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Attract, Engage and Retain Employees in the New Remote Work Era

May 21, 2020
iCIMS Staff
5 min read

When looking for answers, where do people first turn? For many, it’s Google.

During the first half of March, we saw Google searches for “work from home” reach a 12-month high, garnering at least 50% more search interest than the anticipated peak, which usually occurs within the first week of January. This number will continue to grow as outside circumstances evolve.

This search behavior reflects the world around us. Today, employees and employers alike are grappling with the new norm – as least for the short-term – which is working remotely. While having a remote-ready model in place was once viewed as a competitive advantage to attract talent, it’s now a must-have to keep organizations afloat.

With vacant positions costing organizations around $680 daily, the impact that interrupted recruiting efforts can have on a businesses’ bottom line is jarring. As such, HR professionals were early adopters of successful remote communication practices, learning lessons that can be applied across the business to make personal connections without being in person. Employers are doing all that they can to address their existing employee base at this critical time, while also working hard to maintain their hiring efforts.

Having the right technology in place to sustain work-from-home practices is more important now than ever before. There are four steps that employers can take to successfully integrate and adapt successful virtual hiring technologies into their business continuity plans, considering all outside circumstances, and without sacrificing their productivity and unique company culture.

Prepare and plan. Employers have an obligation to provide their people with clear direction in times of disruption.

This is where a business continuity plan comes in – the strategy that outlines how a company will react to any potential outside circumstances without interrupting their daily operation. It’s never too late to start this process. While today employers are dealing with a public health crisis, there will be future external events that will impact their day-to-day operations, and they must be prepared.

Recruiting is a model for development of this planning. This process begins with HR leaders analyzing their current recruitment process to identify areas that can easily be converted into a virtual experience.

For many companies, career fairs are a major source of entry and mid-level talent. Thankfully, even these can now be rerouted to digital event set-up, similar to the virtual conference or webinar for non-HR professionals. The benefit to virtual engagement is the ability to target a select group of professionals without the cost and complexity of a live event. Through digital imagery, video and written communications, companies can weave in elements of their employer brand throughout their digital event so that the experience remains personal and authentic.

The use of video within the interview process also enables recruiters to get to know candidates, regardless of location – opening doors to wider pools of talent. It’s a great opportunity to showcase company culture with virtual team meetings and office tours. During this time, team leaders should encourage video conferencing whenever possible. While phone calls can keep teams on track, the face time provided by video helps foster collaboration and creativity.

Involve the right partners. To effectively implement the tools need to virtually sustain the recruitment process, HR must involve the right departments and partners. When transitioning to a work-from-home strategy, business leaders must do the same, collaborating closely with IT to determine best practices.

In a recent survey of 500 IT and HR operations leaders designed to better understand common challenges associated with digital transformation initiatives, we found that successful introduction of new HR technology into the business requires IT and HR operatives and leaders to collaborate. Interestingly, both departments agreed on the need for adopting new technologies, but struggled to keep up with the speed at which the industry changes.

To circumvent this, all departments must work closely with IT to ensure that all systems are firing before an urgent situation arises. It’s imperative that internal and external-facing technology is regularly evaluated so that when an unforeseen situation arises, work can continue to operate seamlessly without harming the experience of internal and external parties.

Communicate change. A business continuity plan and supporting technology are only as strong as their adoption and the communication that surrounds it.

All of an organization’s employees should be aware of the plan, regardless of where they sit in the business. Broad awareness will instill a mutual sense of trust between workers and management. Additionally, all relevant parties should be properly trained on new systems so they’re empowered to quickly and efficiently get their jobs done.

Candidate communication provides additional insight here. Through the years, we’ve found that text messaging is the preferred method of communication for today’s professionals, as it allows recruiters and candidates to receive updates anywhere, anytime. In fact, according to data from the iCIMS platform – which processes more than four million hires per year – more than a million applicants used texting to apply in 2019. This is before recent events, so it only stands to reason that in times of disruption, the ability to communicate via text will become even more instrumental in providing candidates with the experience they deserve.

For example, OHL, one of the world’s largest international construction companies, relies on texting to communicate and hire people faster, resulting in more than a 90% response rate, with the average response time being within an hour.

Always aim to adjust. Feedback is a pillar in business continuity planning.

To keep existing employees engaged and empowered to do their jobs, companies should host regular check-ins to understand what their experiences were in moving toward more virtual-based practices. While there is an array of helpful technology readily evaluable, there will be an inevitable learning curve in adopting these new systems – and that’s okay. In fact, it should be expected. Employers have to hear this feedback, and act on it to ensure that business practices are streamlined and employees are happy.

Just as HR professionals regularly ask job candidates and new hires for their feedback on what the hiring process was like from their perspective, and make adjustments, accordingly, so too can business leaders promote interactive, constructive criticism through employee surveys and interviews. Just as outside circumstances can change day by day, so too can employees’ and job seekers’ needs – and it is important that employers learn to anticipate this. Take advantage of technical support services in place to help your company adjust, get the most of existing tools, and ultimately improve the employee experience.

At the end of the day, a company’s success has always been and will continue to be about the people. Employers have an obligation to provide the support that their workforce needs. And today, that need is the ability to go virtual.

Stay calm. Stay nimble. Stay committed to the experience to existing and future employees – the ability to survive and flourish depends on it.

To learn more about virtual hiring, check out our eBook, Keep Your Business Running with Virtual Hiring.

more best practices and actionable tips ebook

*This article originally appeared in Tech Crunch.

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