts on the candidate experience.
A role will typically demand a candidate has specific knowledge and/or skills to undertake it successfully (hard-skills). Assessing these should be fairly straight forward. But – when it comes to remote workers you need to look at an alternative facet (soft-skills) in more detail than normal. Remote workers need self-motivation, awesome time-management, outstanding communication (especially written) and a high level of consistency in everything they do. Given this, make sure you assess these soft-skills.
As such you can introduce different assessments and evaluate candidates in ways that you may not have previously done. Role-plays and online presentations are good. Maybe though you can introduce things such as asking the candidate to prepare a certain report or ask them to interview another member of the team and produce something from it.
No matter how you decide to assess a candidate you will probably interview as part of the process. Again, you need to consider making changes and bringing in additional questions:
- Have you undertaken remote work before?
- If so, what have your experiences of it been?
- How do you like to structure your day?
- What does your home working environment look like?
- How do you like to stay in touch with your colleagues?
While video or telephone interviews may be new to the candidate, they can also be new to the decision-makers conducting the interview. There is nothing wrong with checking that interviewers understand how the technology works! Make sure they understand they should arrive early to the virtual room so they can let the candidate in. Making a candidate wait in reception for ten minutes before interview may have been seen as acceptable by some, but nothing is gained doing that in a virtual setting.
Likewise, in a virtual interview, there is nothing wrong with some light conversation upfront while everyone adjusts screens and volumes.
Worth noting that interviewers share the responsibility for being prepared and in an environment suitable for an interview. I have heard horror stories from candidates. One recent case was the interviewer didn’t seem to know they could be seen on the screen as well as the candidate. As soon as the interview began, she got up and started dusting her flat….
Policies, Procedures, and Contract Considerations
Beyond candidate attraction and process you should be reviewing the structure and boundaries you are asking your remote employees to operate within. By this I mean the policies and procedures you have in place and the contract of employment. The details for all of these come down to our first point – are you remote-friendly or remote-first as an employer?
Where is your worker’s primary place of work? Are they likely to travel in the future (client meetings, appraisals, training sessions, etc.)? Are you highlighting that employees are obliged to conduct their work across a specific number of hours per day? Has it been detailed that falsifying work time is a disciplinary matter?
Much of remote working is based on trust, but do you want to introduce timesheets to monitor employees?
What about the property required by the worker to undertake their role? If the employer provides technology or equipment, who’s responsible for insuring these in case they are damaged or worse?
What happens if a worker uses their own computer and it suddenly fails or has inadequate security? Would you want to download your software onto the worker’s machine? Contracts and policies should capture these details and outline how the maintenance and recovery of equipment should be conducted throughout an employee’s engagement.
Finally, spare a thought on business confidentiality! How are remote workers storing sensitive and confidential information? It could be an even trickier issue if the remote worker uses their own computer. Therefore, utilise an IT and communications policy to protect the organisation.
If in any doubt on these issues take specialist HR and legal advice and avoid mistakes you might later regret.
Let me be clear…onboarding began when the candidate read your job advert. It ends when the candidate retires or chooses to leave an organisation. Onboarding is a continuous process aimed at creating a sense of belonging with an organisation.
Granted though, the period between accepting a job offer and starting a new role is a vital moment. Is the candidate still looking at alternative options? Are they excited about joining your organisation?
A candidate could find it easier to end a role when in a remote setting having invested less in the business relationship. The last thing anyone wants to do is repeat the recruitment cycle having identified awesome talent.
Having agreed on a suitable start date with the candidate communication becomes key. Both in the build-up to starting and in the first few months of employment. Virtual meetings, emails of welcome to the business, virtual tours of the offices and welcome packs are all tools that can be used. These are opportunities for making the new employer feel welcomed to the business. Do they have a buddy or mentor? Is technical-support easily available and every effort made to make things hassle-free?
Do you have several new remote starters all at the same time – link them up. Make sure no one feels like “the new guy/girl”. Ultimately good, frequent communication is going to embed your organisational culture with a remote worker. Therefore during the induction the more members of the existing team you can introduce and the more you make the worker feel welcomed rather than isolated – the better things will be.
When it comes to actual performance line-managers should be briefed on the importance of providing clear and early objectives for the worker. Progress should be regularly reviewed within a supportive and friendly structure.
Recruiting remote workers can be a more involved process than the more conventional approach. You will have to think through the candidate experience and define what kind of remote-working organisation you are. Thereafter you ensure that all communication, assessment and policy is consistent in how you define yourself.
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About The Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (recruitment in Brighton and Aldershot that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.