Remote hiring and onboarding: survey shows managers receive no training

  • The majority of companies across the media, information, technology and entertainment sectors are still hiring during the pandemic.
  • But 69% of business leaders are finding it difficult to onboard new team members remotely.
  • The vast majority of managers (72%) have received no training in distanced interviewing, on-boarding or remote management.
Remote hiring leaves managers in the dark
Left in the dark.

Earlier this month we conducted an industry-wide survey of how business leaders were approaching the process of recruitment and onboarding during lockdown. We surveyed business leaders across a wide range of sectors – including consumer media, business media, research and information providers, education and training businesses, software providers and entertainment companies.

While the pace of hiring has slowed, organisations are still recruiting in key positions

We found that 69% of respondents were still making some hires, although the remainder had stopped recruiting altogether. 41% were recruiting less than they had been before the pandemic, and 24% said their pre-lockdown plans were unchanged. A small number – 3% – were actually recruiting more than previously, largely as a result of unexpected demand for their services. Roughly half of recruitment was taking place at junior level, with 34% at either senior management, executive or C-level.

Hiring managers are less confident in their remote hiring decisions…

Around 55% of respondents admitted to feeling less confident in their hiring decisions when interviewing over video – either one-to-one or by committee. Of those, 38% were “slightly less confident” while 17% were “much less confident”. Only 3% of respondents said they were more confident in their socially-distanced recruitment decisions.

… But it’s onboarding that’s the real concern

An overwhelming majority of respondents said that they lack confidence in their remote onboarding process – just under 69% of them. Most of the remainder (24% of respondents) were no more or less confident than before and only 7% were more confident. There were a broad range of reasons provided – “it’s impossible for new starters to learn routines by immersion, hearing and seeing what’s going on around them”, said one business leader. “It also discourages simple questions or simple suggestions, no one wants to set up a call to talk for 20 seconds”.

Given that new starters necessarily need to ask a lot of simple questions, this poses significant problems for their integration into the team.  Another respondent said “it’s been difficult to explain the nuances of processes and procedures without spending hours on the phone”.

A lack of face-to-face interaction was also cited as a significant issue, both in terms of developing strong team interactions but also the difficulty of recreating “the standard friendliness of the first-day welcome” in a socially-distanced working environment. Another said that “you can’t tell how someone will fit into a team via Teams”. The difficulty of getting IT arrangement sorted remotely was also cited as a problem.

Interviewers are comfortable assessing competencies remotely, but struggle when it comes to values

We asked which areas were of most concern to hiring managers when recruiting remotely, allowing them to pick more than one option. Only 24% said they were unsure about assessing the core competencies required for the role over videoconferencing. But 75% were concerned about assessing the candidates’ ability to work as part of a team, including communication style and soft skills, and 72% worried about their wider cultural fit within the business. 41% were concerned about the candidates’ levels of professionalism or work ethic and 31% cited question marks over the candidates’ style of management. All of this suggests that while hiring managers are reasonably comfortable assessing whether someone can do the job, they struggle with how their personality and style of working will fit in with the business.

If we’re going to continue working like this, then training will be required

We asked if people had received adequate training in the following areas: video interviewing; remote onboarding; day to day remote management; remote dispute or conflict resolution; remote disciplinary procedures. Over 72% of you answered ‘None of the above’.

Just under a quarter of people had received training in everyday remote management, and around 20% had been trained in how to interview people over video. Only 7% of respondents had received training in remote onboarding procedures, only 10% in remote conflict resolution, and fewer than 7% had been trained in remote disciplinary procedures. Given the problems with confidence identified above, this is potentially a big issue moving forward.

Over the next few weeks, we will be running a series of blogs on how different organisations are adapting to this new world (some better than others). We will also be exploring what businesses can do to improve their remote recruitment procedures and get over these obvious bumps in the road and prevent themselves storing up problems for the future.

Remote hiring, onboarding, and training is challenging for everyone. But the businesses that tackle these issues will emerge from the pandemic in better shape than their rivals.


Matt D’Cruz

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work across the mediainformationtechnologycommunications and entertainment sectors, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.