Meet & Engage

Bringing the human touch to recruitment during coronavirus

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This article was originally published by People Management. You can view the original article here.

By Ali Hackett

Employers using live chats and video when hiring remotely could find they have a competitive edge when the crisis ends

Among all the seismic changes over the past few weeks, one of the quickest in our world of recruitment is the wholesale transfer online of talent acquisition activities. In many cases, this has also taken on an urgency necessitated by coronavirus, as supermarkets, delivery companies and care organisations have used virtual techniques to employ much-needed new people to meet the switches in demand.

It’s been impressive to see how well organisations that may have been dipping their toes into online recruitment over recent years have adapted to circumstances and speedily upscaled their efforts to meet customer needs while keeping employees safe.

This is such a fast-moving situation that now online recruitment has been entirely normalised in a way that might have seemed impossible only a month ago. What I believe we are now seeing is the emergence of some organisations going beyond just the provision of pure recruitment ‘process’ online. By ‘process’ I mean the nuts and bolts of taking on new starters – the applicant tracking system, interviewing and vetting. This much at least was certainly in fairly regular use pre-coronavirus, although it has been massively extended since the global lockdowns began.

But what I believe is now starting to put some employers ahead is looking at how they can use digital tech to bring some good old-fashioned human interaction into the experience. I’m talking about, for example, using live video streaming to enable your CEO to give a talk to prospective candidates, motivating them at a time of such uncertainty. Or perhaps a video that features current employees talking directly to new recruits.

Video is a powerful medium at any point in the recruitment process, whether for recruits who are about to start, those still applying or those who you think may be prospects for the future. And it is particularly high value at the moment when social interaction isn’t possible, and yet conversely so valuable when it does happen.

In just the same way that Skyping grandma is now so motivating for all concerned, being able to listen to a broadcast from your potential or future employer gives you a sense of connectedness that just reading about the job cannot. This is particularly relevant if the job you will be doing will involve working from home or with minimal contact with colleagues.

An online chat facility is another recruitment tech platform that is working particularly well during the current crisis for connecting people. This is a great way for a group of candidates to all ask questions of one or two ‘experts’ and have some discussion between them all. It helps new recruits to learn about a particular type of job and an organisation. And it’s a fantastic way for new starters to get to know each other and create a cohort that can be mutually supportive.

In the past, live chats were often used for a very specific purpose – for allowing a Q&A between, say, a senior female engineer and potential female candidates. Now, the opportunity is for a chat with a more nurturing tone that can be targeted at a much wider group.

It’s a technique that’s also very useful for intra-organisation support. We heard of one leading retailer in recent weeks, for example, using a live chat strategy so that its central recruitment team could support hiring managers once the lockdown started. There’s also a global consulting firm that is using group chat to help students work on their personal ‘brands’, giving them generic career help without expecting immediate payback. This is a valuable use of the tech to support a group that will be feeling quite vulnerable right now as they consider how to navigate the world of work for the first time.

Bringing this quality of interaction and supportiveness to the recruitment function right now is going to pay huge dividends to organisations. It’s a way to effectively translate online the currency of kindness that is one of the more positive societal effects of this virus.

We all hope that an end to coronavirus will bring us back into contact with each other again. But the switch to online recruitment will likely remain, as many more people have quickly become more comfortable with the use of virtual ways of communicating. My prediction is that it will be the organisations that focus on ‘wrapping’ the functional online hiring process with a way to promote a sense of engagement and connection that will be first in line for the attention of top talent moving forward.

As we’ve seen from all the emailed announcements from supermarket CEOs in recent weeks, a crisis drives a human need to feel that those in authority are taking charge and care. Bringing an extra layer of interaction to the process of online recruitment will help to demonstrate this.

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