Remote Employment: What’s Working? What Needs More Work
Gartner gave today’s new work reality the best description: a “sudden large-scale remote-working experiment.” Back in February of 2020 who would have thought that in a matter of weeks half of businesses would have 81% of their employees working from home by April? Or, that business travel, the revenue jewel of the airline industry, would grind to an almost full stop by mid-year? Or, that every work protocol would become flexible, from meeting etiquette (babies, pets and spouses welcome) to dress codes and work hours?
With the improbable now reality, this is a great moment to take a look at what’s working in remote recruitment and employment and what needs more work. To help celebrate the good and identify where improvements are needed for employers and candidates, we invited Andre Mileti, the VP of Enterprise for onboarding automation leader Able (formerly EmployStream) to weigh in on the state of remote talent engagement alongside Mojo Trek’s own CEO, Marina Perla.
Is Remote Recruitment Working? Yes ☺
A lot of recruitment has been fully digital for a long time, and it’s worked. “Think about traveling nurses and other mobile healthcare roles,” explained Andre. “These roles have been recruited remotely for years. It’s not new.”
Recruiters have been leveraging phone and video interviews for many years, but there is a big difference. Now they are being joined by hiring managers who (often) have much less experience with digital, distanced interviewing and assessment. “We had several employers who had long made in-person interview requirements non-negotiable prior to COVID. If they couldn’t meet the candidate in person, they wouldn’t hire them,” said Marina. “But they have been very quick to adapt in the last few months. Many have fully embraced remote hiring and pursue top talent all over the United States. They have gotten creative and are using Teams, Google Meets and other remote engagement and HR tools to help hiring managers interview and vet talent digitally.”
While healthcare has been in the remote recruitment business for years, it’s a new experience for other sectors. “Remote recruitment is entirely new for a lot of light industrial employers but the necessity is opening their eyes and accelerating digitization,” said Andre. “And they are seeing unanticipated benefits like being able to cast a wider recruitment net because location matters less.”
Is Remote Onboarding Working? Yes ☺
According to Andre, the entire onboarding process, minus the I-9 in-person review, can be easily done remotely for any role, automating tedious manual work and accelerating time to productivity. “The U.S. government has even relaxed the I-9 rule for fully remote workplaces,” said Andre, who anticipates the I-9 requirement could eventually change for all employers as short-term remote work evolves into permanent remote work for millions of U.S. workers.
Marina and the Mojo Trek team have embraced remote onboarding as a company. “We’re a recruiting firm with lots of remote resources so we have always put a high value on having an in-person onboarding experience. We love that time to share company culture and get acquainted,” explained Marina. “We were surprised that the change to fully remote onboarding worked so well with technology.”
Much of that onboarding success can be attributed to putting key practices and tools in place. According to Marina those include:
- Start with Culture. Virtual office tours can help new hires get to know the workspace and recognize it as theirs (even if they are remote). Shipping branded items (cups, notebooks, mouse pads, etc.) can help new team members develop a foundational connection with the brand.
- Invest in Tech. Technology is more important than ever in the workplace and that also goes for onboarding. Mojo Trek, for example, invested in additional tools, including document sharing, in order to eliminate excessive manual processes and accelerate the onboarding journey.
- Train. Train. Train. Mojo Trek provides three tiers of training to keep new hires engaged and successful. Professional training for recruitment and sales teams. Regular quality 1-1 time with mentors and managers. And Lunch & Learn sessions to share industry knowledge and trends.
- Team Building. New hires need to feel a part of the team. While it can be harder to nurture team unity remotely, it’s possible. Mojo Trek hosts regular virtual team-building sessions, such as having groceries and wine delivered to cook a meal together or playing interactive games online, and they host virtual team breakfasts and lunches for “anything-but-work” socializing. “We take time just to share what’s going on in our lives that’s not work,” explained Marina. “Whether that’s looking at family pictures or sharing our new haircuts or pets.”
Is Talent Assessment Working? For the Most Part 😐
While some businesses quickly adapted to remote interviews and assessments, others took more time to adjust. Many hiring managers, for example, needed time to learn how to use remote interview technologies and conduct digital candidate assessments. One area that remains challenging in the remote environment is leadership evaluation. Leadership roles that require extensive experience and oversee substantial teams are harder to assess, whether the recruitment process is taking place remotely or in person. With remote leadership recruitment and vetting, scheduling interviews with the many stakeholders and helping teams arrive at consensus for a leadership hire simply takes more time and coordination.
Andre noted how long-established talent assessment processes have fundamentally changed for some businesses. “Staffing firms have done long, in-office meet and greets with contract talent for decades,” said Andre. “Now they have to re-imagine those legacy processes. For example, they might turn an hour-long interview and assessment processes into short 15-minute sessions that are safer for all.”
Businesses have had to get experimental in order to find out what works in remote interviewing. Because there are many parties to consider—recruiters, hiring managers and candidates—it can take time to find what works best.
Is Remote Work Working for All? Not Yet ☹
Technology has enabled home offices and those without dependents (children, dependent adults) to work remotely for some time. As COVID pushed everyone home, the rest of the workforce adapted. However, working at home also presents many difficulties for employers and employees. As Marina and Andre shared, here are some of the key challenges HR and business leaders and their workforces face with remote work:
A recent poll from Gartner showed that 54% of HR leaders say “poor technology and/or infrastructure” is the biggest barrier to remote work success in their organizations.
With many schools offering only remote or hybrid learning, millions of parents are also working, part-time teaching and full-time parenting across their workdays. A Care.com study found that “73%, of parents say they plan to make major changes to their professional lives to accommodate the lack of child care.”
Employee Well-Being Challenges
The isolation of working from home, the mixing of work and personal life and persistent work-related worries (pay cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes and fear of all) have resulted in a highly stressed workforce. MetLife research found that “60% of employees say that they are experiencing greater stress than before the pandemic started.”
How do businesses monitor and motivate remote workforce productivity without hurting already fragile morale or infringing on the privacy of employees?
Still, Anything Is Possible
Despite the challenges that come with remote recruitment and employment, the last half year has taught businesses and workers that we are more adaptable than we know. The early phases of the employment life cycle—recruitment, assessment and onboarding—can often be entirely and effectively achieved remotely. The latter half of the employment life cycle—where retention, development and culture building reside—are harder remote, but not impossible. The key is to continue to adapt. COVID taught us that just about everything can be done differently. The question HR and business leaders have to continually ask is this: What should we be doing differently in order to better support, inform, motivate and protect the workforce?