During and post the lockdown one thing has become clear for every single company – that work is a thing we do, not a place we go to. Being an IT company we are - modern, organized, and adaptable to change, that was always our guideline. Workspace as a blend of the physical and virtual environments was a norm for us even prior to all the social and business-related changes we witnessed in the last couple of months.
In the midst of those changes, we knew that work will most likely never be the same again because this pandemic will reshape how companies attract new people, hire, onboard and develop their potential.
Of course, we won't completely throw our good old work routines that worked well so far out the window, however, there are exciting opportunities hidden amongst these new challenges. During this period of forced experimentation it also became clear that if you can perfect your work from home (WFH) model, you’ll be in a fantastic position once this challenging stage ends.
Most organizations have been working really hard to ensure their employees and businesses thrive in today’s dispersed work environment. But, of course, there isn't a set of rules that comes along with the pandemic or any other mind-shift unplanned change, in that matter. This pandemic has fast-tracked digital transformation, practically forcing companies of all sizes and industries to rethink and reevaluate their digital plans, today. Even before the pandemic hit, IT companies, given their digitization trend setting and forward-thinking mindset, had a clear advantage in trying to continuously adjust to more flexible business models.
IT companies usually are leaders when it comes to implementing organizational trends of reduced hierarchies and flexible work arrangements. We support all the trends that happen in a modern workplace – where organization structure is flatter, decision-making is distributed and employees and candidates have more choices than ever. Companies that are on board with digital hiring and other HR processes now will most likely be better positioned in the long-term.
We have carefully nurtured our workplace culture and this was the key to our preparedness. As we know, without a foundation of trust and accountability within your workforce and without the digital tools to link individual effort to high-level business strategy, your tech solutions will only take you so far. It was easy to change to a fully remote work mode even in under 24 hours if you have a quality tech stack in place, but most of all, it required having the right culture in place.
A strong and supportive culture is the bedrock of successful remote working. Understanding previous experience with remote work is also important – what worked well before and what could work well in the future. As many companies extend remote work policies for their employees, it becomes more important than ever to deliver a customized HR approach. Helping to get that organizational culture right must be a focus for HR teams, which work hand in hand with managers and team leaders in ensuring a great employee engagement level.
Also, our employees' physical and psychological safety is more important than ever before. While some things that were important at the beginning of the year quickly paled away, being forced apart has brought even more attention to our interactions between us. Change will only get faster and faster and this pandemic has shown us that it's important to have an adaptive mindset.
Currently, we have plenty of chances to reinvent and improve our people-oriented activities and to learn something new - new working routines, when is their most critical time to be productive, prioritizing tasks, ensuring more effective remote collaboration, the importance of having regular team check-ins and, first of all, asking “how are you doing (today)” in a more sincere way.
We believe that when happy and satisfied employees are able to bring their true selves to work, that is when the best work is performed on all levels.
Communicating the right message to get the right new employees has become more important than ever
Digital experiences are becoming more human by the day and companies that can deliver great digital experiences will be best prepared to come out ahead. Employers have to change up how they recruit, onboard and engage people from a distance so one of main focus points of 2020 was digitizing the hiring experience by slightly re-designing processes that create connective tissue between HR, employees and candidates.
The future of hiring must be intentional and flexible enough to withstand any change. Having an agile workforce of top experts that can respond quickly to changes will continue to be essential for our work. And as the workforce becomes more dispersed, the right hiring strategy ensures a simpler, smarter and more effective hiring process.
Many organizations are refocusing their traditional (and expensive) marketing efforts to trendy social media activities. It's a powerful way for companies to present themselves and advertise their employer brand. In order to reach those candidates we are looking for and truly and engage with them, more focus is placed on producing high-quality photo, video and audio content that can mirror that good feeling of quality experiences and interactions that a company can offer.
That trend is rising also as future Gen Z workers are native users of technology and social media – they are highly skilled digital content creators who use 20+ apps a day. It will be more and more important to create a social media campaign designed to raise its employer branding profile and spark action from candidates that we want to target and who would be an ideal fit for us.
Social media is also an excellent way to get employee referrals, one of the most valuable sources of hire because they’re faster and less expensive. Trends also show that those employees onboard faster and stay longer. After all, our employees know us best and they know who would be a good fit for current or future roles so they often are the best and most valuable brand ambassadors for the company.
In order to adapt and refocus a company's recruiting efforts, there are some principles that are important for a company to ensure when creating employer branding campaigns.
- Knowing the company brand - The initial phase in any advertising arrangement is to set up your organization’s image because it includes the incentive for the candidates you are targeting. If you can make sense of why an up-and-comer would need to work for you, at that point, you can begin to target an entirely different audience of usually inactive candidates.
