As the business community starts to rebound from the impact of COVID-19 and job vacancy numbers begin to mirror pre-pandemic levels once again, companies need to build on what was learned during the pandemic to continue attracting a more diverse workforce – and to support all employees throughout their time with a company.
All businesses have had to overcome significant challenges over the past 18 months as the global health crisis has taken hold in the UK.
From trying to continue trading through periods of restriction and lockdown, to ensuring the safety of staff and customers, as well as managing the large number of employees who were asked to work remotely for the first time. But the day-to-day needs of businesses have also remained.
A key area – recruitment – has been particularly hard hit due to the obvious difficulties of attracting new talent and expanding diversity and inclusion within an organisation during such an unprecedented period.
Together with uncertainty about how the crisis would ultimately affect business performance, recruitment strategies had to be carefully managed.
At Volkswagen Financial Services we’ve worked hard to make our virtual interviewing and onboarding processes as comfortable as possible for both candidates and hiring managers. It’s been a new experience for many, but our proactive approach to embracing technology, as well as a commitment to improving our teams, has paid dividends.
For example, in July last year we virtually on-boarded 28 new undergraduate colleagues on the same day – at a time when other companies had withdrawn similar opportunities.
Maintaining our digital networking presence to share ideas and support others during the crisis has been hugely important, too. Research from our data insights team shows that the number of people following the Volkswagen Financial Services UK LinkedIn page grew by 31% between March 2020 and March 2021.
In fact, 67% of our external hires used the LinkedIn platform to engage and explore job opportunities with us during this period.
Within the automotive sector as a whole, however, positive signs of an upturn are apparent with the reported 64% year-on-year increase in job opportunities. There is better news for the financial services sector which has seen a 72% increase when compared to May 2020*.
These are good examples of a jobs market that is bouncing back and evidence that candidate demand for new openings and wider career choice is set to accelerate once again.
One significant recruitment trend that has emerged since early 2020 has been the importance and effectiveness of online recruitment channels. It is because of this that investment in improving online has been essential for our sector. This is both to combat the challenge of lockdown restrictions and drive forward greater employee accessibility, diversity, and inclusion commitment.
For example, we have used Recite Me software on our company recruitment website to increase accessibility to career opportunities for people with disabilities or potential language barriers.
The work so far has found that nearly 500 pages on the Volkswagen Financial Services website have been reviewed using the Recite Me toolbar, allowing candidates to perform at their best.
Translation tools and reading aids have been popular in helping people overcome language barriers or for those dealing with dyslexia issues gain the company insight on Volkswagen Financial Services they want.
Most of the access to the site using the Recite Me tool has been through desktop devices, with others choosing to use mobile technology.
Furthermore, our business continues to offer recruitment training workshops – with a renewed emphasis on inclusive resourcing – for all hiring managers to upskill their management toolkits and recruit top talent.
Onboarding in a supportive way
Initial recruitment is just the start of what is an ongoing process to support and nurture staff as they commence employment – albeit in the different circumstances brought about by COVID-19.
Starting a new job can be daunting at the best of times – from meeting new co-workers to the pressure to make a good first impression and learning new processes and procedures.
But how does it feel to apply for and begin a new job, when the country is in the midst of a global pandemic, and everyone is working at home?
What if, rather than walking into an unfamiliar office on the first day, the new workplace is a living room, where employees are expected to juggle introductory video calls and emails? What if a new member of staff’s only interaction with co-workers is virtual and the opportunity to meet face-to-face remains in the future?
Conscious of these important factors, over the past year Volkswagen Financial Services has seen many new starters join departments throughout the business and has worked hard to make the virtual onboarding process as easy as possible.
The business has put in place measures and greater flexibility, including significant investments to support employees. These involve the continued investment of our Wellbeing Centre, the training of Mental Health First Aiders to help colleagues struggling with mental health issues and further support for workers through an Employee Assistance Programme.
Such investments have paid off with new starters embracing the wellbeing culture at Volkswagen Financial Services and helping the business to be recognised by Great Place to Work as the 18th best place to work in its annual Great Place to Work Super Large Category for Best Workplaces™.
Sam Balls joined Volkswagen Financial Services as PR & Social Manager in March 2021, having previously worked for Rightmove. Applying for a new job during a lockdown came with its own challenges, as Sam comments: “The interview process was a little daunting given that everything was done virtually, so it was perhaps a little harder to build instant rapport with my interviewers. However, all the people I spoke to across the various stages of the process put me at ease and were very friendly.
“I felt a little anxious about joining during lockdown and not being able to meet my new colleagues face to face. I was also genuinely worried that I would not be able to get into my laptop to work on the first day. But everyone in the team has been really welcoming, which has made me feel right at home.”
James Tomlin joined Volkswagen Financial Services in January this year as General Manager – Customer Services. With lockdown three beginning the day after he started, James’ early days with the company were impacted.
He says: “Not being able to visit the office for an interview was challenging, as you like to see the environment you could be working in. Joining the day before lockdown three also made for an interesting induction. The most difficult part has been the lack of face-to-face interactions. The video conferencing alternative is good but there is no substitute for sitting down with someone face to face.”
All companies have faced onboarding challenges during lockdown. However, the HR team at Volkswagen Financial Services quickly realised that different people prefer different methods of communications and ensured that the business made a range of communications available to employees – prospective, new, and longer term.
The long-term implications of the pandemic on the general health of the nation are still to be fully assessed. But in the world of business, the prevailing circumstances have led many to rethink how best to attract, engage with, support and nurture new talent, as well as continuing to promote better diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.
The advent of a hybrid working model that offers a mixture of office-based and home working, and the creation of less rigid workplace practices, will mean that for many companies the short-term lessons about how best to navigate a pandemic will result in long-term change to the way they operate.
Recruitment strategies and employee support programmes certainly fall into this category. Those that prioritise their importance will be well positioned to continue to attract the best talent and open even more opportunity for many others as the jobs market regains its pre-pandemic power once again.