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Can volume hiring and onboarding truly go virtual?

by Sarah Savage, Head of Client Services, Alexander Mann Solutions

Much has been written in the past months on how organisations have strived to move their recruitment processes virtual in order to continue hiring throughout the pandemic. Whilst the switch from physical to virtual hiring has been well documented within the permanent and experienced hiring space, little has been shared on the experience of volume hiring (i.e. hiring high numbers of staff on a continual basis for repeatable roles).

I experienced the challenge of transitioning to a virtual high-volume hiring process first-hand with a leading financial services institution with a network of contact centres throughout the UK for which we hire roughly 1000 new recruits a year.

We have worked in partnership with our clients throughout the pandemic to find solutions to ensure they can continue to hire the required talent to keep the business moving forward. Where we support clients with volume hiring I would argue that it has been significantly more challenging to achieve but we have been successful, and I believe that many of the practices that we have implemented over the last six months will remain in place for years to come.

Our clients are quick to admit that our penchant for innovation and progressive approach to talent acquisition has provided more value to their business than they initially anticipated from an RPO partner.

I experienced the challenge of transitioning to a virtual high-volume hiring process first-hand with a leading financial services institution with a network of contact centres throughout the UK for which we hire roughly 1000 new recruits a year. Whilst our client faced the immediate obstacle of enabling their existing contact centre workforce to be able to work effectively from home, we faced the challenge of enabling hiring and onboarding to be conducted remotely as well.  Whereas historically hiring processes have relied on in-person assessment centres, and training for new starters has been conducted in classrooms, we were obviously forced to find alternative solutions.   

Our first challenge was to be able to continue to assess the same volume of candidates against the same core behaviours and maintain the quality of hire whilst ensuring that we continued to provide a great candidate experience. The key changes we implemented included a more enhanced screening process to ensure the right level of candidate was progressed and to guarantee the application and interest in the client was not a stop gap in the current situation.

We converted the face-to-face hiring process to a virtual one via MS Teams and traditional phone calls, created additional documentation to guide candidates through the new virtual process, and implemented a new way of providing verified ID documents to minimise any delays. In addition, recruiters held virtual training sessions with all hiring managers to ensure they understood the changes as well.

Call out: As a result of all that we have been through in the past six months, I am convinced that the nature of contact centres will change permanently as a result of COVID-19. 

Onboarding new starters provided an even greater challenge.  We worked in partnership with our client to develop and deploy new online training modules, but it was clear that some element of class-room training would need to continue. The fact that most of the existing contact centre workforce was now working remotely meant that the centres had the physical capacity to support in-person yet social-distanced training with smaller but more frequent groups.

This balance of remote and in-person training was highly effective and feedback from the new joiners was extremely positive, in particular new joiners commented that they had felt safe, supported and valued all along the way.

With so many changes to our operating processes and with regular changes to government guidelines, we put in place a robust governance framework to ensure that we could continually review and adjust our operating practices.  On a weekly basis we led a thorough review of all areas of attraction, assessment, offer, onboarding and training.  We partnered with our HR stakeholders to ensure that employee contracts were fit for purpose for home working and that new employees had suitable home working environments to be successful. 

We implemented a change in offer generation and dispatching of laptops to ensure equipment was delivered to the new starters home addresses within three days of the first day of employment.  Lastly, we anticipated the risk that new starters may contract COVID-19 or may need to self-isolate, and designed procedures to ensure that those new starters were protected and able to commence their employment (and be paid) as planned. 

As a result of all that we have been through in the past six months, I am convinced that the nature of contact centres will change permanently as a result of COVID-19.  A year ago the majority of contact centres did not enable home working and would have had little confidence in the ability of employees to be productive remotely; the past six months have proven that not to be the case and those who have worked remotely so successfully will now demand a continued level of flexibility. 

From a talent acquisition perspective, we have now removed the need for any physical in-person engagement through our processes.  Whilst I am sure that some will claim that recruitment processes must be more effective if conducted in person, our current data demonstrates that not to be the case.  In the months since we transformed our processes we have seen an increase of 15% in candidates attending assessments, a 9% increase in offer conversion, we have achieved 107% fulfilment and 100% candidate and manager satisfaction.

Whatever the ‘new normal’ may be, I sincerely hope that we retain many of the elements of best practice that we have introduced in the last six months.


 


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