Business Support

The importance of retaining and recruiting support staff, even during uncertain times

Alyssa Turner - April 14, 2020

Well it has been a very exciting start to the year, and I think we can all say 2020 is a year that we will remember.

COVID-19 has changed our world. Many people have been left uncertain about what to do next, however at u&u our purpose is to “change lives”. At the heart of this, it is ensuring that u&u support staff, our consultants, clients and candidates are safe during this time.

There is no denying that the recruitment landscape has been altered during Coronavirus. Our clients are interviewing and on-boarding new staff virtually and our u&u team have made sure all candidates are setup to work from home. We are now having our client coffee catchups in the comfort of our own homes! Which is not all it’s cracked up to be. This change has allowed many to reflect and review the importance of all staff members and their responsibilities.

I had the opportunity to speak with a client in Brisbane who said; “it’s amazing to see that so many support staff from receptionists, to executive assistants, office managers and administrators have been stood down, or even been made redundant. When everything first started to change, no one really knew what to do, so they started from the front of the office and worked their way back. However, I know, and can speak for many others; this is not and was not the right move to make.”

Support staff are the backbone of every organisation. Ask any executive who has had their assistant by their side for the majority of their career and they will tell you they couldn’t fulfil their job without this support. So why are we letting go of the ones who allow our businesses to run like a well-oiled machine? The answer, put simply, is that the most successful organisations, aren’t.

Of course, it would be naïve of us to ignore the fact that some organisations simply can’t afford the cost of retaining and recruiting support staff. On the flip side, many of our clients have redeployed their front of house and support staff into other areas of the business to ensure they can keep their jobs. Those that have made this a priority understand the importance of business continuity during these times.

Recruiting new employees, why is now the best time?

  • Certain industries, practice areas and positions have become increasingly busy during this time. Employing new staff, even on a temporary basis, will relieve some of the pressure on current employees and ultimately, encourage staff retention;
  • Support staff ensure the smooth running of day-to-day activities;
  • With many employers making their support staff redundant, we have seen more immediately available candidates reach out to us for assistance in finding their next role, whether that be temporary or permanent.
  • Do you have the resources to continue to recruit? If not, what do you need?

    The way we recruit has drastically changed over the last month and will continue to change as we move through this pandemic. With interviews being conducted via video conference, we’ve compiled a list of the most successful and commonly used virtual interview tools:

  • FaceTime, if all parties are using an Apple iPhone;
  • WhatsApp, allows users of both iPhone and Android, with a maximum of four participants;
  • Skype, can be used on both desktop and mobile;
  • Microsoft Teams, allows participants to share their screen; and
  • Zoom, combines instant messaging and VC and can be used on both desktop and mobile.
  • When conducting virtual interviews, it’s important to recognise that candidates are having to work twice as hard to impress at the interview. As national and regional recruiters, it’s not uncommon for us to conduct initial interviews with candidates via VC and while it’s proven to be successful, the level of engagement doesn’t always add up to that of a face-to-face interview. Both the candidate and employer need to work harder to sell to the other party. Technology plays a vital part in this; an unstable internet connection could result in miscommunication and frustration.

    On-boarding remotely is a new experience for most of us, but after speaking with our clients who have had success, we’ve put together a list of helpful resources:

  • DocuSign, a secure and fast tool that allows documents to be electronically signed;
  • Cisco Jabber, allows for screen-sharing, video conferences and instant messages; and
  • Cisco WebEx, offers interactive online training as well as video conferences and cloud calling.
  • Success stories

    From the client…

    We spoke with one of our clients who recently onboarded a new starter remotely, and here’s what she had to say:
    “It is going great. We are lucky to have such a great candidate that is taking training by phone really well. She is taking everything in and making notes, which is great.”

    What tools or strategies have you found to be the most useful?
    “Jabber has been great. We have a group chat on there, so we are keeping Megan really involved with the whole team. WebEx is also great to share screens and have group meetings.”

    What have you found most difficult when on-boarding remotely?
    “Getting IT set up and having Megan contact IT herself before she evens starts. However, this was resolved pretty quickly by calling the IT helpline.”

    Is there anything you would change about the on-boarding process?
    “No. Everything has gone smoothly, especially given the short timeframe between visas being updated and getting approval from HR.”

    What would your advice be to other hiring managers who are onboarding new starters remotely?
    “Be patient and take regular 10-minute breaks. It involves a lot of talking so all involved will need it. Split the training where possible between other employees. This way the new employee can get the chance to ‘meet’ their colleagues and have some interaction.”

    From the candidate…

    We also spoke with Megan, our candidate who started in her new permanent role to give us her feedback on the on-boarding process.

    “My first day went well. I was a little nervous with the current situation as I had never started a new role under the current circumstances, but my new employer was quick to put me at ease. We began the day by going through and setting up IT. We did a thorough run through of the main computer program and where I would find all of the resources required. All communication was done via phone calls.”

    What tools or strategies have you found to be the most useful?
    “I’ve found it useful to set up a space dedicated to work. So, I can be there and stay focused and when the day is over, close the door and go back to home. Anything that makes communication easy between colleagues is also a huge help, whether that be phone calls, FaceTime, or even just a chat facility.”

    What have you found most difficult when on-boarding remotely?
    “I would say the most difficult thing about on-boarding remotely is not being able to get a feel for your work environment and the team that you will be a part of. I am very lucky that everyone has been super friendly so far, sending me welcoming messages and messages of encouragement.”

    Is there anything you would change about the on-boarding process?
    “I have been very lucky that everyone at this new company has been very welcoming and helpful. Although everyone wishes to be able to go into the office to meet their new team, I don’t think there is anything my new employer could have done differently to make the on-boarding process any smoother.”

    What would your advice be to other people starting a new job remotely?
    “If I had to give advice to anyone who is starting a new job remotely during this unique time, it would be, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is a situation none of us have been in before, so reach out whenever you can. FaceTime also makes it less isolating as you are able to meet other team members virtually and put a face to a name. Creating a designated workspace environment at home also makes it easier to feel as though you are in an office environment. Plus, try to enjoy it. It’s not often you get to eradicate your commute time completely!”

    u&u

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