In this third instalment of our ‘Recruitment Recruitment Success Stories’ mini-series, Faye Dixon interviews Bethany Lang- Head of Operations at User Conversion.
Beth talks about adapting to remote working, bringing on a new employee and her advice to businesses on remote recruitment and onboarding in this current climate.
1. As we are almost two weeks into working from home, what have been the challenges you and the company have faced?
I think like most businesses going fully remote for the first time, finding ways to keep people engaged is the biggest challenge - and the external context that’s led to us having to go fully remote in the first place right now only exacerbates that challenge further.
In practical terms, we already had a flexible working policy, so we were lucky in that for us it wasn’t as much of a culture shock as for other businesses. We didn’t need to suddenly find new ways of working; we were already set up to be able to deliver our work remotely, so there was no downtime, no training needs, and no additional expense for us to move everyone fully remote.
Before though, working remotely was a choice, and one the team utilised when it was of benefit to their work - for focus time on a specific task for example. Having to work remotely full time is a very different challenge, and the circumstances that have led to this remote working of course add an additional layer of challenge, and put even more importance on us getting this right. People are feeling increasingly isolated in life in general right now, so it’s so important that they don’t lose that feeling of connection to their team, their clients and their work too.
2. As you are bringing on a new employee to the business, what were your/the company’s first initial thoughts when the announcement had been made for everyone to work from home?
Having our flexible working policy, plenty of our team had already been choosing to work from home as a precaution before it was officially announced by the government that we had to do so.
For us then it wasn’t the announcement that started our planning or shifted our focus - we were already looking at all the things across the business that we’d need to adapt for fully remote working, including our onboarding process. Overall, there was never any major concern about whether we could do it or not, more just an acknowledgement that we’d need to take a little more time to plan it to ensure we got it right.
3. What is your “usual” on boarding process and how have you done this remotely?
Our usual onboarding process is essentially a series of face to face sessions with various people across the business. The sessions each have different themes and objectives; for example there’d be sessions with the MD and Head of Operations, to go over top level things like our business vision, mission and values, and key policies and processes. We’d then have a series of department and team specific sessions; from going over tools with their manager, processes with our delivery manager, current client workstreams with their consultant, and individual sessions with each team mate to understand what they do and how they might work together.
We’ve kept it pretty similar structure wise, with the sessions simply running on video calls instead of in person. We’ve also made sure to leave plenty of flex in his schedule to ensure no session gets rushed and he has plenty of time to ask questions, to give him time to reflect and digest in between sessions, and to allow for us to be reactive if we identify a need for further sessions as we go.
4. What have been the benefits of working from home and remotely bringing on a new employee?
I wouldn’t say there’s been any benefits as such, but being our first time remotely onboarding a team member has meant we’ve probably been a bit more organised than usual in getting everything scheduled, and ensuring everyone is aware of what their sessions with the new starter should cover.
We’ve also had to think more about what the new starter will be doing in-between those sessions, as we don’t want their first few days to just be back to back video calls as that would be incredibly overwhelming, but we also don’t want him sat twiddling his thumbs for hours in between them and becoming disengaged.
If we were in the office we’d usually have him shadowing different colleagues in between, as an opportunity to see what we do while also building relationships, but shadowing someone’s work is harder to do remotely, so we’ve had to think how we keep him engaged without overwhelming him.
It’ll probably be the most comprehensive and thorough onboarding we’ve ever done!
5. As you can imagine in the current climate, many businesses are in a recruitment freeze. What would your advice be to those who were recruiting, interviewing and on boarding new employees to the company?
It’s a tough one, I completely understand recruitment not being a priority for businesses right now with everything going on, especially as many are focused so much just on staying afloat and keeping the staff they have.
Unfortunately I’ve heard of several people who were due to start a new role having the offer retracted, and now being left out of work, and while I’m sure in most cases it’s been a decision made as a last resort, in others it doesn’t seem to make sense. Recruiting is time consuming, and finding the right candidate isn’t easy - if you’ve found them, and there is a way you can still go ahead with taking them on, do it - they’ll only go to a competitor if not!
It’s really important for businesses to not freeze now; it’ll only mean you're overtaken by those businesses using this time to adapt and learn.