How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Recruitment Process in Agriculture

Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a 2-article series on recruiting in the age of COVID-19. Read part 1 of the article here.

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Although some COVID-19-related challenges are starting to taper off, recruiting continues to grow in complexity. Traditional methods such as job postings can create an avalanche of unqualified candidates in markets with high unemployment or can results in no applicants in many rural markets. Finding and recruiting candidates is no small task.

Here are a few ways that companies have been effective in recruiting during these uncertain times.

Harness the power of referrals. Current employees may be your best source for potential candidates. There is a good chance they know someone open to a new role or might be a great fit regardless of their employment situation. One of the easiest things to do is to implement an employee referral program. Worried about referral bonuses on underperforming candidates? Offer the referring employee an additional bonus if their candidate meets or exceeds expectations in year one. Now it’s not just a referral program — it’s also a retention program as they will be more willing to assist and encourage the new employee!

There has never been a more important time to enhance your employer brand. As candidates and customers look for companies to take stronger stances on social issues and personal safety, companies can’t overlook the importance of adjusting their employer branding. Instead of showcasing the company’s products, perks, and amenities, it’s time to shift your strategy to publicize the things your organization is doing to support employees, customers, and communities in times of crisis. This can be done in a few different ways. For example, being active on social media can be one component. Using your interview process to share more about what it is like to work at your company is another example. Highlighting employees and the workplace on your website is yet another. Potential employees look to see what the organization is like and what it stands for.

Refine your recruiting budget, tools, and procedures to ensure the candidate process is smooth, and their experience is positive. As companies ramp up their hiring process, top candidates are attracted to (and now expecting) a smooth recruiting and hiring process with defined steps, accurate timelines, flexibility, and a high level of communication and engagement. No one wants to make a bad impression to candidates with untested video software, or by saying things like ”I’m not sure what the next step is,” or “I’m not sure who will contact you next.” Candidates view a poor hiring process as a reflection on your company, and how the rest of your organization may operate. With many organizations set to be able to recruit, hold multiple interviews, interview, and offer in less than five days, there is little room for missteps in this area.

Continue to communicate publicly, even if you’re not actively hiring right now. Let people know what is going on with your organization — for example, via blog posts, social media, or even press releases, depending on what your situation is. Continue to build that employment brand throughout your marketplace.

The Interview Process

One of the largest impacts of COVID-19 that will remain as a staple of hiring is the utilization of virtual interviews. The pandemic’s impact on remote work, remote social gatherings, and even remote doctor’s appointments, has created a level of comfort and efficiency with video meeting technology. The same efficiency we consider when holding video meetings that save travel time, can be used to attract and hire employees. While the initial recruitment process might still include phone conversations, organizations are seeing the benefits of virtual interviews and integrating them into their overall hiring process.

Here are a few benefits to using this technology:

Remove scheduling challenges. Video interviews create convenience for candidates who may not be able to take time off for an interview and minimizes time your hiring team needs to allocate for onsite and off-site interviews.

Improved experience. Virtual interviews create a consistency in your process and overall candidate experience by providing a consistent environment, improved ability to ask questions and record answers, and the ability to involve the same people — not just those in the office that day.

Increased insight. Video interviews allow you to involve more people and gain more insight with the scheduling flexibility.

Speed. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of video interview in this highly competitive talent market is the ability to hold more interviews in a shorter time. You can get the approval and insight of more members of your team without adding  to the hiring timeline.

See what you cannot hear on the phone. Video gives you the ability to observe body language and nonverbal cues of your candidates. Not only can you see how the candidate responds to your questions, but you can also recognize the amount of preparation they have put into the meeting. The way they prepare for this meeting is often a reflection of their overall interest in the opportunity and how they prepare for their job once hired.

Efficiency. Most companies still desire that final interview to be in-person. However, your time is better spent by investing your time into the top candidates vs. taking the time to bring in multiple candidates to narrow down the field.

Onboarding

We’ve written about the importance of onboarding in several issues of CropLife® magazine (most recently in April 2019). However, even though the necessity to eliminate group settings and training sessions may be short-term, we can use what we have learned in this environment to improve our onboarding process overall. Incorporating the efficiency of video meetings, the flexibility of online training and resources, and improving the accessibility peers and leaders will enhance the success your onboarding program.

New Developments in Employee Safety, Company Culture

COVID-19 has required organizations to devise clear policies for illness and remote working, as well as develop and understanding of any local and federal laws that dictate employer and employee rights. (See our article on vaccination requirements.) The way your leadership team builds these new practices into your company culture will have a significant impact on your ability to recruit future employees, with the key being a company’s ability to emphasize employee and customer safety. Your future employees are watching not only how you handled this crisis over the past year, but also how you are emerging to promote a strong, healthy, safe, and positive environment in the future.

Final Thoughts on the “New Normal”

Although many of the strategies outlined here were created in response to requirements to reduce in-person contact, the net result of these changes has been positive, with many seeing the long-term advantages of adopting them into their talent management practices. Discuss these strategies with your team and come up with a plan for your own organization. There is no better time than now to embrace the challenges of today, improve your process, and be recognized as leading employer in your marketplace.

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