The Virtual Worker Is Here To Stay

Stating the obvious, 2020-2021 has been a trying time for the world.  As the saying goes in Batman, it’s always darkest right before the dawn.  The US is inching back to normalcy, but employers are still challenged with finding workers.  I’m personally not one that advocates turning everything completely upside-down, but historic employment practices specific to hiring will likely have to be adjusted to find and retain the current workforce.

A few months ago, the office I work at started to bring some of our corporate staff back to work, of course following CDC and state COVID-19 protocols.  The company experienced tremendous growth and we were hiring for multiple positions.  I was on the phone with a candidate and felt the individual was qualified, so I extended an invitation for an on-site interview with the hiring manager.  My proposal was kindly denied and the candidate offered to be available for a Zoom interview.

If you haven’t experience this yet, you likely will at some point.  In my professional opinion, this trend will continue for some time.  For me, this is a clear lesson that employers need to be flexible in their hiring practices.

If an employer doesn’t accept the changing times and pivot, fill rates will grow and good talent may be missed.  HR should be leading the effort with management to evaluate the various positions within the organization to determine how critical it is to have a specific position in the office full-time.  There is clear value in having in-person collaboration; however, imagine if you could open up the candidate pool across state lines and not really sacrifice much.  Imagine if you loved to fish and all the sudden you were able to fish in every lake in the US simultaneously.

To get to a place of flexibility within your workplace, start by asking what positions are essential in the office and why.  Once you have identified positions that are non-essential for the office setting, review how you could keep them engaged within the company (videos, emails, virtual meetings, company SWAG, etc.).  Now that you have answered these questions, it’s time to review and adjust your hiring procedures.  At my organization, we require at least a two-step interview process with the management team.  Offer alternatives for these interviews (in-person or virtual).

Over 10 years ago I worked for a company and we had over 60 field-based employees.  Rarely did we ever meet any of those candidates during the hiring process.  We interviewed them completely remote and guess what, it worked…eventually.  At first, we missed on several candidates; but eventually we knew exactly why we were missing and we figured out what kind of candidate was the best fit.  From there, we were able to develop a very valid and reliable screening process with interview questions and activities that accurately gauged the best fit for our positions.

There will be people like me that will always want the traditional office to work at.  But for every ‘me’ there is someone that wants more flexibility for where they work and when.  Work with your team to implement flexible processes and environment to attract and retain a workforce without boundaries.

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