Reimagining Hiring and Onboarding in a Virtual World

Kristen Terpstra
Kristen Terpstra

08.18.21 in Marketing & Practice Management

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes (1202 words)

Keywords: growth, experience, consultative, team, scale and capacity, training, prospecting, strategy, digital marketing, brand design

In our industry, we’ve historically put a premium on face-to-face interactions as the most effective way to build and strengthen relationships as well as demonstrate value to clients. But as we quickly adapted to virtual operations during the pandemic, perceptions began to change for the better. Now, as expectations of employees and employers evolve, advisors are using lessons from the pandemic to reimagine the future of their workforce. A big part of this thinking centers on our approach to recruiting, hiring, and onboarding in a virtual world.

A Virtual Workforce Is Becoming the New Norm

There’s every indication that remote work is here to stay—whether the model is hoteling, working from home part- or full-time, or modifying work schedules. Although it may not be the solution for every position or practice, there are clear benefits to improving work/life integration for staff as well as advantages for your bottom line. In fact, for a typical employer, the savings translate to about $11,000 per year for every person who works remotely just half of the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Like many business changes during the pandemic, adapting our approach to hiring and onboarding in a virtual world is uncharted territory we’re still learning to navigate. But there are tangible, common sense tactics you can follow now to develop a thriving workforce.

Virtual Interviewing

The success of working remotely has shown us that we don’t need to be limited by geography to find the right talent. We can consider candidates from anywhere in the country, which means virtual interviewing will expand. These best practices can help you optimize the experience as you expand your virtual workforce.

Email invitations. Your connection with a candidate begins the minute you reach out, and ongoing communication every step of the way makes a difference. Suggest potential interview dates that will give everyone involved time to prepare; then follow up with a calendar invitation to the candidate and any other participants to confirm. If you’re thinking of recording the interview, be sure to inform the candidate beforehand and obtain their written acknowledgment and consent to the recording.

Provide details in advance. Whether you’re using Zoom or another platform, send the candidate clear instructions for accessing the virtual meeting ahead of time. This allows them time to download an app or set up an account before the call, so you can avoid technical difficulties.

Do some prep work. Review the candidate’s résumé before the call so you can prepare questions; then have the résumé, job description, interview questions, and candidate assessment form at the ready. In addition to role-specific questions, consider questions about remote work, such as whether they have space to work with minimal distractions and how they like to communicate with colleagues when working remotely.

Discuss firm culture. When a candidate doesn’t come to the office for an interview, it’s difficult to get a sense of your culture and work atmosphere. Be sure to explain your firm’s values and vision and give examples of employees coming together to problem-solve or support important causes.

Keep communication lines open. Talented candidates won’t be available for long, so let them know what’s next and when they can expect to hear from you. If you can’t meet the timeline you originally conveyed, let the candidate know so they stay involved in the process. This sets the stage for what the relationship will look like when they’re hired.

Be aware of red flags. A virtual interview can go wrong for the same reasons an in-person interview can. Be alert to signs like tardiness, unprofessional dress or language, and noisy or distracting interview environments.

Don’t focus on the personal. During a Zoom call, we inadvertently gain a glimpse into a candidate’s personal life. A candidate’s child may walk in view of the camera during an interview, or an item visible to you onscreen may not align with your own cultural background or beliefs. These are things we wouldn’t be privy to in a face-to-face setting and could unconsciously influence your decision-making. Be careful to keep your focus on the candidate’s relevant skills and experiences.

A New Style of Onboarding

Hiring and onboarding in a virtual world go hand and hand—and with the virtual onboarding process comes added layers of complexity. Here are some ideas for creating a fun, engaging, and streamlined process for you and your staff.

Accountability is critical. When new employees are working remotely, a manager can’t quickly check in as they would in-person to ensure that things are running smoothly. To keep everyone on track, both manager and trainee should have clear instructions, expectations, and goals. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Consider providing a roadmap that documents the onboarding process.

  • Select virtual mentors who can act as a resource.

  • Conduct regular video calls to answer questions and help put faces to names.

  • Use mixed learning throughout the day—such as training, video modules, and shadowing—so there is a blend of one-on-one and self-directed study.

Make it a cultural experience. History, values, and corporate culture are at the heart of your firm; you want your onboarding process to convey as much for new employees who work remotely and don’t have the benefit of in-person exposure. Although this can be challenging, there are some concrete actions you can take to instill corporate values and culture in a remote environment:

  • Hold virtual lunches and “hangout” hours.

  • Send welcome packages of food and swag.

  • Involve existing staff as cultural ambassadors to share stories and perspectives.

  • Gamify the experience with things like online scavenger hunts to familiarize new staff with your website and your firm.

Have a training plan. Training and developing new hires is challenging, especially in a remote setting—it takes time, patience, and preparation. You can’t wait until the day a new employee starts to determine how to train them. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Document what the employee needs to learn and the best way to make that happen, with everything from one-on-one training to independent online learning opportunities.

  • Create a plan for the first two weeks, incorporating various learning methodologies to engage visual and auditory learners as well as those who learn by doing. Be sure to build in time for them to get acquainted with the team, too.

  • Review procedures and manuals with the new employee and explain how they are used when completing daily work.

  • At the end of the two-week period, ask the employee for feedback about what’s working and what’s not resonating. Look for opportunities to adapt the process so it provides a better experience for them.

Take Small Steps

Hiring and onboarding in a virtual world will continue to evolve, and creating a strategy we can build on for every step—from how we recruit new talent to the way we train and create a sense of belonging in a virtual workforce—is critical. The prospect of overhauling your entire process at once may be a daunting one, so start small by trying a few of the ideas here and assessing the outcome. This approach will enable you to adjust and refine as you go while proactively anticipating and addressing potential issues, ultimately optimizing the experience for you, your staff, and your clients.

This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.

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