How LV= moved to virtual recruiting during the pandemic

By Hudson RPO

How do you create a great experience for candidates and ensure you hire the right people when working remotely?

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit recruitment hard. Some industries have seen hiring freezes and high attrition, but for others, recruitment has continued.

Kevin Hough, LV=’s Head of People Performance, talks to Hudson RPO about the changes they made to their hiring process.

How the pandemic has catalysed the use of tech in recruitment

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organisations to accelerate digital transformation programmes. As offices shut and lockdowns hit, businesses have had to move whole functions online. At financial services provider LV=, that included its recruitment processes - but only after the organisation had successfully moved nearly 1,500 employees to remote working for its key offices including their headquarters in Bournemouth. 

“Like many organisations, we did have a brief pause on recruitment as our first priority was on our people and customers and ensuring they were able to work and access services safely,” says Hough.

“However, there did come a point when we needed to think about moving things forward and move our recruitment virtual. This was a really interesting challenge, both for our recruitment team and our hierarchy of managers,” he says.

The challenge of capturing the interview experience in a virtual environment 

Pre-pandemic, LV= had used video interviews to recruit in its customer service division, but had kept all other recruitment face-to-face. As the recruitment team went remote, LV= switched to live video interviewing for all positions. This meant adapting interview techniques and questioning to allow candidates to showcase their best qualities.

“Video interviewing someone virtually is very different to meeting them face-to-face. Connecting with the candidate and getting them to understand your culture is more difficult, so we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could change our interview process and questions,” says Hough.

Larger focus on imparting a sense of the company's culture and ethos

Practical examples of the changes LV made include spending longer discussing the organisation’s culture, office and working style with candidates to give them a real feel for LV=’s ethos, as well as giving hiring managers techniques to keep candidates engaged while making notes during the video interview. For junior roles, they also created mini-videos that showcased how candidates could best show themselves, providing basic tips on how to position cameras, what to wear and lighting.

One-on-one interviews for a more conversational feel 

LV= also chose to keep video interviews to a one-on-one basis, so that the interview felt more like a conversation rather than a series of questions being fired at the candidate through a screen.

“We felt that having more than one person on the interview could be a bit overwhelming. We wanted them to be conversations where people connect and learn more about us as an organisation, rather than 20 questions and it ends. Many employers forget that it’s not just you interviewing the candidate, it’s also the candidate interviewing you to see if they’d like to work for you,” says Hough.

Beyond the hiring stage, candidates complete a virtual onboarding process

Once hired, candidates moved to a virtual onboarding process which was geared towards making individuals feel ready to start working, as well as connecting with them on a personal level. LV= moved its corporate induction online, ensured that new starters had home office equipment sent in advance and connected them to their team virtually.

And while Hough accepts that remote working makes it more difficult to connect with new employees, the organisation has thought hard about how it can build relationships across the organisation.

Building relationships and understanding of company culture through 'coffee chats'

“One thing we’ve done is to introduce coffee chats. You enter your details into a system and it randomly matches you with someone across the business - regardless of level or department - who you have a 30 minute chat with. It increases your knowledge and network across the business and keeps our people connected. We encourage new starters to use it, but it’s available to everybody and we’ve had really high take-up,” says Hough.

Prioritising mental health and wellbeing during WFH employment  

This focus on building personal connections is vital, particularly during a pandemic when emotional wellbeing and mental health is fragile. LV= introduced a ‘stay connected’ campaign during lockdown which became an information hub for employees looking for advice on working from home, mental health and mindfulness.

It also ran selected webinars and events on homeschooling for parents, managing stress and mental health, among many others. However, the key, says Hough, is providing space for your employees to talk and ensuring you listen to them.

'Courageous conversation' training for line managers

“One thing we did early on is partner with mental health charity Mind, who provided line managers with some ‘courageous conversations’ training. This enabled them to have powerful one-on-one conversations with our people, listening to them and learning about how we could support them. When you’re working virtually, it can be hard to pick up on when someone is struggling,” he says.

“The biggest learning I took was that less is more. People want bitesize information, so it’s better to have a 30 minute webinar than a huge booklet to read. Keep it interactive and keep audiences involved,” he adds.

Punctuating the week with shorter catch-ups centred around priorities, wellbeing or successes

Hough practises this idea in his own people performance team, building in three 30 minute meetings a week. Mondays are reserved for a discussion around priorities and plans for the week ahead, Wednesday are ‘wellbeing day’, with a focus on the individual and what is happening in their lives, and Fridays are used to reflect on the week and celebrate achievements, both at home and work.

“This helps us to be there for each other, to stay in touch and to make sure we’re doing the right things. People are all individuals - we’re all in the same ocean, but everyone’s in a different boat. We all experience things differently, so you need to listen to people and tailor solutions accordingly,” he smiles.

This article is part of an ongoing series with Future Talent and Hudson RPO.

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