Onboarding remotely: case study

Author Amy Thomas
July 7, 2020

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, recruitment has moved to being a virtual process which is new for many hiring managers and new employees. The virtual recruitment processes that we have ran have been a great success, and to highlight this, we interviewed Rebecca Pollard, Senior Tax Manager at VIRTUS, who recruited Andrea De Bohun, Interim Senior Tax Manager, into her team. Rebecca and Andrea provide insight into the positive aspects and challenges that they both faced – from interviewing online to onboarding remotely, and also gave their advice for others going through a similar process

Hiring Manager, Rebecca Pollard | Senior Tax Manager 

How have you achieved on-boarding processes that come close to the level of interaction you would have got pre-COVID-19?

The full interview process was undertaken via video calls – this is certainly the next best thing to face-to-face interaction and much more revealing and informative than just an audio call for both parties. Perhaps some of the normal interview formality is removed, but it’s lovely to be able to get a little insight into people’s home lives including the normal day-to-day interruptions such as the postman arriving, dogs and pets causing nuisance and other family members coming in and out.

Induction sessions can be spread out and kept to time, we actually have a number of sites so holding these sessions remotely for a number of new starters at the same time has worked really well.

Fortunately, Andrea was already familiar with our favoured communication tools (Microsoft Teams) – including our tools for IM’ing and video calls so this definitely helped the process. We made absolutely certain to ensure all IT equipment arrived well in advance of Andrea’s first day and that this was up and running immediately. Any extra equipment needed (i.e. keyboard / additional screen) was handled promptly by our IT team to make homeworking as comfortable and productive as possible.

How have you found managing a team and maintaining a feeling of team spirit and collaboration, particularly with a new starter?

We have a dedicated Wellbeing social media channel with weekly challenges – be it cake baking, DJ’ing & playlists, photos etc. with prizes for participation. The level of engagement in this is great and hopefully, a new starter such as Andrea got a real insight into the culture of VIRTUS from the start.

Communication is key so that we do not end up isolated in our own little bubbles and only speaking to one or two direct colleagues, particularly in a standalone in-house tax role. Our CEO also does a firm-wide weekly call – which helps with a general feeling of still being in touch with the whole firm with special anniversaries and birthdays celebrated. I think this really emphasises the firm’s core values and demonstrates this from the top down. VIRTUS has also been proactive and provided a little delivery package to try and ease lockdown boredom and support mental and physical wellbeing during this time – including a skipping rope and indoor boomerang!

We also have a daily check-in with our CFO at the Finance level between the team heads – be this just a quick good morning or a funny GIF to lighten the mood!

How did you introduce Andrea as a new starter to the wider organisation when she started earlier this week?

We have a weekly Monday morning Finance team – where we attempted a round table introduction, which worked well-provided people remembered to unmute themselves! Actually having people’s names and faces on screen (a bit like wearing virtual name tags!) may help with remembering who is who, rather than the normal walk around introductions in an office environment. We try and encourage turning the video on for team calls (where the wifi permits!) to bring that human and social interaction including those with our external advisors.

What positives have you taken away from this new way of onboarding?

Less reliance on having lots of face-to-face meetings as well as a more paperless way of operating (although it would be helpful in tax if HMRC also more widely adopted this approach!)

Having gone through this process recently, what would your advice be to other companies that are going to be doing the same over the next few weeks and possibly months?

It’s important to accept changes and adapt – business and recruitment cannot be put on hold indefinitely until ‘normality’ resumes. Quite simply remote recruitment will work if you put in the effort upfront to be organised.

New Starter, Andrea De Bohun | Interim Senior Tax Manager

What were the challenges for you in being on-boarded remotely and how have you managed these?

The challenge of the first day of a new job was always ensuring traffic and public transport didn’t make you late, but with remote onboarding, the challenges are all to do with the wifi and IT! VIRTUS made sure I had all the necessary IT equipment delivered in advance of my start date and my first Teams meeting was with the IT team to make sure everything was working and to talk me through the systems. The IT systems were all familiar to me from my previous role and the online filing system was very straightforward so it didn’t take long to feel comfortable.

Being the new person in the team and organisation has its challenges in terms of introductions, developing relationships and getting to know the business. Doing this remotely adds another layer of challenges.

How have you dealt with this?

I had anticipated this would be the biggest challenge as there is no opportunity to get to know new colleagues over a coffee or drink after work. VIRTUS had arranged a number of introduction and onboarding meetings on TEAMS with different members of the organisation which were incredibly useful. The finance team already have well-established team meetings during this period of remote working to help everyone stay connected. The whole organisation has a weekly meeting which has been a useful insight into the culture of the organisation and how well it has adapted to maintain connections during this period of remote working. These all helped me start developing relationships and understand the business, but I think the most important thing I have encountered is the effort the whole VIRTUS team has made in taking the time to get to know me and make the process work. Although this was the area I was most concerned about, video calls and the understanding of new colleagues have made this all seem very natural.

Having gone through the process recently, what would your advice be to other candidates going through the same over the next few weeks or possibly longer-term?

Don’t worry and where possible use video calls with new colleagues which is the best substitute for a face-to-face meeting and as a bonus I have already met many of my colleagues’ children, pets and partners!

What would your advice be to organisations going through this with candidates?

Ensure that the IT is in place prior to the start date and organise video calls with key individuals and teams within the organisation over the first few weeks.

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