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🆘Hiring In A Pandemic? Help!
Hiring is hard at the best of times. There are many ways to mess it up and make a mistake that you or your new hire may regret. You’ve got to decide which person from the list of candidates you’re talking to is someone you want to work with for the next few months or even years. Doing that in the space of a few hours is difficult.
Hiring now, during a pandemic, is even harder. There are some constraints you just can’t get around: How do you hire people when you’re not sure if you’re ever going to be allowed back in the office? What kind of new skills and experience might your new hires need? How do you onboard people when you can’t actually be with them and how can you integrate them into your culture?
📚 New Skills
One of the first changes you might make to your recruitment process is to add an extra set of skills and experience to your candidate requirements. If they aren’t there already, you’re probably going to want to add remote working, remote facilitation and remote experiences to the list of things you ask about.
These things are good skills to have anyway. They’ll make work easier in the longer term, especially if we’re going to be stuck this way for a while. But how do you screen or assess for these kinds of things? For a start, you’re going to be on a call with the candidate, so you can see how they behave remotely. How they present themselves (if that’s important to you), the way they communicate and engage with you over a video call are all good signals.
📏 Will They Fit?
It’s definitely harder to make a call on whether someone is a good fit when you can’t actually be with them or shake their hand or just spend time getting to know them. You’ll miss a lot of nuances, a lot of physical cues as to their ability, communication style and where they’d fit within your organisation.
You’ll need to be more thorough. Perhaps then, a half-decent substitute for spending time in meat-space would be to just have _more_ conversations over video calls, perhaps with multiple rounds with multiple people, then compare notes and see what everyone thought. A good recruitment process would be some measure similar to this anyway, maybe you’re just adding a few extra conversations that might even be considered social?
Remote interviewing also offers your candidate a much more comfortable interview experience, which would hopefully lead to a better quality of interview and a better foundation for a long-term relationship. They won’t have to commute anywhere, they can interview in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by their things and it levels the playing field a little, making for a more relaxed candidate and a higher quality conversation.
I’d also suggest setting up a session so the candidate can work through a problem with a potential colleague. Using an online whiteboard (mural.co, or miro.com for example). It would be good to have a standard “problem” to work on, something that allows you to compare candidates. What you’re looking for here is a way to gauge how they approach a problem, what they’re like to work with and how they interact with technology.
🏄♀️ Silver Surfers
However, does the use of online technology like a whiteboard, mean that an older generation of candidates will have a harder time during the interview process? Those people who have many years of practical experience, but little experience with online tools and technology, outside of a word processor or spreadsheet.
Is this something you can train? Would it be a barrier to hiring someone? I recently watched a montage video from the House of Lords in the UK. Lot’s of (supposedly) smart gentlemen, performing an important function for the country, with decades of experience, multiple masters and doctorates, all completely stumped when it came to using video conferencing technology. Should these people, despite their many decades of experience and skill, be discounted as candidates in this new remote-first world? Of course not, but how can we do better at being age-inclusive when online collaboration tools have been thrust into a lot of our lives without warning recently?
I think the answer is patience. It’s not an issue I’ve come up against before, but it’s worth being mindful of this until the more experienced generations are digital-native.
😎 Onboarding and Culture
Hooray! You’ve successfully hired a candidate, using a new and improved online-only recruitment process. You weeded out the unconscious bias, work-shopped some problems and multiple people agreed after multiple rounds that you’d found the unicorn you were looking for.
How do you onboard someone who isn’t going to come into an office? Remote workers are notoriously easy to neglect (although, some enjoy the reduced social interaction) and new starters are even easier to forget as they won’t have any friends, connections or even work to bring them into the group.
How can your new hire learn about and even influence the culture of your company if the culture was created as an in-office culture, not an online one? Is everyone holding their breath waiting to get back into the office before they can start to feel like they “belong” again, or has your in-person culture translated (or mutated) into an online culture?
Consider setting out a four-week agenda for new hires that involves reading, research and getting to know the company wiki, but that also includes plenty of time for one-to-ones with peers and colleagues. At least a weekly social event - maybe lunch and learns, or quiz night - to engage and have your existing colleagues teach your new colleagues all the in-jokes.
Starting a new job is always tough, starting a new remote job has got to be even tougher when you’re looking to be valuable quickly and get to know the people and the work. A lot of companies I’ve worked with have enlisted the help of a “buddy” to keep a new hire engaged and on the right path and this is a great idea that works well when everyone else is remote too. Your buddies can check in daily (maybe twice a day) with your new hire, answer questions and just chew the fat, talk about work, not work, the weather - anything at all to help the new hire feel part of the team as soon as possible.
🎣 Throwing Your Net Wider
One of the benefits of hiring remotely is that you’re not limited to hiring people who can physically get to your office. This means there’s a global pool of talent you can fish from. This has positives and negatives - a topic for another edition - but it means you’re less likely to make a sacrifice on the level of skills and experience you need simply because there’s no one close enough to get to your office who has the right background.
You’ll likely need a cultural, or at least policy change to support this - it has long term ramifications. However, it allows you much greater levels of flexibility when filling your staffing needs and potentially has a 24 hour workday, if you’ve got overlapping timezones.
🏢 Going Back To The Office
At some point, it’s likely you’ll be heading back into the office (I mean, I wouldn’t hold your breath, but at some stage, things might get to a level of sanity where we can spend time with people who aren’t your family!). What does this mean for your new hires?
Perhaps they’ve been working for you remotely since they started, going back into the office is going to be weird and like starting at a new firm on your first day. Even if they’ve already been “on-boarded”, they’re going to need to be _physically_ on-boarded again. Get to know the office, the area, actually meet the people in the flesh they’ve been working with and those who work for you that they don’t work with.
If you’ve kept your hiring local, then your new hires should be OK to commute to the office, but what if you’ve taken the opportunity to hire a bit further afield? Neglect of remote workers is common if they’re in the minority. If you’re considering having your employees come back to the office full-time (and I’d implore you not to! Give your employees a choice) then you’ll need to make allowances for those you’ve hired remote who cannot commute in.
Things should be easier, the global remote working culture has changed, hopefully permanently, for the better, but it’s worth bearing it in mind so that we don’t fall back into old habits.
⏲ The Future?
I firmly believe that any changes we make to our interviewing and recruitment practices, that are a result of the pandemic, will be beneficial over the long term. I very much hope that the culture shock that many organisations have endured while switching to a more remote-first context will cause them to be more mindful of the benefits remote working can bring (I know of a few companies who have now made remote-flexibility a core tenant of the new normal).
That said, I still believe that we’ll need to be much more deliberate about our working practices, about our performance and the relationships, values and outcomes that make up our work-lives in order to avoid slipping back into the comfortable old-normal of remote-last (or never!).
📪 End #post
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