Working Remotely: How to conduct pre-employment screening and onboarding

Cem Baris 17.04.2020

Interviewing, pre-employment screening and onboarding can all be completed remotely by hiring organisations. And it's easier than you might think...

How can you harness the current situation?

The adjusted working environment has been an enormous change for many organisations - but a remote working model is nothing new. Plenty of companies have been running effectively (and incredibly successfully) either fully remotely or with certain teams working remotely for some time now. 

Technology is advanced enough nowadays that you can be confident teams will be able to communicate and continue to function regardless of where each employee is based. In the same vein, even areas which would previously have been completed in person, such as interviewing, pre-employment screening and onboarding, can be completed remotely. 

Thanks to these easy-to-use tools, most organisations continue to function and many, from a range of industries, continue to interview, hire and onboard new employees without meeting face-to-face, with many organisations using the slow business period to focus on recruiting for upcoming projects. More than anything, it is important to be flexible in these uncertain times and beyond that, there are a few key considerations for those companies who are still hiring:

  • Be realistic when setting provisional start dates 
  • Be aware of any delays to pre-employment screening 
  • Be proactive with their hiring plans if they have upcoming projects with deadlines, start the recruitment process early because of possible delays 
  • Think outside the box regarding their internal onboarding/induction processes
  • Be aware of any follow up actions

Below is a bit more in-depth information surrounding what you should be thinking about for pre-employment screening and onboarding when processes are completed remotely...

Remotely conducting pre-employment screening

There are a number of considerations for the following 4 areas of pre-employment screening:

Right to work checks

The Home Office announced temporary changes on 30th April regarding conducting right to work checks. This is to make it easier for employers to carry out checks during the pandemic where they can no longer check documents in person with the candidate present. Scanned copies/photos of right to work documents can now be accepted, as long as a video call is conducted to verify the identity of the candidate in the digital document. It should be recorded as an “adjusted check due to COVID-19”, with the date clearly stated. 

NOTE: Retrospective checks in line with the standard process will need to be carried out for existing employees within 8 weeks once the Home Office announce that the temporary measures have come to an end.

Criminal checks

On 30th March the 2 bodies responsible for conducting criminal checks in the UK (Disclosure and Barring Service [DBS] and Disclosure Scotland) announced temporary arrangements for their checks. Both have identified a list of prioritised sectors that are critical to helping with the continued fight against COVID-19 and will be fast-tracking applications for those working in healthcare and social care, as well as suspending fees. Inevitably, this means non-critical applications for those not working in these prioritised sectors may be delayed. Candidates who have lived internationally may also be required to have non-UK criminal checks conducted - these may also be delayed due to their country having closed their record offices. 

Employment referencing checks

We are also seeing some delays with obtaining employment references. Many companies have taken the government up on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, meaning staff have been furloughed. Additionally, some organisations do not have sufficient access to records when working from home. We have therefore been working with candidates to provide alternative evidence that verifies their employment i.e. payslips showing first and last payment, copies of contracts, payment remittances.

Education verification

One of our background screening partners, HireRight, recently announced they are delivering most of their screening services on time but as expected they are experiencing delays with regards to education verification services. This is due to the institutions they rely on being temporarily closed, however most have kept their electronic resources available. We have therefore been working with candidates to provide alternative evidence that verifies their education i.e. certificates. Once more, flexibility may be required.

Further to these 4 key areas, with candidates staying at home, many do not have access to printers and scanners. Therefore, it is important for hiring organisations to accept e-signed documents including employment contracts, confidentiality agreements and internal policies - you should consider legally binding technology like DocuSign or HelloSign

Remote onboarding and induction processes

We continue to hear heaps of positive stories about clients using technology which enables them to complete the onboarding and induction processes for new employees who have started during the lockdown.

The first thing hiring organisations need to do is to review their current processes that rely on face-to-face interactions i.e. induction days and system training. Can these be tweaked or transformed so they can be conducted remotely in the form of video calls or pre-recorded videos? If your new employee has to use a company laptop and accompanying hardware, how can this be delivered to them?  

One of our clients went one step further than just sending equipment via courier - the line manager personally dropped the laptop at the new employee’s house themselves before running back up the path!   

Some other things to think about which will help your new joiner feel part of the team, regardless of where they are working from;

  • Creating an email version of a ‘welcome package’ that contains everything the new starter needs to know about the organisation
  • Pre-arranged onboarding plan, task calendar, induction videos
  • Team integration, run meet and greet calls with the team, organise virtual team drinks on a Friday
  • Send a branded coffee cup or headphones with a handwritten note from their new manager
  • Schedule welcome calls with key stakeholders and senior management within the business
  • Help them familiarise themselves with your communication tools including email platform, group messaging tools, video conference software and webphone system
  • Information on how your company is responding to COVID-19 and how you will be minimising the damage to your business 

Perhaps the key things to take away from all this is that being flexible and strong levels of communication are vital to helping your organisation navigate through these uncertain times. Especially when it comes to new employees, there is no such thing as over communication.

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