Article: Remote Hiring Week 2020: Pillars of remote hiring

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Remote Hiring Week 2020: Pillars of remote hiring

Kick-starting the Remote Hiring Week 2020, brought to you by AuthBridge in association with People Matters, with a virtual panel discussion, industry leaders came together to discuss the various elements of remote hiring that are shaping the future of the talent landscape and deep dived into redefining hiring for ‘remote’.
Remote Hiring Week 2020: Pillars of remote hiring

Hiring is a multi-layered process. Make it remote and you have for yourself a new landscape with unexplored opportunities. With organizations and leaders adapting to a more agile workplace, restructuring workforce and tapping into new employment models, some basics must be accounted for. 

In an endeavor to address these basics and find out what components are going to shape and strengthen your remote hiring and remote onboarding strategy in the now of work, People Matters and Authbridge have come together to bring to you - Remote Hiring Week 2020 - a week full of learnings, insights and industry practices on how the various elements of remote hiring are shaping the future of the talent landscape.

Kickstarting the Remote Hiring Week 2020, industry stalwarts in the likes of Varadarajan Srinivasan, Strategy & Talent Enabler and Leadership Coach; Ajay Trehan, Founder and CEO, AuthBridge; Madhavi Lall, Managing Director, Head - HR, India, Deutsche Bank; and Jai Balan, HR Head, Bharti AXA, came together for a virtual panel discussion on the theme ‘Pillars of Remote Hiring’.

Recalling the saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’, Varadarajan (Raja) emphasized, “Recruitment 4.0 has been led by technology and automation,” adding that organizations are now using artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence, machine learning and RPA across hiring processes. He shared  the example of an app-based hiring tool that evaluates an individual through a cognitive analysis of 48 attributes over a video interview, based on choice of words, facial expression, eye movements; creating a personality assessment and saving the company a lot of time and effort. “The tool was able to bring down the hiring cost by 70%, and 75% reduction in time spent.”

Read on for highlights from the discussion.

How ready are corporates to tackle remote hiring

The virtual session began with a poll question. On being asked if their remote hiring strategy is ready and well-equipped to tackle the demands of the post-pandemic workplace, 37% of the attendees claimed they are ready, followed by 17% stating no, and 46% stating they are ‘getting there’. An interesting perspective here was brought forth by Bharti AXA’s HR Head Jai Balan, who shared that most companies are likely ready to tackle digital hiring, however, when it comes to remote hiring, a gap persists.

Industry veteran Varadarajan believes that the organizations that are ready to take on remote hiring are the ones that engaged in it pre-pandemic as well, and those are the companies that are doing well at this point in time. However, a majority of the companies that he mentors are ‘getting there’.

The fact that a mere 18% aren’t ready to take on remote hiring, while close to half (46%) are getting there, corroborates the accelerated shift to remote hiring. 

Emphasizing that the present circumstances are here to stay for a very long time, Ajay Trehan said that COVID-19 is a wake-up call for many organizations. “Managers have been caught staring at some really unprecedented challenges in the hiring world, For example, how do we reach out to our prospective candidates? How do we manage the entire process of hiring remotely? How do we make the process of documentation or or background check, onboarding etc, easy and frictionless for all parties involved? How do we onboard new employees and keep the experience slick and professional?”

The pace at which organizations are now willing to adopt tech across processes is unlike ever before. It is no longer about survival, but more about building sustainable processes for an uncertain future. There are many facets that need to be addressed in the process though.

Major trends in the post-pandemic hiring world

While hiring is steadily picking pace, Raja highlighted that current hiring numbers are only focusing on actual workforce requirements without any buffer hiring. “Earlier many companies hired a buffer, to manage their absenteeism, productivity losses, but now what I find is that work from home has resulted in increased productivity in many cases, and absenteeism has almost become nil.” Employers are now realigning and reassigning employees into new roles internally, instead of hiring externally. 

Despite adequate evidence on digital acceleration, leaders continue to struggle when it comes to making investment decisions. However, in the present circumstances, contrary to pre-COVID-19 times, approvals to invest in tech are relatively easier to obtain, owing to the very nature of remote hiring, shared Raja. From a leadership perspective, he shared some observations: 

  • With a multitude of products in the markets, leaders are finding it difficult to choose which products to go for, which products are better for them
  • There is also a mashup of tools owing to the factor that tech needs to suit organizational needs; it isn’t just about what the tech offers
  • People are less averse to spending now compared to earlier, in terms of technology, because they believe there is a cost reduction in terms of hiring cost, in terms of efforts
  • Leveraging digital tools for hiring is more prevalent in organizations that hire over a 100 people every month. People with about 10 to 20 hires every month, prefer social media hiring or telephonic interviews rather than a tool

Social media hiring is on the rise, stated Raja. “Leveraging social media for hiring has become a focus area. Social media hiring has gained a lot of importance and traction in the post-pandemic hiring world.”

From curtailing conversations around job losses to today individuals admitting they have lost a job on public forums, being vulnerable and honest has emerged as a by-product of the pandemic.

“The stigma attached to a job loss is much lower due to the pandemic,” stated Raja. Raja suggested that this could favour talent as they will be perceived as being immediately available to take up new opportunities or assignments, while recruiters will also appreciate the candour and vulnerability of individuals to put themselves out there. 