- Finding the target audience - Since approximately 30% of the general workforce is effectively searching for a job, but a lot less when it comes to IT experts, you really have to know where to look and what to offer. For instance, specialized job candidates might be progressively inspired by some new application your company is developing. Targeting a particular audience means you have to first of all comprehend what is imperative to that audience. Afterwards, you have to make a showcasing action that stands out enough to be noticed.
- Build a candidate persona - Understanding the perfect candidate's motives, preferences, what they need to realize, what sort of tasks and work environment they like and what is important to them is key to contacting the perfect individuals with the correct message.
- Message visibility - Important way to do so is to produce high-quality employer branding content for social media which is rich in photo, video and audio features that help communicate the right company messages. When candidates can see how their own previous work and experience can connect to the company strategy, it not only increases their motivation to apply for a specific job in that company, but also can trigger a desire to fully belong to that company. If hired, the same sense of connecting to the company strategy can boost employees' productivity and their sense of purpose and pride in their work.
- Communication - It is essential to have effective ways to communicate with a variety of stakeholders in the recruitment process. Having an authentic and honest approach that interviewers project during the interview may be the most important thing you want to communicate. Candidates will remember how the interviewers responded to their questions – not just the content, but their tone of voice, facial expressions and the amount of attention you provide them with.
- Purpose - Today people want to know they are working for organizations that make an important difference. What we want from work is more than just a paycheck (according to Workfront’s 2020 State of Work research, 78% of respondents say so). We want our personal contributions to matter. So, in communicating with candidates it's important to set clear work goals that connect people’s work to the overall company strategy.
- Values - In these pretty uncertain and troubling times, having authentic values in a dynamic technology-based industry is more important than ever before. Also, candidates pay attention to the signs of congruency in the things interviewers say probably more closely than ever.
Hiring is not a one-and-done process. It’s essential to tie in the company’s mission and culture into the hiring process. Organization has to provide candidates with realistic job previews regarding both a specific job they are applying for and organizational culture. Candidates and new employees receiving honest and accurate information about a company and their new job tend to adjust better.
It's important to always have in mind that not only we choose the candidates, but they also choose us. For developers, strong work culture is the most important factor when choosing an employer, followed by professional growth opportunities and staying up-to-date with the latest technology. It became apparent that a good, comfortable work environment is the one that collects responses from developers and facilitates learning and development, has their successes gratified and provides employees with.
From our experiences, candidates also choose an employer who is focused on quality over delivery time and who respects employees' time by letting them spend flexible hours on work so they can perform well in the company and have enough free time for life after work in order to meet their personal achievements.
New reality of the way hiring works
Digital hiring is not just a short-term patch for dealing with current challenges, but rather a long-term hiring solution. Pre-epidemic, digital experiences were on the rise for many reasons because they are fast, cost-efficient and give employees direct access to the information they need.
Our recruiting team has been sourcing, reviewing resumes and assessing candidates online for years now. Our recruiting efforts are lean and hiring teams are assembled by skill set and compatibility. It's no different in the current situation, but it's emphasized even more. While we had very good experiences with remote interviews before, hiring teams had to additionally adapt to relying only on virtual hiring as the new norm.
In many ways, having video interviews is no different than conducting in-person conversations, but in that situation technology is often also the only intermediary between question and answer. And of course, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to communicating online. With that in mind, there is still a certain structure and a few strategies that you can implement to make remote interviews more efficient.
First things first, it’s important to be clear on who you’re hiring and what essential part they will play in a team. Candidates will also need to be provided with clear expectations and instructions about the length and content of the interview and the feedback they can expect afterwards. Workplace research shows that 57% of job seekers lose interest when recruitment processes are lengthy so we should keep in mind to tailor our remote recruitment experience to make it simple and engaging for candidates.
There is never a standard formula to conduct great remote interviews, especially technical ones. Having a pre-set list of technical skills we want to address in a candidate, and screening their technical knowledge usually leads to deeper conversations around code solutions candidates are familiar with.
Evaluating a candidate for any role requires an assessment of their skills. When it comes to candidate selection, hiring managers and HR should have clear KPIs that can be measured for each candidate. Those assessment elements could include: strong technical knowledge, cognitive ability, problem-solving mindset, and clear and consistent communication. Creating an internal scorecard helps to get clear conclusions about the candidates' skillset and it's useful to make a note of each point for that particular role.
Of course, good preparation is important - you can use this scoring system to assess the candidate’s performance for a virtual position, then use the scores to create a job description and remote interview process. In the end it's important to pay attention to the minor details that contribute to our perception of each candidate. It's important to keep our hiring KPIs in mind, sum up all the information and make decisions based on evidence.
When identifying the right fit for their company culture, it’s essential to identify skills and qualities that are crucial for remote employees such as accountability, ownership, communication skills, time management, and an ability to motivate themselves.
