I joined Berwick Partners on the 4th May 2020, mid-way through a global pandemic and nationwide lockdown. I’m sure there is no perfect or text-book way to onboard new staff during any wide-reaching crisis. I am, however, sure that those who are able to successfully hire new staff, while doing what’s right by their existing staff, will be among those who will not just survive a crisis but thrive.
I’m sure facilitating my remote onboarding was made easier by the experience Berwick Partners have from guiding many clients through remote hiring processes since early March. The stages of remote hiring have been developed, researched and discussed widely by Berwick both internally, and in external forums and blogs. As a result, it seems that across many industries; facilitating a remote process where possible, will be required for a long time to come.
There is no routine way to onboard during any crisis, with the situation changing daily. The impact on the ever-changing business landscape means companies must be agile; especially when it comes to hiring. From my experience of joining Berwick Partners, the most successful hires during times of uncertainty and constant change, boil down to three things; regular communication, honesty and making the individual feel like they are already a valued part of the team, regardless of any external circumstances.
The most important factor, and the most reassuring part of my experience was consistent communication, both from my recruiter but most importantly from my new company and team. I don’t believe daily updates are required (nor did I need them), but weekly correspondence was very comforting that I firstly wasn’t forgotten about, and secondly it enabled me to start to build those relationships internally, when face-to-face was no longer possible. Even when there was no formal update it was great to receive calls and e-mails to hear how the company was handling changes such as working from home, socialising internally and new client processes. What I found even more encouraging was to have more than one person communicating those updates to me. Between interview stage and starting, I had semi-regular conversations with people within the business, HR and management functions of Berwick. Regular opportunities to communicate ensure your future employee feels they are listened too, respected and can ask any questions they need, ensuring they have everything to get going quickly and successfully in their new job.
Secondly; honesty. It can be an anxious and vulnerable time looking for work, or moving jobs, even more so during a global crisis - as humans we have a common habit of imagining the worst-case scenario. Honesty and building trust between an employer and employee are fundamental to a successful hire. Throughout the 6 weeks between leaving my last job and joining Berwick, I was given updates on what my onboarding timeline looked like, where we were in the process and how the company was looking in general (and with regards to the current crisis). Even when things didn’t go as initially planned; such as it taking some time to source a laptop when no one could get into the office, or when new induction materials needed to be written, I was kept in the loop and given the information around what was happening and how that changed or helped me. This enabled me to focus on more realistic timelines and outcomes, and to prepare accordingly. The role a recruiter can play during an onboarding process is also important especially in times of wider uncertainty; for me, it gave me someone to have an honest conversation with about how I was feeling, and to bounce ideas off of around how to best prepare for the new job. They also gave reassurance, and insight into how others in the same space were performing in the current climate, building upon my knowledge and insight of my market going into the new role.
The human touch
There is another level to onboarding above just keeping future employees informed. There is an added human touch to make them feel like they are already a valued member of the team - which will ensure they are well prepared on what to expect, and excited to get going in the job; members of the senior management team personally stayed in contact, checking in and remembering things we had discussed during my interview the months before, adding an extra level of reassurance and confidence about the company and the culture I was joining, in a slightly unusual circumstance. The ability to make a new hire feel valued as an individual at such an early stage of onboarding can be invaluable, as it will ensure even if things change or unexpected things happen (like Coronavirus), that the process of getting them onboard is helpful, enjoyable and efficient.
While it was an easy decision for me when I received an offer to join the Berwick team, being onboarded in such a unusual circumstance and seeing it done in such an adaptable manner has given me new insight into what a successful search and onboarding process can look like. I have no doubt businesses who can be agile enough, and accomplish this during times of crisis and downturn, will be those who flourish in future months and years.