May 23, 2024

Nick Gold: Will virtual onboarding replace the old recruitment process?

Written by Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner

A year into the pandemic and it is fair to say the economic and political environment is in turmoil with uncertainty and lack of clarity at the front of our minds.  The business landscape on a macro level is gloomy to say the least as we hunker down and try to make sense of the shifting sands beneath our feet.  Yet, the clogs of enterprise keep churning; while many sectors and businesses are struggling, others are surviving and even thriving.

For businesses who are recruiting, they might find the applications for each role are at levels unsurpassed which is a sad and worrying indictment for society as a whole, but an opportunity for the business to employ an amazing candidate to both enhance and benefit their organisation and team.

Assuming the recruitment process is a success, the business, the line-manager, and the employee are now faced with a serious challenge – how to onboard successfully in the era of social distancing.

Businesses have historically spent significant time honing their onboarding processes. A flow is created to integrate and bring the new employee in quickly and with maximum effectiveness to a position where they feel part of the company, understand its values and immerse themselves into the team they work for and the company they are part of, but most importantly the culture that pervades throughout the business. The aim is to be natural and for the culture to be an embedded part of every employees’ character.

But in this new business environment, where the office is no longer the central hub for employees to gather as one tribe, the company need to re-invent a framework for the new employee to deliver their true potential.

On first impressions, this could be perceived as a problem which creates barriers within a company. This could create different groupings of staff as they segregate through a natural process of shared experiences, the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ pandemic team members.

To me, this is only a simplistic way of looking at this new challenge.  We are all experiencing something new, for those long-standing employees, for many years, they had their status, their routines and their comforts from these, yet the restructuring of the workplace brought about by the pandemic has brought wholesale changes.  There is no doubting this group of employees will suffer some grieving processes over what they have lost and might find it hard to adjust to the new ways as they continue to reminisce about what in their eyes were better times.

Looking at it differently, we are all being onboarded in a different way. Every employee of a company, at whatever level, with what length of service, is having to adjust and is looking for the business to provide them with a sense of community, comradeship and compassion.  They are looking to the business to ensure their experiences of the workplace in the new environment still delivers the feelings that they related to the business when gathered together in the office.

So, this comes back to the culture of the business and the challenge that the business faces.  If the culture and values of the business were something generated by the boardroom sitting together round a table and then disseminated to the employees, then there was a lack of ownership from the start for every individual in the company.  If the culture of the company was something that traversed the company in all different ways, whether that be outward marketing on the website, social feeds, sales communications, finance processes or most importantly how the team communicated with each other, then this should be a new opportunity.

The employee, assuming they embrace how the company culture is, through natural osmosis, will start owning said culture and how this manifests itself in the spoken and written elements of their work alongside their interactions with colleagues, clients and suppliers. This will start to become a natural flow for them as the culture sits comfortable as part of them.

For a company, this takes the new challenge of virtual onboarding away from focussing on re-working (or coming up with new) processes but rather on to the culture of the company as a whole. The challenge then is ensuring, whatever environment we find ourselves in and whatever twists the future brings, the culture of the company is an embedded part of the organisation.

For many years, culture has been discussed as critical to success for organisations, the pandemic has demonstrated that for any business. If the culture of a business is strong, then the challenges, whether that be with existing team members or the on-boarding of a new person will focus on how to fulfil the job processes in the changing times.  The style, personality and team bonding will be a natural consequence and benefit of the culture that pervades the business.