Candidate's interpersonal skills and strong communication should be at the top of the list.
In addition to following a structured plan to maintain consistency across all interviews with different candidates, afriendly approach also helps a lot - opening an interview by introducing themselves in a friendly manner, followed by an overview of the interview process and openness to questions at any stage.
It sure helps a lot, but technology in the hiring process has some limitations. Whether it's due to slow computers or a poor internet connection, those glitches can make candidates more nervous and stressed when trying to prove their worth and skillset to interviewers. Video conferencing can work in our favor to observe body language, gestures and facial expressions. To keep the interview moving forward and keep up a good pace an important tool is the use of positive body language.
Little things, such as using signals of affirmation like nodding in agreement can help a lot to stay on the same page with people we are communicating with.
What should always be the focus is creating a strong, positive candidate experience while maximizing time and resources efficiency. For every HR person involved in the recruitment process the best spent time is the time spent in conversations with candidates, building an employer brand and engaging with hiring managers.
The importance of onboarding new excellent people
Forward-thinking organizations recognize that effective recruitment and selection is just the beginning. One of the most important ways that organizations can improve the effectiveness of their talent management systems is through the strategic use of the organizational socialization process. To truly set up new hires for success, it’s crucial to deliver a tailored employee onboarding program that embodies a company’s culture and prepares them for the road ahead.
The Human Capital Institute has found that companies that invested in improving their onboarding experience are more likely to see key benefits, such as increased engagement levels, decreased time to employee proficiency and decreased turnover.
Research by Glassdoor found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, but a negative one results in new hires being twice as likely to look for other opportunities. HR Executive says that 93% of employers find a good onboarding experience critical to positively influencing a new hire’s decision to stay with the organization.
It is very likely that if you have hired a new employee in the last few months, you have not even met them in person and they have not been able to step foot in the office. Onboarding in remote work conditions means not just that you can't decorate their desk with thoughtful, personalized items or have a usual face-to-face orientation process. Remote onboarding was new for many companies and the employees that they’re hiring so planning is essential and onboarding processes need to be tweaked to account for the computer-based orientation only.
Building an effective onboarding program in remote work conditions is an iterative and ongoing process. The best employee onboarding programs are, as usual, well-planned, structured, and strategic. A written onboarding plan or a roadmap that outlines the specific timeline, goals, responsibilities and support available to new hires will help them succeed because it spells out what they should do and what assistance they can expect. Once we assign a reasonable workflow, we know new hires will have access to the information they need when they need it, which makes for a smooth onboarding process without a lot of heavy lifting.
When it comes to a good onboarding experience that managers and HR professionals can implement, it's all about getting back to good old basics, but of course, with a touch of curiosity to innovate, be open to new ways and willing to experiment a bit. With that in mind, it’s important to keep in mind that technology is just an avenue to deliver a deep connection.
To maximize success of onboarding a new employee, SHRM Foundation recommends using the building blocks often called the Four C’s:
- Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations.
- Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations.
- Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal.
- Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.
Best practices for onboarding include: implementing the basics prior to the first day on the job, making the first day on the job special, develop a written personalized onboarding plan, making onboarding participatory, ensuring the program is consistently implemented and monitored over time, using technology to facilitate the process, being crystal clear with new employees in terms of objectives, timelines, roles and responsibilities.
Humans are wired for social interactions.
New people need feedback, guidance, and help in order to learn the ropes and internalize the key values of their organization’s culture. It's great to have several people involved in the planning and execution of an onboarding process - a team leader / manager, a technical mentor (who will introduce the employee to processes, tools and technologies the company uses), and a buddy (for all others questions and need company-specific information).
According to HCI, 87% of organizations that assign an ambassador or buddy program during the onboarding process say that it's an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency. During this crucial first period managers make sure that they have any needed resources, clarify roles and responsibilities, and encourage and empower the newcomer. The rest of the company employees – from students to the CEO have a very important role as they help to share the company's cultural values and ease the transition with the information and support they provide.
It's important to have enough time for a new hire to become acclimated to their company, culture and role. Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. Their engagement levels tend to be the highest then, but it's even more important to keep their motivation and satisfaction level high after 'the honeymoon period'. The best employee onboarding programs extend throughout the employee's first 90 days to ensure new hires are fully supported as they ramp to full productivity.
Managers and HR can do this with new employees via messaging and (video) calls, at least once a week in the first months, and 1-2x time per month later on to make sure the new hire is acclimating to their new environment. Using regular check-ins and milestones such as 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the job and up to one year post-organizational entry to check in on employee progress is vital in order to prepare people for new roles or assignments, provide career guidance and prepare a pool of talent to fill future critical roles.
