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Virtually onboarding new staff... uncharted territory? Here are the things you need to think about

  • Publish Date: Posted about 4 years ago
  • Author: Rowan Fisk

How are businesses on-boarding talent in an unprecedented crisis?


A number of my clients have proceeded through virtual interview processes and are now at the stage of making offers. As a search firm that prides itself in living and breathing our market, we’ve begun coaching a growing number of businesses on the steps they need to take. Ultimately, it’s made us realise that, for a number of companies, the concept of virtually on-boarding a member of staff is an entirely new challenge.


It would be very easy to see this as a barrier to entering the recruitment market right now. However, unprecedented times call for thinking outside the box – and I believe some of the biggest winners will find ways to mitigate the risk of not meeting face-to-face, safe in the knowledge that the risk of not hiring is far greater. Organisations still need to build brands and sell product – and that will still mean, where appropriate, hiring senior talent to lead the charge (be that on an interim or permanent basis).


In the next few months, the winners will embrace a growing community of talent (who can now speak more freely when working from home), recognising there’ll be less resistance from their competitors as fewer roles enter the market; and they’ll be unafraid to show their team is looking for talented people in good times and bad – ultimately, that the company’s long term ambitions are unwavering.


So – for those entering unchartered territory – here are some of the key elements to focus on. All are tried and tested by some of our clients who’ve already adopted a more remote and flexible working pattern.


Communication – the company you’re poaching from may have implemented a temporary hiring freeze… so they’ll be working even harder to retain their existing staff. Equally, in uncertain times, it’s natural to feel more cautious about taking a leap of faith. Keep talking with your new hire. Get them involved in virtual meet ups with the team. Offer the opportunity to go through any light reading ahead of start date. Communicate at least once a week – but ideally more.


Paperwork – perhaps an obvious point but worth mentioning nonetheless. There are a number of legitimate and legally binding services, like DocuSign and HelloSign, which easily remove the need for physical paperwork.


Equipment – when you work from a bank of desks, it’s pretty easy to cobble together the kit you need just before your new employee starts. Allow plenty of time to get all relevant equipment sent to your new starter. A small care pack goes a long way too – even if they’re out of the office, it’s the little things that will make them feel like a part of the team.


Initial objectives – it may be an impossibility to meet normal expectations, but you should set a clear agenda of deliverables for the first few weeks. Build a pipeline of conversations with relevant team members, who can offer further help and support.


“Visibility” – even if you’re being forced to work more flexibly, your virtual door needs to remain open as much as possible. Make sure that they’re kept in the loop – and that they have a clear platform to ask any questions when they reach a stumbling block. We’ve all asked silly, obvious questions in our first few weeks in post, but, once you have the answer, it makes your life much easier in the long run. If you’re not visible to answer these, bad habits can form quickly.


If you’re in the midst of interviewing, but have temporarily put things on hold – or if you’ve stopped before getting started – please let us know if we can help. We pride ourselves on being a creative, people-first search firm – and we’re always keen to find a solution for a challenge.