July 15th, 2022 | Sterling

Driving company culture in a post-pandemic world

In an age when so many people are being on-boarded remotely, HR directors are increasingly facing the need to adapt and change the way they think about – and present – the culture within their team. Interviewing, onboarding, and screening all contribute to a company’s cultural image – but in a remote environment, it can be difficult to convey the right messaging. While this may be uncharted territory for many, building strong cultural foundations from early on in the talent lifecycle will not only help secure the best candidates but also aid employee retention rates. This will be crucial in getting ahead of the competition during the global skills shortages that are challenging businesses of all shapes and sizes.

A changing landscape

Over the past two years, we have witnessed some major changes to the labour market, most notably the widely reported, record-breaking vacancies that urgently need to be filled. With more options than ever to choose from, many job seekers are beginning to re-prioritise what they value from an employer, with company culture and remote working conditions playing a significant role in the decisions of individuals today. With candidates very much in the driving seat, job seekers are more likely than ever to decline a job offer due to a bad cultural fit or a negative experience during the hiring and onboarding process.

The issue of conveying the right cultural fit is one that firms of all shapes and sizes have been tackling for some time now. Before the pandemic, it was much easier to showcase life at a company by simply bringing candidates on-site for an interview – but with remote operations still dominating the hiring process, conveying this to off-site individuals is difficult, but not impossible.

What’s needed is a shift in perception and mindset when it comes to utilising every step of the candidate journey. As a case in point, background screening and right to work checks are often considered a necessary tick box exercise. However, these are critical touch points with applicants, and how they are treated during this process conveys a message about your brand’s employee value proposition. If an individual has a negative experience, finds the process is outdated, struggles to find help or feels left in the dark, their view of your culture will likely be that your firm doesn’t care about its people.

Every touchpoint with a candidate – both remotely and in-person – should deliver the best possible message about your brand, regardless of who is managing the process. And just because a particular requirement is being delivered out of sheer necessity, doesn’t mean it isn’t a chance to showcase your company culture.

It’s important to remember that talent you’re engaging with now – whether unsuccessful job applicants or employees about to venture off on a new journey – are all potential future hires. Ensuring they go away with a positive view of your firm is absolutely critical in future-proofing talent pools.

Utilising the right tools in a remote world can really support HR teams in maintaining awareness and experience of the firm’s values. During the pandemic, we witnessed a sharp uptick in the use of video content and online staff engagement platforms to keep people connected and ensure the social aspect of work isn’t lost. While for most firms a return to the physical workplace is now feasible, it’s important not to lose what many have found so valuable.

But how can you ensure your culture and employee value proposition are being appropriately conveyed to talent pools? Here’s what’s worked well for others.

NHS Professionals: Conveying a culture of trust and support

As England was planning the roll out of a Coronavirus vaccination programme at the end of 2020, NHS Professionals sought a background screening partner capable of delivering a high-volume screening programme to help verify that the tens of thousands of people expected to apply to support the National Vaccination Program, had the appropriate experience and safeguarding checks required.

This was a critical, national-level project that needed to be executed swiftly and properly for the health and safety of the country. In addition, it would face media and public scrutiny as the roll out of the vaccination programme affected the whole population. A significant aspect of the partnership with NHS Professionals was the confidence that Sterling would not only deliver the project successfully, but that it would deliver it in a sensitive and timely manner, recognising that public trust and safety were at the heart of the vaccine delivery program. In addition, the NHSP needed a screening partner that would develop a customised programme, and one that was aligned to their culture of focusing on people, creating a smooth screening experience for applicants as they stepped through the process.

As part of the urgent fight against Covid-19, the project needed to be implemented at pace and be able to adapt to quick changes along the way to ensure applicants could be screened fast, without compromising on quality.

The number of candidates that could require screening was expected to be in the tens of thousands, therefore NHS Professionals needed a partner that could adjust to significant numbers with little to no interruption to the process. There was also a need for technological agility, particularly to integrate with Tribepad, their existing applicant tracking system, to ensure a simple user experience between platforms.

We developed a unique, tailored solution for NHS Professionals that delivered robust, project-specific checks that could be completed at speed and in significant volumes. Within a few short weeks of the initial conversation, the campaign was ready to go live, with Sterling scaling up its own resources so that the volume of responses could be handled swiftly and seamlessly.

As part of the program implementation, communication channels were set up to optimise the delivery of response times and speed of adjustments to the solutions.

To ensure a sense of community and employer brand, we also created a dedicated support team to provide the best possible applicant experience, and developed a web page with easily digestible content including program-specific FAQs and candidate guidance videos.

Ultimately, by delivering a process that was aligned to the values of NHS Professionals, and by providing a high level of support throughout the application procedure, the candidate experience was one that reflected the culture of the organisation that they would go on to represent as part of the vaccination workforce. 

The LEGO® Group: Ensuring consistency for staff and applicants

Keen to integrate children’s rights into the day-to-day running of the business, The LEGO Group has taken a number of steps over the years to align child safety across its entire business, whether that’s in retail stores or its head office.

While the brand complies with the employee and candidate screening requirements for roles that require Child Safeguarding checks in its head offices in Denmark, other countries in The LEGO Group’s global eco-system didn’t have the same individual assessments in place. Keen to set a globally unified standard for all employees and candidates in roles with high levels of engagement with children, The LEGO Group sought a partner to launch a pilot for a global Child Safeguarding background screening framework.

It was crucial to The LEGO Group that the implementation of screening was viewed as an extension of their global commitment to children’s rights and complemented the existing Child Safeguarding work taking place across the business.

While the initial pain point was finding a provider that could support a global three-phase screening of existing employees, there were also concerns about the amount of time it took to complete criminal checks and some concerns from the existing employees to share personal data and information.

Sterling completed criminal background checks on existing office-based workers as part of a global child safeguarding initiative, including those involved in consumer engagement (online and in-person), social media staff, and the insight and development teams. Processes were clarified and simplified for staff where there had been prior concerns that processes were overly complicated. With the global pandemic impacting the roll out of the initial pilot, Sterling adapted its services to flex with the changing screening needs of The LEGO Group.

Working with The LEGO Group, Sterling has redesigned the company’s screening process for existing employees and new hires for much of the commercial side of the business. This has allowed The LEGO Group to know that its people, its culture, and its strong brand values were resting on a foundation of trust and safety. In turn, candidates and employees themselves were presented with an experience that was aligned to the values of the LEGO Group and reflect the culture of the organisation they were to work for. Following the initial pilot, the updated safeguarding screening programme is set to be rolled out on a wider scale globally, including across the Asia Pacific region, with further plans to extend this into the retail side of the business in the near future.

Delivering cultural value in the talent lifecycle

During both of the above mentioned examples, the candidate experience was a critical key performance indicator for everyone involved in the projects. When hiring in bulk or for public facing roles, there are a lot of compliance hoops to jump through. But by taking steps such as providing guidance videos for applicants, clearly signposting points of contact, ensuring consistency across processes and providing clear and concise communication, the employers were able to show that their business cares about the people it works with – whether they are a temporary resource or full time employee. And in today’s competitive landscape, it’s this demonstration of the caring culture, that will really stand firms out from the crowd.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.