Information-seeking and feedback are proactive new employee behaviors that may help them adjust as they ask questions about different aspects of their jobs, company procedures and priorities - all to make sense of the new workplace.
The first lever for successful onboarding is self-confidence in job performance. Self-efficacy has been shown to have an impact on organizational commitment, satisfaction and turnover. Another sign is job role clarity both in short- and long-term. Social integration is the third lever for successful onboarding. Effective onboarding will result in a faster learning curve for new hires, improved communication, and a more productive and engaged workforce. High-quality relationships with team leaders, project managers and other team members undoubtedly are related to favorable onboarding outcomes, including performance, job satisfaction and career development.
Successful onboarding is a key part of any talent management strategy. A good, role-specific onboarding strategy is also important when an employee is promoted or moved to a new position. HCI reports that 81% of organizations agree that onboarding internal hires is just as important as onboarding external hires.
What can we offer to our people in these new work conditions?
Research already shows that flexible work conditions can increase productivity and employee engagement. Having workplace flexibility plays a big part in a thriving, agile organization. Employees can choose to work remotely full-time over going to the office to avoid commuting and staying on-site.
Data shows that companies that offer remote work as an option tend to attract more candidates during the recruitment phase. According to a report by Indeed, even in 2018 47% of employees stated that the possibility of remote work is an important factor when choosing a potential employer. Research also shows that (fully or partially) remote employees can show greater job satisfaction and higher engagement levels while maintaining trust in their employers and coworkers.
Developers may favor organizations that are remote-first due to their agile, flexible and productive nature. It’s easier for some to focus when working from home because there are fewer distractions and more motivation to show progress in their tasks.
Building trust with our employees has been a key factor. While working remote, we rely on autonomy and outcomes. It also provides a new set of challenges for the employer and to earn trust of your remote teams, you need to provide quick solutions for those challenges.
One of the largest hurdles to overcome when working remotely is communicating effectively. The basic need to connect with one another is one thing that binds us all together. The basics of good communication is to start meetings with top of mind check-ins in order to assess how people are and what energy they are bringing to the table.
A good work environment is one that facilitates learning and development and where engineering teams are agile, collaborative, and communicative. Both offline and online real-time communication improves workflow and collaboration. What's necessary for virtual teams is establishing effective new processes. Maintaining quality communication and availability protocols helps people work together to problem-solve. Video conferencing, communication platforms and as well as project management and workflow tools are the most popular ways to accomplish collaboration, support business continuity and productivity.
It’s also essential to focus on the most important tools first to avoid overwhelming your team. Information has to flow freely between departments for the employees to build bonds of trust. An agile mindset is the norm and organizations value adaptability over following a process.
Besides the way we communicate, we also observe what our management does and how they interact.
According to Gallup, great leaders need to show compassion, provide stability and hope but most importantly build trust, which is especially important in these never-before-seen times. It's important to act with empathy and compassion towards employees, customers and other business partners. The most important message they communicate is that we are in this together and we have a future together.
In doing so, honesty is the best policy - we chose to immediately notify the entire company that employee health and safety was the company’s number one priority. All decisions made would be guided by this principle. We have continued to do this throughout the pandemic with weekly updates, discussions and information on our plans, better our work-from-home set up, and check-ins to provide everything we can. You name it, we updated people.
Of course, feedback is a two-way street so it's crucial to include our employees – consider asking what they want and make them part of the solution. We learn a lot from the new employees we see in virtual meetings only for a longer period of time. Perhaps not all of our suggestions or questions will have answers right away, but it will be easier and faster to get to the right answers. We agree that we can use this reset to start new rituals, possibly introduce new values, agree on new behaviors that will lead to the future-fit culture and bring some fun into behavior change and new rituals at work.
Constant examination of a company’s work patterns to ensure alignment among different individuals is necessary to ensure effective collaboration. What's most rewarding is to see the company succeed and employees having mastery, feeling a sense of real purpose and working in a winning team.
We have some homework to do
HR has always faced challenges; our role is to be directly responsible for all employees and employee-related issues. We deal with unique people and as much as our world is rule and policy based, we are trying to bridge the gap between what people need and what the company can do. In the last couple of months and in the times to come, with the unprecedented amount of uncertainty and change we are facing, both HR and management are taking on another big role in making sure people feel safe at work through uncharted territory.
The nature of how people get work, as well as and where and how they work has shifted and it’s continuing to evolve at extraordinary speeds. It's ok for all of us to be brave and afraid at the same time. We all have a lot of challenges to face and a lot of transformation and innovation homework to do, but most important – we are embracing what has become 'the new normal'.
We are willing to change benchmarks and standards as our company evolves - provided employees are kept in the loop and given full disclosure regarding any change. Who knows what the future will really look like, but our people will remain the most important success factor.