The pandemic has impacted a major sector of the workforce in ways we never imagined. Recommended social distancing measures have made remote work the new standard for many organizations and employees are turning living rooms into workspaces while managing children and personal responsibilities simultaneously. Recruiting practices have also changed overnight and companies now face tough decisions on how to adapt and withstand this seismic shift.
This article is based on the views and opinions of accounting and finance executives I had conversations with as I looked to find out what hiring challenges they were facing today. For this article, some respondents have chosen to remain anonymous.
People staying put- The overall uncertainty in the market was discussed by Ritu Rampuria, Finance Partner at Swedish. She said that "people don't want to move jobs, they are sticking with their current employers and are not making any sudden career moves."
Several challenges were also listed by Sandy Brewster, Director of Finance & Technology at Seattle Jobs Initiative including how it is still very difficult to find the right skill set for open roles. She found an over abundance of people who were not qualified to be the ones applying for their open positions. When it comes to filling higher level roles, there also seems to be a much smaller applicant pool which leads her to believe that people are staying put where they are and are not looking at making any moves right now.
Remote Interviewing- With the sudden shift to remote interviewing, Brian Goldrick of Vera Whole Health spoke about the challenges presented as a result of interviewing candidates via Zoom. He mentions that Vera Health is big on cultural fit and the company has a mission statement that they live by, so this presents challenges when identifying the right candidate for roles via virtual platforms instead of face-to-face. He still hasn’t met some of his team in person and he misses the camaraderie, especially as one-to-ones have to be done virtually now.
Another of our respondents, in the Cyber Analytics industry, shared their experiences with remote interviewing, stating “Remote interviewing came with a learning curve. Picking up on someone’s personality over video is just tougher.” They also expressed that candidates are asking more questions about the company's long term viability and that was not a question that used to be on the top of mind of interviewees previously.
Remote Training and Hiring Commitment- As part of a merger in the telecommunications industry, one of our respondents highlighted the company’s commitment to hiring as a current challenge. He explained, “They [the company] went through a merger so that makes it hard as some have questioned how many people need to be hired and where those positions need to be”. In addition to this, he also spoke about the challenges around remote training and initial ramp-up, “I actually think [Remote training] validates whether you made a good hire or not as the ones that have a strong appetite for learning will do well, and the ones who need more hand-holding and can only check the boxes but don't critically think will be exposed quickly.”
Lack of preparation from candidates- One respondent mentioned that “It seemed like more people generally came unprepared to the interviews, more than we have seen previously.” Another concern that arose was when interviewing out-of-state candidates as "They were not able to really provide good reasons for wanting to relocate which was concerning".
Planning the onboarding process- Laura Piña, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP's Accounting Director, highlighted the challenges faced in preparing the onboarding process. Her team was able to handle the virtual interview process well, but their ERP can be a challenge to work within and is quite complex so they found it a challenge to be able to address questions quickly. They also struggled with knowing 'If people had enough to do?' or ‘Are they on the right path?’. It is harder to know when in a remote work environment.
Future Uncertainty - As part of the cruise industry, one of our respondents emphasized the large ramp up that will be required to get the ships running again as he explained, “Their industry was hit so hard, and when they start to look like they can come back they will have to do a very large ramp up to get the ships up and running. They are challenged in that they have to look 6 months into what is currently an uncertain future to know when to get ready to sail again”. He also stated his concern with the general outlook on the industry, stating that the company he works with is “now in an industry that holds more risk and may not be as attractive to future employees”.
Is Hiring Taking Longer?
In these unpredictable times, a number of our respondents have suggested that hiring is generally taking longer. Ritu Rampuria explained how “It’s so hard to find people” which resulted in the company hiring people from other states into remote roles, something they did not previously do. Another of our respondents shared a similar experience, saying “It [hiring] has taken longer, as the person who normally manages the process is working remotely which has created new barriers we didn't used to have to deal with.”
Are New Hires Taking Longer To Get Up To Speed As A Result Of Remote Onboarding?
In addition to finding out the impact on hiring speeds, we also delved into the impact of remote onboarding with our respondents, identifying if new hires are taking longer to get up to speed in these new remote working environments.
"Yes it is, as the expectations are different," said Ritu Rampuria, “people are also working later in the day or on the weekend, the hours worked can not be the normal 8-5 right now, so while the job is getting done, it is done in different hours than you typically saw before”.
Sandy Brewster shared, "We are remote, but depending on the team and the job, some would have done better being in the office every day, and for others, it has not been a problem."
Another respondent shared as of yet his team has not recruited anyone externally, but they have learned from others in the company that it is harder to get people started. He went on to say, “from a communication standpoint, the downside of being remote is missing the non-verbal side of things. It can also be a challenge for new people to the organization as some cliques have been strengthened with being only remote, so it’s harder to break in."
Our respondent in Cyber Analytics added that “remote can be a challenge as getting everyone setup takes a while anyway, but building the internal relationships also takes a lot longer.” She stated that, “getting to know who to ask or where to go and build that rapport is taking longer.”
As shown from the various responses, there are a number of hiring challenges accounting and finance professionals are seeing in their respective industries. What’s interesting to note is that some of these challenges are occurring across multiple industries, for example, dealing with the challenges of remote interviewing and how it seems people are choosing to stay put in their current roles.
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