Whether it's your first job or you're a seasoned recruit, the process of changing jobs can be daunting, especially in today's virtual world. Victoria Thorpe, Executive Director at Context Creative, explains how the firm has pivoted its hiring process to fit a remote/hybrid work model.
What positions have you filled since the pandemic began?
We have hired across the board, adding to our creative, account, digital marketing and executive teams. Nearly all of these positions were newly created as a result of business growth.
Has the shift to remote work had an impact on the type of candidates you look for?
Not necessarily – our focus remains on skillset and cultural fit. However, the shift has allowed us to broaden where we search for candidates and hire people who may not have been able to consider joining us when we worked full-time from our offices in downtown Toronto.
Are there any questions that you include in interviews now that you did not ask before the shift to remote work?
Well, naturally, we ask them about any previous remote work experience; did they like it? How did they set themselves up for success? How did the organization effectively support them? What is their ideal work arrangement? Would they be willing / able to travel to our office when needed in the future?
When we’re interviewing remotely, we are also assessing how a candidate communicates so we can get a sense of how we think their style would integrate into our remote work environment. Are they able to clearly answer questions and express themselves? Are they fully engaged in our conversation or do they seem to get distracted easily?
Finally, we talk to them about the platforms and applications that we have adopted for the way we now work. It’s not mandatory that candidates are already expert users of our suite of tools, which includes Slack, Figma and Basecamp, but we do like to know how familiar they are with them.
Can you share any advice for on-boarding new team members while working remotely? How do you provide a sense of the work culture and make sure it is a smooth transition for the team?
The pandemic has resulted in us being much more deliberate and thoughtful about our onboarding processes. We can’t assume new employees will “pick up” on things simply by osmosis or by being immersed with a particular client or on a project. Our onboarding process has become more detailed and as a result, we are spreading it out over a longer period to allow more time for people to absorb all of the information coming at them.
Every new employee is assigned a “work buddy” for their first month, providing them support and a “safe” way to ask questions as they navigate their new work environment. We also make a concerted effort to have a virtual all-staff within a new employee’s first week where we all have a chance to introduce ourselves. Our goal is to remove any stress and anxiety associated with this type of onboarding and help people acclimatize as easily as possible.
Another important part of our onboarding process is the presentation and discussion of our company’s values, which really sets the tone for our culture. It’s like rolling out the welcome mat for new employees and helps to take the guesswork out of what we are really all about. With all of us working from separate locations, small considerations like this have helped us to maintain our Context culture.
In general, how has the shift to working from home impacted your perspective on work in general and the work of your team?
As with many organizations, we are now doing what we didn’t think was possible in pre-COVID times — that is, working in a largely collaborative and idea-driven industry from separate physical environments. What once seemed impossible is now simply the way we work. Effective collaboration takes more effort, but has made us better, more thoughtful communicators overall. The general consensus within the agency — and from our clients — is that the quality of our output has remained high.
What are the plans for your office moving forward? Are you returning to the office? Do you have plans to continue to allow employees to work remotely?
In June of 2021, we asked our team to complete a fairly extensive survey so that we could gauge attitudes and preferences as we started to think about returning to the office. It was clearly a topic that people felt passionate about as we had a 100% response rate for the survey!
We developed a flexible work plan based on this input, prioritizing the needs and concerns of each of our staff members. The shift to a hybrid model involved a lot of planning and coordination, from space planning to technology purchases that would enable our staff to move back and forth from their home offices to headquarters. In November 2021, we began operating in a fully hybrid model with the majority of our staff opting for an arrangement that involved being in the office on average two to three times per week. Approximately 25% of our staff have opted to work remotely on a full-time basis.
With the rise of Omicron in late December, we made the decision to revert back to full-time remote work. We will open the office again once it is safe to do so but we don’t see ourselves going back to working in an office on a full-time basis. We’ve proven our ability to work remotely and we have a high degree of employee satisfaction and better life / work balance. For Context, the hybrid model is probably here to stay.