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Innovation in talent solutions

Jacqueline Weller, Associate Director, and Peter Knowles, Director at Ignata, discuss how organisations can innovate their hiring strategy against the backdrop of COVID-19


Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the humanitarian effort to contain the virus, the global economy has suffered a shock to markets, much more severe than the Great Recession.


The speed of this has taken many organisations by surprise, but indeed “necessity is the mother of invention” and in this paper Ignata look at the positive actions and innovations that talent teams and the hiring community can make in response to COVID-19.


  1. Employer branding


The needs of candidates have now changed, and we have observed a shift in the language used by organisations, who are now promoting their employer brand as “resilient to the marketplace” and “financially secure”. In an uncertain period where anxiety levels are running high, the heritage of the organisation becomes much more important, as well as the brand reputation. Organisations should look to revise their messaging to the marketplace and consider the needs of candidates in an uncertain period.


  1. Social purpose


COVID-19 is a critical corporate social responsibility (CSR) issue for us all. The smarter organisations will be conscious of their social purpose in the world and think about how they can promote their values to society and the ways in which they help others whether clients, customers, employees or wider communities.


The actions organisations take now will long be remembered by potential employees, so organisations should think about what positive actions they can take now and how their products or services benefit society as a whole. Examples we have seen from innovation of new products for medical purposes, donation of equipment to the healthcare, manufacturing of sanitisers by brewers, financial aid packages, free coffee to frontline health care workers or staff volunteering to assist the elderly or vulnerable in their communities.


There will be times when organisations need to take tough employment decisions during this period, but it is the approach and compassion that they demonstrate that will have a lasting impact.


  1. Confidence in hiring without human interaction

For organisations who need to hire during this period, then there needs to be a shift in mentality and willingness to embrace technology and the virtual interview room. To make the process more robust and provide further confidence in the hiring process, then we are observing companies seeking further data points to replace the human interaction. Utilising video interviews can make building a connection and rapport with a candidate more difficult as body language is more restricted when on a camera. Psychometric testing, ability tests, online technical tests and personality profiles provide useful tools in place of human interaction, as they give insights into an individual’s natural communication style, behaviours and skills.


  1. Onboarding processes and remote starts


Many companies traditional onboarding processes will not be possible under today’s COVID 19 government guidelines, so HR communities and managers need to look at their ‘business as usual’ processes and see how these can be adjusted to ensure business critical recruitment continues. Any interim process will need to consider compliance, information security, data protection, commercial risk, health & safety and employee wellbeing, whilst ensuring HR and corporate policies are adhered to. Thus, establishing what needs to be undertaken, how this will be undertaken and when in the onboarding lifecycle.


During these times, most new hires will be employed remotely; for many individuals they will not have experienced home working before. Companies will need to adjust their processes to ensure pre-employment screening is conducted virtually, information is available online or welcome packs are sent in a timely fashion to reduce any anxiety or insecurity an individual may be feeling and also to try and start the integration into the company, culture and values.


  1. Business continuity and survival


A proportion of the market has put all recruitment activity on a blanket hold. We are observing that some organisations are taking a different approach and analysing which roles within their business are critical to the continuity and survival of the business.


Whatever decisions are taken on recruitment, given the lead time to onboard, there will be significant longer-term impact on hiring for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021.


Within this, we anticipate that the flexible workforce will be called upon to help the operational challenges ahead and to provide cover for the roles which cannot currently be fulfilled by new permanent employees. The delay to the implementation of IR35 is welcomed and should give organisations more flexibility to access to critical talent.


  1. Integration of new remote workers and embedding those individuals into the team


This is new ground for almost every organisation.


To ensure successful integration, organisations need to think in advance about developing virtual and online induction strategies. Providing insight in the initial period on both corporate culture and values and functional specific activities. HR and hiring managers will need to work closely together to ensure there is continual communication and contact whilst the new employee works remotely.


Utilising common language becomes increasingly important so that everyone feels included in conversations and meetings. Undertake or share personality profiles across the team, so that individuals have a wider understanding of each other and how best to communicate. Be aware of acronyms and assign a person (mentor/buddy) to proactively demystify the organisation, business and team.


Remote workers may also benefit from the opportunity of talking to someone outside the organisation regarding how they are feeling and any challenges they are facing. Coaching, mentoring and health & wellbeing services can all help support the new employee. Also highlighting the services offered, via healthcare benefits or employee assistance programmes that the organisation may provide.


It is important to meet the team virtually, both for work and social purposes. Daily team meetings using Microsoft teams for example. On a Friday, a social to chat focusing on the weekend ahead helps bond the team that cannot meet in person.


The advice for managers is to be available, but don’t micro-manage. Stay connected!


  1. Removing the probationary period from the employment contract


We have observed organisations who have either removed the probationary period from the employment contract or extended the period of probation during the period of COVID-19, in order to provide more security to potential new joiners. There will clearly be a nervousness from candidates as to whether this is a good time to join a new company and we saw these actions as positives steps to provide assurance and confidence to new employees.


  1. Video call with the CEO or HRD


Effective candidate management has never been more important, than it is in today’s market. Providing continual candidate reassurance, from the point of offer all the way through to onboarding and beyond is essential.


One of our clients has introduced a personalised video call into their onboarding process, for new joiners starting over the next few months. Whereby the CEO calls the individual to provide reassurance and confidence to the candidate that their role is secure. This will have a lasting effect on the new employee and their feelings of engagement and loyalty to the organisation.


One of our clients has introduced a personalised video call into their onboarding process, for new joiners starting over the next few months. Whereby the CEO calls the individual to provide reassurance and confidence to the candidate that their role is secure. This will have a lasting effect on the new employee and their feelings of engagement and loyalty to the organisation.


Photo provided by Ignata

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