Recruiting remote workers

As Covid-19 forces changes to the way companies operate, how can you integrate new colleagues into the team when they are working from home?

When you’ve hired a new Financial Controller, you don’t usually expect your first face-to-face meeting with them to be on a park bench and at a distance of two metres. But these are strange times and when home security business SimpliSafe decided to carry on recruiting after lockdown to meet the demands of its growth strategy, the process was always likely to be unconventional.

SimpliSafe is a home security business founded in the US. After receiving backing from private equity firm Hellman and Friedman in 2018, SimpliSafe expanded into UK, with a total of 18 employees who were working out of a shared office in Manchester (the company signed a lease on a new office during lockdown). Launched in April 2019, the UK business grew through its first year and was planning to expand its team when Covid-19 forced the country into lockdown.

SimpliSafe’s UK General Manager Jonathan Wall explains: “We already had a few people in the recruitment process and we weren’t going to stop. So, we took on a Senior CRM Manager, a Senior CRM Executive and, of course, a Financial Controller. Those people needed to be inducted and they all started after lockdown. Initially we thought that was going to be our biggest challenge but we have a headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, so we were already quite used to remote working and having people on Zoom. It was more about making them feel comfortable and part of the team.”

The company encouraged colleagues from across the business to contact the new hires, welcoming them on board. In addition to regular team meetings, SimpliSafe also arranged virtual social events to make integration easier. They hired a personal trainer to give virtual fitness session on Wednesday afternoons and held a quiz every Friday. Jonathan finally met his Financial Controller in person in May. They held their first face-to-face meeting on a bench in Salford Quays but by this time they already felt they knew each other well.

Recruitment challenge

Kristen McNamara, Senior Director of Staff Development & Talent Acquisition at recruitment agency Robert Half says that while companies can do much to achieve similar successes, recruiting at the moment requires them to first identify candidates who are self-directed, motivated, flexible and able to deal with the new ways of working. She says: “If you hire somebody who is looking for direction, looking to be told what to do and what the next step is going to be, that’s probably not going to end well. So, during the interview process it’s important to interview for that agility and mindset.”

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Advisor for Resourcing and Inclusion at the CIPD, adds that once a candidate has been chosen, the challenges of onboarding them are two-fold. Initially, there are the practical issues such as making sure the new employee has access to the right IT and knows how to comply with data protection principles. Then there is a need to give them a clear sense of purpose and, as SimpliSafe found, to integrate them with colleagues they may have never met.

On the practical side, Claire says that HR or payroll documents should be sent via legally binding platforms like DocuSign or HelloSign. And employers should also make sure that the new hire has checked with their mortgage provider, landlord, local authority or home insurer that they are allowed to work from home. Companies should also check that their insurance covers business equipment in the employee’s home and send new hires an electronic health and safety questionnaire as part of their risk assessment.

Integrating new hires

Kristen adds: “I would recommend really articulating and defining the contribution the new hire is expected to make and the impact they will have on the business. We also recommend that as soon as you know you are going to be hiring somebody, you assign them a workplace mentor. It should be somebody who’s not their boss, who the new hire can call and say ‘what does this acronym mean?’ because the employee is not going to want to look vulnerable to their line manager.

“They should receive a welcome email, so that when they receive their laptop they can get in and they can see the emails from their teammates. I would also suggest that when they go into their calendar on day one, they can see meetings. They should be able to see a meeting with their line manager, one-to-one introductions and time blocked out for training, so it feels very deliberate.”

Both Kristen and Claire agree on the value of less formal interactions, such as virtual coffee breaks, that help to integrate new people with their colleagues. Kristen, whose own team work remotely, even has an informal dog walking group and has informal chats with staff while they are all walking their dogs.

With remote working likely to become much more prevalent, all companies should consider how they will welcome and integrate new employees. And Claire adds: “Obviously, the last thing you want after you’ve invested in them is for them to leave because they don’t really know what they are doing and don’t feel supported.”


This article is written for the St James’ Place Entrepreneurs Club newsletter. The opinions expressed by third parties are their own are not necessarily shared by St. James’s Place Wealth Management.