Virtual Recruitment and Onboarding

In the general slow-down of the market during the first half of 2020, high-level governance positions seemed to be among the less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and luckily only very few of the recruitment processes that we as a team were working on before the start of the lock-down were frozen or put on hold; however new vacancy volumes were much lower through Q2. The current global situation has resulted in a renewed need for qualified governance professionals in the financial services sector, capable to deal with the several unprecedented changes related to new market conditions, new working practices, and the general state of uncertainty. In this context, one of the new challenges we have had to assist our clients and candidates with is the management of fully virtual recruitment processes, including the following phases of onboarding. 

As a company, Barclay Simpson has had around 60% of candidates starting new roles in European jurisdictions in 2020 in a full working-from-home regime and has made around 50% of its new placements through completely virtual recruitment processes. 

We have assisted most of our clients in putting together detailed recruitment procedures specifically designed to meet the challenges raised by adding a new member of staff, often in a senior or even executive position, without ever having met them in person, shaking hands with any of their team members, or setting foot in the office once. The best approach in this sense has proven to be to tailor the tools, measures and procedures adopted on the specific company and role. 

To begin with, a lot of job descriptions are now being revised for an extra level of detail and clarity, and once a candidate has been offered a role, they are usually accompanied by an employee handbook, which should include all the essential company rules and compliance matters, as well as an overview of the scope, code of conduct, mission and values of the organisation. 

One immediate positive effect of managing a recruitment process while the world is in lock-down is the higher availability of candidates to sit interviews saving transportation time, and avoiding the bad feelings of leaving the office for a meeting with a new potential employer. This does seem to make the whole experience much less stressful for most of the professionals we work with, so that they can concentrate more and perform better. On the other hand, we have also witnessed a higher and more intense involvement of the senior managers from the early stages of the interviewing process.

However, from the candidate’s perspective, the impossibility to have a physical and in-person experience with their new colleagues and of the new working environment can result in a need for a more detailed presentation of the company, including details on the organization of the day-to-day working schedule and on the habits of the life in the office, to which at some point they will ‘return’, together with the rest of the company. Although we all expect remote working to become more integrated in our professional routine in the near future, a very important question for many candidates who are undergoing a virtual recruitment process is: what will the office-life look like?

To try and provide them with an answer to these questions, we suggest our clients to facilitate extra informal meetings with the rest of the team from the last phases of the recruitment process, including both individually and as groups, to give perspective new employees a chance to get a grasp of the atmosphere and ask less formal questions.  With the partial reopening of the offices in the last few months, virtual office tours are an option whereas some candidates at offer stage have had the chance to visit their future company premises, always in compliance with the relevant national Health and Safety COVID-19 regulations.

For onboarding, we have seen both cases of candidates having the working tools such as electronic devices and starter packs delivered directly at home, and, as soon as restrictions were partially eased in each country, candidates given ‘first-day’ inductions in person at the office. The latter usually saw the involvement of only two or three people, including the candidate, the line manager and a member of the HR department.

Virtual onboarding has also become more integrated in the HR practices of our clients. Following a tailored checklist and path, it usually involves representatives from different divisions of the company and takes the form of video conferences, webinars, videos, online working packages, and interactive tasks that facilitate the connection with new hires through the web. The fact that the new employees will not experience office life from day one does not mean they would not enjoy being treated with some branded goodies or small gifts such as the company pens and paper, branded headphones or t-shirts, etc. On the contrary, these small investments are usually worthwhile as they help new starters integrate themselves within their teams and the company while making them feel cared about as a new team member

One interesting aspect for our clients is the possibility to rely on a large choice of online software and apps that have proven to be helpful not only to organise the onboarding agenda, manage the digital paperwork, but also to make the new employee more familiar with the company online systems and learning tools. Together with my colleagues, I am ready to offer our clients and candidates customised advice on all these aspects, to make recruitment and onboarding processes as smooth as possible on both sides. 

The Europe Team at Barclay Simpson, cover governance-related recruitment for financial services institutions in Continental Europe, and my main focuses are Risk Management and Compliance positions in France and the BeNeLux region. To discuss your recruitment needs further, please contact me via email to arrange a call or VC.