While technological infusion is imperative, adequate caution needs to be exercised to steer clear of collateral bias. “Augmented intelligence does reduce bias in human errors, however, we need to take care of what it actually provides. We shouldn’t have the bias of the coder come into the AI tool aimed at making hiring unbiased. This is something that companies need to look at,” said Raja. Echoing the thought Ajay added, “Artificial intelligence is just as intelligent as the data that has been fed to it to make it intelligent. You have to feed it with high quality data to make it a high quality product, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to do that. There are technologies now that have been created to offset the issues of erstwhile remote or telephonic interviews. The risks are known, and the mitigants are available. We just need to plug those mitigants in and a lot of those mitigants are simple technology pieces.”

A common roadblock that emerges today is the business case for investment in tech. Madhvi suggested here that as hiring managers build a case for remote hiring there is a need to highlight lost opportunities around - if you are not hiring or if you are pausing hiring or if you are continuing to wait for everything to open up. Present the cost vs opportunity loss numbers for a more productive conversation and desired outcome.

Challenges around access and connectivity

Remote hiring has its benefits. But it is also accompanied by certain challenges. A potential drawback, shared Madhvi, is that the entire talent pool might not have access to tools that enable them to interact remotely with recruiters, because they do not have the technology to connect. Lack of reliable internet connectivity and IT infrastructure remain a challenge gearing up to hire remotely.

Additionally, highlighting the need to mitigate potential fraud and impersonations, Madhavi recommended having protocols in place to guide both recruiters as well as potential candidates, outlining the structure of the remote hiring process.

“When a process needs to be carried remotely, if it is not well structured, there will be biases.”

Such structure is critical to address the loopholes in remote hiring. There needs to be a set of protocols shared with interviewees to prepare them for the remote hiring process, setting clear expectations and guidelines. There is also a pertinent need to make recruiters and hiring managers comfortable with hiring individuals without having met them in person and doing so over a call. 

‘There is a need for a reality check that things have changed forever’

While post-COVID-19 several organizations were faced with the difficult decision of letting go of thousands of employees, Bharti  AXA recruited over 1,000 employees in the last six months. Owing to the sudden shift to remote working the insurance major did have to put hiring on hold during March and April, however, come June the company was able to bounce back, with a focus on strengthening its sales team. This gave the organization an opportunity to relook at both the process and approach to hiring post-pandemic.

“There is more openness and willingness to hire people who are not in the same location, including those who might not be willing to move to the same location as well,” noted Jai. Aspects such as the difference in cost of living keeping one from moving across locations have also been eliminated with the acceptance of remote job opportunities, he added.

Jai did share a concern on how people are holding back remote hiring due to extreme optimism. 

He shared that some people are extremely optimistic about returning to work by March or June 2021, and this mindset is restricting them from adopting remote hiring with the question that once offices reopen in March or June, will the new joinee be open to relocating? This is where leaders and hiring managers need a reality check on how they approach workplace planning post-COVID-19.

Jai emphasized the need to look at hiring processes in accordance with how the outlook towards carrying business has had to shift.

“If we are able to conduct business over conference calls and video calls, and are selling products through online forums and digital models, why insist on inviting candidates and recruiters to office spaces for in-person interviews? There is a need for a reality check that things have changed forever.”

Customer preferences are changing too. For instance, as shared by Jai, a customer would now prefer connecting with an insurance sales representative over a call instead of inviting them home, so why look for employees who are willing to commute in these times, when customers prefer remote sales over in-person sales themselves?

Speaking from the perspective of a blue collar workforce, Jai noted that frontline hiring is a very personalized activity. “There is a huge element of physical proximity which played a crucial role all these years. How do we replicate that in the current format? There is a need for personal engagement, even though the processes will be carried out through a digital medium or web-based model, there needs to be personal engagement somewhere through the recruitment process.”

Architecting a seamless onboarding experience

Remote onboarding can be broken down into two parts: Transactional and experience. Urging the talent and business community to come together, Jai shared a key concern in streamlining documentation that needs immediate attention. “While most documents have gone digital, there are a couple of mandatory forms (PF, Gratuity, etc.) from a statutory standpoint, where a physical signature is still a necessity. There is no better time than now to look at how the entire process can be digitized...The HR fraternity needs to come together and put forth this need before the requisite authorities. ”

While ensuring a seamless documentation and background verification is key to onboarding today, for a truly impactful remote onboarding experience, from documentation to infrastructure to orientation, all aspects need to be carefully crafted and catered to. Replicating the experience of joining a new workplace is crucial. Ensuring that the new employee is culturally embedded in the organization, similar to pre-COVID-19 times is essential. 

What’s key here is that the experience today isn’t just about candidate experience, but equally important is a seamless experience for the recruiter, through equipping them with efficient tools and technologies to boost their productivity and capability.

Shifting hiring processes for the new working model 

In effect, as you craft your remote hiring strategy, here are some aspects you need to keep in mind:

  • Regroup with business to lay down priorities
  • Put remote hiring protocols in place and prepare hiring managers for the new normal of hiring 
  • Accelerated adoption of digital tools
  • Acknowledging investment in tech as an imperative and not an option 
  • Mitigating impersonation and fraud during the hiring process
  • Architecting a seamless onboarding experience

Rightly said by Raja, one of the things the pandemic has taught us is to adapt and adopt as fast as possible, as quickly as possible - How flexible you are, how you are able to look at changing circumstances, and changing landscapes and able to adapt to that in a much faster way than used to be - “Your remote hiring and remote hiring technology also has to adapt and adopt at the same pace. Technology today is not a monolith, it is more flexible in the way it operates and that’s what will help make it flexible for changing circumstances.”

Click here to access the Remote Hiring Week 2020: Virtual Panel Discussion.

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Topics: Recruitment, #RemoteHiringWeek2020

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