Over the last 18 months, industries and teams around the globe have had the challenge of adapting to a newly distanced workforce. Every process has been subject to unprecedented changes and alterations, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world’s businesses. Now, as organizations begin to move back towards a hybrid or office-based workforce, teams are faced with the challenge of adapting a ‘new normal’ — using what they have learned during the pandemic to make offices a safer, more productive environment for employees.

Hiring and onboarding have been some of the hardest challenges when it comes to COVID-19’s impact on the global workforce. Millions of employees faced job losses and temporary layoffs, and many were forced to pivot their careers in a totally new direction. At the same time, HR teams were re-focusing their energy on remote hiring — finding interviewing, and onboarding candidates virtually Many of those who started new jobs in 2020 have still never met their colleagues in person. 

Now, HR teams are preparing a return to an in-person framework for recruiting and onboarding new employees. What changes should HR professionals prepare for in returning to the office? How should they approach in-person onboarding as the pandemic continues? What are the priorities that HR teams can target to improve employee experience?

How has hiring and onboarding changed since the pandemic?

In April 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate reached its peak of the pandemic, at a huge 14.7%, with 20.5 million people out of work. The sudden flood of newly unemployed and furloughed people into the candidate pool meant that many had to upskill or even make a career pivot to remain afloat. 

According to a survey of 4,000 workers by Aviva earlier this year, 60% of UK workers intend to make changes to their career as a result of the pandemic, including finding a completely different vocation (9%) or taking on a role that helps others (8%). 

While the prospect of unemployment can be a great motivator, it’s not the only reason that workers worldwide are considering a career change. According to Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, of the 26% of workers surveyed who plan to switch jobs post-COVID, 80% are doing so because they’re concerned about career advancement.

It’s up to HR and hiring managers to bridge the gap between disengaged candidates and their new career goals. Such disruption in the hiring industry can be seen as a hindrance, but it’s also a huge opportunity for innovation and growth. So how can you harness that opportunity and prepare for the return to the office?

What will change when we return to the office?

So, what will the post-pandemic office look like for new hires? There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to migrating back to an office environment — including social distancing measures, cleanliness and hygiene standards, and the possibility of a hybrid model for employees. 

The post-COVID workspace will be much more flexible, with the focus shifting from nurturing a strictly in-office culture to an emphasis on work/life balance and being adaptable to employee’s lifestyles.

Managers should be aware of what they need to do to ensure a safe and supportive workspace for their team members, with hiring teams especially responsible for new hires’ first impressions of the office. 

Onboarding will also take on a different look for the post-COVID workforce. While hiring teams have spent the last 18 months adapting to remote interviews, digital contracts, and Zoom ice-breakers, now is the time to take what you’ve learned during the pandemic, and put it to use for a new generation of workers. 

How to implement in-person hiring

So, what are some best practices to consider when it comes to in-person hiring? From sourcing to signing contracts, here are some of our top tips:

  • Look past location for sourcing new talent: Hopeful candidates have been upskilling and honing their interview techniques for 18 months now, so your hiring team should have no issue finding fantastic talent for open positions. However, make sure not to fall into old habits and only stick to tried-and-tested parameters for potential hires. Look past location (remote working has been proven to work well for many industries), previous experience (many have pivoted to new career paths), and backgrounds to dig deeper into what makes a truly great candidate. How do you want your post-COVID workforce to look? If diverse, multi-skilled, practical, and problem-solving are your answers (hint: they should be), you may have to cast a wider net to find the perfect fit.
  • Consider your candidate’s circumstances when reaching out for next steps: You’ve found a fantastic candidate and you want them to come in for an interview. But remember, we are in the ‘new normal,’ and it’s essential to be considerate of your candidate’s unique circumstances when inviting them into your office. Are they able to travel? Is the office accessible to them? Can they comfortably comply with COVID measures in the office? It’s important to hash these issues out early, as these factors will become important in the next stages.
  • Implement a strict process for in-person interviews: When bringing multiple candidates in to interview, it’s imperative to keep your office as safe as possible while the pandemic is ongoing. Social distancing measures, proper cleaning and hygiene protocols, and contact tracing processes must be in place before interviews can take place. Ask for candidate’s feedback and be sure to take any criticisms they have on board going forward.
  • Don’t relax your standards once hiring ends: When your candidate has signed their contract, this doesn’t mean that your COVID policy can be forgotten. A positive onboarding experience is essential to a new hire staying in your company for the long haul. Ask about the working model that is best for them, and what would make them more comfortable in your workspace. 

Habits to keep from remote hiring and onboarding

While you may be looking forward to getting back to meeting candidates in-person, keep in mind the habits and lessons from remote hiring and onboarding that you’ve learned so far.

  • Flexibility is key
    We’ve learned throughout the pandemic that innovation can be found anywhere where flexibility is prioritized. When you allow your candidates to be creative with their applications, their interviews, and their ways of working, you open your organization up to be the best it can be.
  • Life/work balance — not the other way around
    The pandemic has forced organizations worldwide to reckon with the pressure they put on employees. Late nights spent at the office does not necessarily mean that your employee is being more productive or doing their best work. It’s important to prioritize a life/work balance for your new hires moving forward. What does that look like for them, and how can you facilitate that to encourage their best work?
  • Great communication makes for great hires
    Working remotely has lead to teams everywhere reconsidering their communication levels. How we check in, how often, and in what way really matters in allowing your employees to feel secure and supported in their work. Remember this throughout the onboarding process for new hires — allow them to flourish, while remaining on-hand for anything they need.

How Wrike can help your hiring process post-pandemic

Need some extra support to navigate the changing hiring landscape? Wrike’s work management platform gives hiring managers complete transparency and control over their onboarding processes.

  • Keep track of all job listings and potential hires with an organization-wide view of projects, all in one place
  • Stay connected and give feedback in real-time to your hiring teams with Wrike’s collaboration tools
  • Remote work templates allow your teams to jump right in and streamline their processes from the very beginning

Give it a try with a two-week free trial.