Developing HR processes to fit with virtual working

Alison Bell of Bell HR Consulting examines the impact prolonged, or even permanent, home working will have on the recruitment and induction processes.


8 min read

In March 2020 there was an overnight shift for many employees to working from home and stopping all non-essential travel. The office for national statistics reported that of those working from home in the UK in April 2020 86% of them had made this change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Months on from this change and many businesses have adapted to new ways of working and are changing traditional HR processes to fit with working from home.

In this article Alison Bell of Bell HR Consulting examines the impact prolonged, or even permanent, home working will have on the recruitment and induction processes. Alison will consider what steps employers should take to ensure that these processes work effectively when they are not carried out traditionally with face-to-face contact.

How to carry out an effective recruitment process virtually

Some of the initial stages of the recruitment process are likely to be carried out using online adverts and systems to allow employers to keep track of the stage each candidate is at in the recruitment process. However, once a candidate has been shortlisted for a position it is likely that the recruitment process would traditionally involve some face-to-face interaction, typically in the form of an interview.

The COVID-19 restrictions have forced organisations to consider how they recruit without face-to-face interaction, this method of recruitment can offer significant benefits in relation to candidate availability for interview, reduced travel costs and the ability to attract candidates from a wider geographic area.

The virtual recruitment process will incorporate much of the same steps involved in the traditional recruitment process. It is important that the employer defines:

  • The job description and following on from this they define the skills, experience and qualifications the candidate will need to be able to undertake the role
  • The selection criteria to shortlist applicants
  • The selection methods the organisation will use e.g. interview or assessment centre
  • The pre-employment checks that will be used prior to an unconditional offer being made.

Although these steps are standard in any recruitment process it is important to examine the areas that may need to be changed if the recruitment process is being carried out virtually.

The candidate experience on the lead up to the interview is one area that can be enhanced through effective communication. Prior to the interview the candidate may be offered the opportunity to test the connection to the video call software to iron out any technical issues before the interview takes place. The candidate should also be made aware of how long the interview will last, what format the interview will take, the tone of the interview (i.e. formal or informal) and who will be involved in the recruitment process.

As the candidate will not meet the managers involved in the recruitment process face-to-face the organisation may want to think about how they can still build rapport and make the candidate feel comfortable during the recruitment process. The candidate may be sent some company information about the recruiting managers and the jobs they do, or they may be sent the links to their LinkedIn profiles to provide further background information.

The recruiting managers will plan for the online interview in much the same way as they would in a traditional interview. Questions should be related to the job, be focused on the skills experience and qualificators which are required to undertake the job and managers should be clear on the scoring methods. The recruitment process may also focus on the candidates preferred ways of working this can be done though questions at the interview. In addition to this, candidates could be asked to complete a psychometric test which would provide an overview of their preferred work style. This report will also indicate if the candidate is likely to enjoy working from home which is an important consideration if this is going to be a long-term plan.

A traditional recruitment process will typically involve an interview at the company premises. At this stage the candidate will be able to see what the workplace looks like, maybe meet some of the team and possibly be given access to where they would work. All of this builds up a picture in the candidate’s mind as to the culture of the organisation, what it would be like to work there and whether they think they would fit in. In a virtual recruitment process this element will be missing therefore the employer will need to consider creative approaches to recreate this.

If the intention is to return to an office or workplace after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted the recruiting manager may take the candidate on a virtual tour of the workplace using a video call to show them around. This virtual tour could also incorporate where the candidate will be based if they will be required to work from the workplace rather than at home.

Sometimes the recruitment process will allow candidates to meet the team informally as they visit the workplace. Clearly this will not be possible as part of a virtual recruitment process, so the employer may make a “meet the team” video incorporating short introductions from each of the team members. At the final recruitment stages candidates may be asked to attend a meet the team session via video call.

To build a deeper understanding of the mission and vision of the company, they may encourage candidates to watch videos of customers giving feedback on the products or services offered by the company.

The recruitment process can be time-consuming therefore it is advisable to think creatively of the extra steps that can be built into the virtual recruitment process to ensure the process delivers successful results.

How to manage the induction process virtually?

Making new employees feel welcome, training them in their new job and making them feel part of your culture is likely to be challenging if the new employee works entirely from home. We examine some of the steps employers can take to ensure that the induction process is a positive experience for new staff who are working remotely.

Before the first day

The induction process can start before the first day. Once the employee has received an offer of employment and has agreed a start date plans should be put in place for their induction. Employees who are working from home will need to be provided with the IT equipment and access to company systems to allow them to work from home. We have probably all started new jobs were there have been hiccups on the first day with passwords and IT access which is not great but imagine how that will feel if the new employee is sitting at home on their own!

Prior to the first day it is advisable to arrange for the IT equipment to be delivered to the new employee’s home address and for passwords to be set up to allow access to IT systems. Written instructions, online tutorials or a phone call form the IT department to make sure the new employee is set up and ready to go would be advisable.

Automating the essentials

There will be forms to complete, a contract to sign and HR policies to review during the induction process. This is never the most exciting part of starting a new job, but it is essential to make sure that this is done. The virtual induction process should be designed to ensure new employees can access the relevant documents, they know who to go to if they have any questions and there is a way of showing they have read the documents if they are unable to physically sign them.

Understanding expectations

Once the new employee has been set up to work from home and they have access to the IT equipment they need it will be important to help them understand the work that they are expected to undertake. These conversations are likely to have started at the recruitment stage but once the new employee joins they should be given clear direction on what they are expected to deliver. This is most likely to be done by the employee’s manager and then followed up with emails and meetings with other members of the team. Although this process would traditionally be carried out face-to-face it should be easy to move this process to video call.

One area that should be factored in is the inability for new staff working from home to turn to the person next to them to ask a quick question. To overcome this it may be appropriate to set up a virtual induction “buddy”. This person might be available via email or instant messenger to answer quick questions in relation to day to day work.

Regular check-ins between the manager and new employee should always happen during the induction process. Whilst these may take the form of informal chats when everyone is working together, they will need to be planned in using phone or video calls on a regular basis during the first few weeks.

Understanding how things are done

This step is much more than understanding the tasks that need to be done. It is about understanding the culture of the organisation and the way people work together. This is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the virtual induction process.

This is likely to come naturally in the face to face induction experience as new employees will chat informally over the desks and meet members of the team for a coffee and a chat. All of this interaction will help to build up a picture of the way the organisation works. Any organisation carrying out the induction virtually will need to consider how the new employee builds up this knowledge and gets a feeling for the organisational culture. This might be done via team video calls, individual video calls with key contacts across the business, emails or pre-recorded videos from senior management or informal team gatherings.

Virtual recruitment and induction is likely to become business as usual for some time to come so planning and thinking creatively about how to get the process right will be important for organisations and new employees.

For more one to one advice contact your local Business Gateway office to arrange a virtual call with one of our experienced advisors.

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