Businesses across the globe are feeling the effects of COVID-19 in many ways. The pandemic has created a 'new normal' that organisations must adjust to if they want to not only survive the current situation, but succeed in the future.

HR departments are facing a range of challenges in this environment, such as enabling a safe return to work and responding to sudden fluctuations in demand.

New obstacles and requirements are also emerging in recruitment, with an increasing number of businesses having to take a virtual approach to activities like sourcing, interviewing and onboarding candidates.

If you're a smaller business in a sector like logistics or food manufacturing, which traditionally rely on face-to-face HR processes and physical workplaces, adjusting to these new circumstances could prove difficult.

On the positive side, constantly evolving HR technologies and services can help you manage this situation and emerge from it in good shape.

COVID's impact on recruitment

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to affect industries, businesses and HR functions, organisations can largely be divided into two camps as far as recruitment is concerned.

The first category comprises companies that have had to step up their hiring activities in response to the current health crisis.

This might include food manufacturers whose need for staff has risen in line with the sudden increase in demand for particular products, such as frozen foods.

Many logistics firms have also had to increase recruitment or bring new skills into their workforce in response to the current conditions. The pandemic triggered a surge in online shopping and placed much greater demand on delivery services.

In the second group are organisations that have seen a significant drop in customer demand during the health crisis, leading to a sharp decline or a total freeze in hiring. This includes businesses like non-essential retailers, restaurants and hospitality establishments, which were forced to close in many countries when the virus outbreak was at its peak.

These employers might be using this opportunity to take a fresh look at their HR processes, with the aim of increasing efficiency and generating other positive results in the long term.

Given the new health concerns and physical distancing requirements created by COVID-19, much of this recruitment activity and workforce management is having to be done remotely.

So what solutions are available to help you meet this challenge?

Engaging with talent

If you have a need for staff at the moment and one of your key priorities is identifying and engaging with talent to boost your workforce, you might be thinking about the best ways to go about this in the virtual environment.

Many candidates are likely to have questions and concerns about going through the recruitment process and starting a new job at this time. Those who are already employed could be reluctant to give up their current job security and make a change.

It's important to be transparent and give candidates as much information and reassurance as possible. One effective way to do this is with modern tools like chatbots, which can prove particularly useful for top-of-funnel recruitment, when you need to answer lots of questions and engage with a large pool of candidates.

Bespoke solutions like Wade & Wendy and Allyo are designed to help companies optimise their recruitment practices and become more efficient through AI and automation.

If you're struggling to identify and attract the people you need, working with a dedicated HR services provider can help by giving you access to a proven talent pool and local labor market knowledge.

Interviewing and onboarding

Interviewing candidates and onboarding new recruits are among the most personal and interactive aspects of the entire recruitment process, so transferring these functions to the virtual environment will be a major change for many businesses.

Once again, modern technology is a big benefit here. Video interviewing and digital assessment tools make it possible to conduct in-depth evaluations of job applicants, with maximum ease and minimal cost for all parties.

Taking a virtual approach to interviewing and assessment can also have advantages like taking inherent bias out of the equation and delivering more personalised, data-driven experiences.

When you reach the onboarding stage, video communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Skype allow new recruits to get some virtual facetime with their managers and colleagues. Being able to see and speak to the people they will be working with - albeit virtually - will help new employees settle in and give them a chance to ask any questions they might have.

Cloud storage solutions and tools like DocuSign also support remote onboarding by making it easy to share documentation and complete the administrative tasks involved in hiring a new worker.

If you're currently looking for ways to step up your virtual and online hiring activities, Randstad has produced a guide highlighting a range of solutions that could help.