The pandemic forced us to digitalise our recruitment process, and this is what we learned.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, a peak in demand from our clients meant that we were challenged with recruiting, onboarding and training close to 500 new frontline team members in the space of just a few weeks. There was no way to recruit that many people, in such a short period of time, using our traditional methods of recruitment. We knew that the time had finally come for us to take a bold, and rapid, leap into the world of technology-enabled recruiting.
The benefits of making this shift have been nothing short of spectacular. Making the move to a fully digital, on-demand recruitment process has been transformative, and 12 months on, our digital candidate experience is here to stay. Here’s why.
Challenges to solve
Only in retrospect has it become apparent quite how labour intensive, slow, inflexible, and opaque our recruitment process used to be. Yes, we found many great team members, many of whom stayed with us to become great team leaders and managers, but there were limitations when it came to scalability and transparency.
Contact centres are famously competitive in the war for talent, and the key to a successful contact centre operation is remaining one step ahead of competitors in attracting and retaining top talent. The ability to identify weaknesses in the recruitment process that contribute to staff disengagement and turnover further down the line is a formidable weapon to have, yet our old ‘analogue’ recruitment process didn’t support this level of insight, as access to data was challenging and time consuming to obtain.
Without visibility of the critical milestones across our candidate experience, when things didn’t work out with a new hire, it was difficult to know whether we had just misread their motivations during the recruitment process, or whether we had let them down by not maximising their potential, or whether culturally, that person was just not the right fit. If the latter, why was that the case and what did we miss during the hiring process that could have told us that before?
At the same time, we had to recognise that COVID-19 had dramatically impacted the lives of our prospective candidates. It was (and still is) a difficult time for most people, many of whom had lost jobs and had their lives turned upside down. When designing our new digital recruitment model, we focussed on putting our candidates first, and respecting their time and effort by making the process as seamless and as easy to participate in as possible.
The other two requirements of the new process were for it to be fast, allowing us to meet our clients’ targets, and for it to be distanced, as we obviously couldn’t invite thousands of candidates to the office during the lockdown.
What we ended up building was an end-to-end digital recruitment process using various technology applications from a number of different partners. We focussed on making the process as simple, fast and transparent as possible for both the candidates, our recruiters, and our operational team, who would manage our new team members.
Applicant tracking system
Our new process begins with SmartRecruiters, whose Applicant Tracking System (ATS) we implemented in what we’re told is a record time of just nine days. This involved many late nights as we were using the system during the day, then implementing changes to it based on feedback received from candidates, recruiters and operational staff at night.
The ATS allowed us to accept thousands of applications and respond personally and immediately to every single one, which is critical from a candidate experience perspective. The ATS allowed us to keep candidates up to date throughout the process, removing any guesswork: our candidates knew where they stood with their application every step of the way.
In the early days of the pandemic, we processed and responded to around 30,000 applications. Our ATS has helped us to create our new talent pipeline, segmented by the type of job they are looking for as well as by their skills and experience. As we’ve continued to build our team, we’ve been able to reach out to these candidates, giving them first access to our new opportunities.
Screening and assessment
Screening that number of candidates via any manual process would be absolutely daunting for our team of thirteen recruiters, even with all-hands-on-deck help from our busy operational team. Fortunately, one of the great benefits of digitising any process is that it lends itself to automation, which hugely sped up the process of screening CVs.
Recognising that many people had been displaced by the pandemic, we were careful to ensure we were assessing fit for the role based on core skills rather than experience. Using the power of AI, candidates were asked to complete an online assessment via Vervoe, which replaced (and dramatically improved the efficiency of) our initial telephone screening. The online assessment simulated real-life scenarios faced by our contact centre team, helping us to establish clear role expectations with our candidates from the outset.
The best part about this tool is that it ‘learns’ as it goes and becomes more precise over time. To ensure that the AI remains calibrated to our expectations and to eliminate unintentional bias, we audit a sample of both accepted and rejected candidates to tell the system how well it’s matching our preferences. We’ve managed to close the gap between our manual scores and Vervoe’s scores, minimising variation in scoring to just 1-2%.
At this point in the process, we would previously have invited successful candidates to a group assessment centre in the office. The purpose of this phase was to test each candidate’s hard and soft skills and to assess their fit for our culture, and that of our client.
At first, we were a little worried as to whether candidates would show up or take online interviews as seriously as they do face-to-face ones. It turns out they generally do, and it actually tells you a lot about how they are likely to behave when they are a team member.
In the past, it was difficult to find time for our operational team to join our group sessions; however, we know that it significantly improves the hiring process if they do. After all, they are the people who will be managing our new team members, and forming a connection at these early stages is important to the success of that ongoing relationship. However, even when they did attend, it was often difficult to remember, in discussions afterwards, the candidate’s experience and what they discussed. For these reasons, we didn’t always have a good understanding of why a candidate was ultimately hired, and this lack of centralised data meant that we were limited in being able to refine our ideal candidate profile.
Now all sessions are recorded, so we can go back to the recording several months later to see if the candidate has lived up to our expectations and vice versa. It also gives our leaders greater flexibility, eliminating the time constraints that once challenged our process.
How we digitised training and onboarding
From a candidate experience point of view, it was important to make the onboarding process work seamlessly online, too.
Once a candidate is offered a job and accepts the offer, the onboarding process commences. Background checks, police checks and references are completed digitally via CVCheck, which is fully integrated with our ATS, so we have everything available at a glance in each candidate’s record.
Instead of spending time chasing up paperwork, this gives recruiters, team leaders and managers time to spend – virtually, of course – with new recruits to get to know them and point them in the right direction before they start.
Where our team members were working from home, we would also send them a ‘Welcome to TSA’ kit that included details to ensure their internet connection was stable as well as a configured laptop with VPN, so that their technology onboarding experience was similarly seamless.
What the results have been
Without a digitalised recruitment process, it would not have been possible to meet our clients’ demands in the early stages of lockdown. We ramped up by 500 staff in just a couple of weeks to support increased call volumes, and then ramped back down. The only option was to do this remotely from start to finish, but that wasn’t the only benefit.
We now have, in the ATS, a single ‘source of truth’ when it comes to data about our candidates. It also connects us to tens of thousands of potential future candidates that we can reach out to when new opportunities arise. We have information about each candidate’s wants and needs, their skills, and their performance from their remote assessments. This means we can precisely target the right candidates for roles as they become available.
From an operational perspective, the data gathered on new hires during the recruitment process actually allows managers and team leaders to understand why certain people aren’t the right fit, or identify – for example – a gap between a team member’s expectation of their role and the day-to-day reality. Going back to the interview or assessment recordings can give the operations team valuable insight about how to best manage each team member.
One of the biggest savings has been in the time it takes to go from advertising a new role to filling those vacancies. Our average has reduced from 4 weeks to 10 days, and the time required per candidate from our recruitment team has dropped significantly. Our candidates also have greater autonomy and flexibility in our process as we work to their schedule.
With a digital process, our recruiters do not need to be in the same location as the candidate, which has given us tremendous flexibility in how we hire and where we hire from. A recruiter in Perth can now conduct interviews and assessments with candidates from all over Australia and even in the Philippines – making available our onshore recruitment expertise for our offshore teams. This model broadens the talent pool we are able to access as we are no longer constrained by candidates’ proximity to one of our contact centres.
The pandemic has allowed us to completely reimagine the way we hire. We’re still on our journey of learning, and we’re excited about evolving our model further to give our candidates, recruiters and operations team the best, frictionless hiring experience possible.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX consultancy and services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.