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HR teams must deliver a consistent employee experience during a time of uncertainty

Ivan Harding, Co-Founder & CEO - Applaud

2020 hit businesses with an extraordinary amount of change in a very short amount of time. In particular, HR departments have been tasked with the additional challenges of making crucial and difficult decisions for the safety of staff and survival of the business. These decisions have ranged from ensuring all staff are set up to work remotely, to urgently arranging new virtual recruitment and onboarding processes. While HR has always been vital to business success, this year has thrust them, and their decisions, firmly into the spotlight.

Our YouGov research revealed that almost half (45%) of HR Directors (HRDs) believe that ensuring employees receive a consistent employee experience will be the greatest challenge over the coming months of hybrid working. This was followed by creating a strong company culture (43%), maintaining transparent and clear communication between the business and its employees (40%) and delivering a positive and seamless onboarding experience (24%). 

Where many companies were starting to get comfortable with remote and hybrid working before the pandemic, this has now become the ‘new normal’ and many employees have reported expecting hybrid/flexible working as a minimum in a post-COVID era. Moving from tentative first steps into a pure hybrid working model will be no mean feat for HR leaders to accomplish, all whilst causing minimum disruption to the business. All eyes are on HR to get this right, as getting it wrong could have (at best) negative impacts on employee engagement, and at worst could impact employee retention and talent attraction.

The rise of digital processes
In order to accommodate this shift towards hybrid working, businesses are starting to prioritise spending their resources on digital environments, rather than physical ones. For example, over a quarter (29%) of HRDs plan to spend more on their digital than physical employee experiences. This is a positive step as, now more than ever before, prospective employees will gravitate towards employers that have focused on creating a digital employee experience similar to the seamless interactions they have as consumers.

However, investment in the right places and good intention is not enough to ensure the success of shifting from a temporary world of remote working towards permanent hybrid working. The first step is breaking down the distinction between the physical and digital employee engagement and creating a consistent experience irrespective of the environment. This will mean overcoming technology silos and creating employee journeys that bring the physical and digital together. 

Recruitment and onboarding in a virtual environment
One big area of focus for organisations as we move into 2021 will be the recruitment and onboarding process. The pandemic has already driven significant uptake in virtual recruitment and onboarding with some innovative companies using crisis as an opportunity to overhaul and create digital processes that are as good, or even better than their physical ones. 

The need for continued change and innovation is clear. Research finds, for example, that over 70 percent of online applicants never receive a formal reply after a job application and online recruitment experiences have largely been characterised as impersonal and numbers focused. 

Data from the Human Capital Institute also revealed that one fifth of new hires leave a job within the first 45 days following a bad onboarding experience. In a virtual and hybrid working environment, the potential to go wrong with onboarding is all the more acute. HRDs can improve their processes to give new joiners  a great virtual start ahead of  their first day.  Some things to consider include: 

> Keeping existing employees involved in the recruitment process, not just managers. This can  create opportunities for candidates to schedule video chats with colleagues on their team or in the wider business to gain a greater understanding  of ‘real-life’ at your company

> Making the recruitment process flexible and agile so it can be personalised, ensuring no candidates are ruled out due to outdated company policies, for example screening candidates with less than 3 years’ experience 

> Enabling your candidates to check which stage of the recruitment process they are at, so they are aware of next steps and can prepare accordingly

> Having the new joiner complete a ‘get to know you’ survey that  covers a range of topics, from hobbies and pastime activities to their ideal home workstation set up. The information gleaned from this survey can help tailor the welcome they get, such as pairing with a buddy with similar interests and organising their welcome pack 

> Sending a personalised new joiner pack to their door before their first day. This can have a significant impact in making a new employee feel welcomed. The employer can decide what to include in the pack based on the ‘get to know you’ survey, and items can range from branded company merchandise to a voucher for their favourite hot drink 

> Organising group video calls with larger teams or individual colleagues within the first week to ensure new starters feel connected and part of the team from the word go 

Although the second lockdown is behind us and the prospect of a vaccine is becoming a reality, businesses will continue to embrace and navigate through the new hybrid working world. As such, the digital employee experience they offer is fundamental to its success in recruiting talent and ensuring new joiners feel comfortable and part of the team from day one. Those that create a personalised and seamless digital employee experience will be ahead of those organisations who do not, and therefore will be in a better place to attract talent and contribute to staff retention. 

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