By Margaret Resce Milkint and Joyce B. Dunn
As organizations settle into operating within a virtual work environment, standard activities are transforming, including hiring techniques. Entire interview processes are now taking place behind screens and insurers must creatively adapt their approaches to talent acquisition in order to remain competitive. There’s a brand-new rule book in play, with companies often learning as they go and evolving their strategies accordingly. With the current and transitioning state of work persisting indefinitely, organizations can no longer wait for their physical offices to reopen before making a hire.
It’s common for hiring managers to have initial hesitations around presenting an offer to someone with whom they’ve never been in the same room, shared a meal or shaken hands. Yet, critical positions can’t go unfilled. It’s important to accept business as usual has changed and to move forward in a brave and bold fashion.
In spite of the pandemic, the insurance industry continues to experience a war for talent. Unemployment remains low compared to the overall economy and insurers are still vying for top candidates. Companies that don’t take a leap of faith, play a bit of offense and trust their hiring processes are going to fall behind as their competitors move forward. Failing to evolve and develop creative solutions for remote hiring is no longer a viable option.
Adapting to the New State of Business
The abrupt shift to a virtual environment has no doubt impacted many areas of business, not just hiring. Leaders are moving forward with business agility and are becoming more comfortable making significant decisions around a variety of issues without having traditional in-person discussions. Professionals who were not previously accustomed to video conferencing have invited it into their daily routines. Collectively, leaders are learning to connect and engage with employees, service customers and maintain productivity levels from their home offices. While just a few months ago the idea of hiring someone you’d never met in person may have been inconceivable, so did the concept of operating in a primarily remote environment. Professionals are adjusting to this new way of working and growing their ability to do business virtually and successfully.
The business world will not soon return to what it once was, even as states emerge from shelter-in-place orders. Numerous organizations have already curtailed travel for the remainder of the year and now that effective work-at-home programs are in place, it’s likely they will continue in some form even as restrictions loosen. However, business will continue and waiting to move forward with hiring decisions—or other pending needs—will result in lost opportunities.
Transforming the Hiring Process
It’s likely your organization has a well-developed recruiting and hiring process that previously involved in-person meetings and touchpoints. While it’s no longer possible to meet face-to-face, it is possible to translate many of these experiences to the virtual world. Recently, we shared how to recreate the candidate experience within the remote interview process. Outside of formal interviews, schedule video calls over coffee for your top candidates to talk with future peers and key stakeholders on a more casual basis and gain a better feeling for the team and organizational culture. It’s also important to discuss your virtual onboarding program and how you will support the candidate’s transition if they are selected. Open and active communication is a crucial success factor in the virtual hiring experience on both sides of the table.
If relocation will eventually be required, be flexible with relocation packages and timing. Create a high-level framework that enables both parties to feel comfortable. This could mean setting the expectation that relocation benefits may be extended due to elongated work-at-home scenarios. If an offer is made in the fall, it could mean postponing relocation until the end of the school year. Unknown factors such as buying and selling a home in the current market should also be taken into account.
Outside of logistics, proactively translate more personal touchpoints to the virtual world. Plan a virtual lunch or dinner with candidates and if applicable, their spouses or significant others. Connect them to individuals within or outside the organization who can answer questions around local schools and neighborhoods, much as you would within your typical process. Schedule virtual home tours with real estate agents, and supply the candidate with resources and information to help supplement the inability to travel to your office location.
Confidently Moving Forward
If possible, add a step in your process for a broader group to have short back-to-back interviews with the candidate. This enables hiring managers to recap experiences and help confirm a decision about an individual’s viability, as well as talk through any areas of concern or hesitation. Additionally, while references have always been part of the hiring process, we’re finding they’re holding even greater clout in the current environment. This additional external insight should help further validate the decision to move forward.
Embrace a new type of virtual hiring process and trust that it works. If you have done your due diligence with thorough vetting and assessments, be confident in your decisions. Business is continuing to move forward within insurance and top candidates are willing to take a leap of faith and be proactive with their careers. Don’t miss out on the right talent. Organizations are facing a pivot point and virtual hiring will be the reality for the foreseeable future. Trust your process and your team and feel assured moving forward, even in these non-traditional times.