The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work forever. We all know that plenty of challenges arose during lockdown. But, even today, many businesses are still struggling to hire and retain top talent following the global shift to remote working.
To help you solve some of those recruitment challenges, George Kapellos spoke to Matt Dodgson about how to hire and retain a winning marketing team when working remotely.
Who they are: George Kapellos, Regional Head of Marketing at DiDi.
A bit of background: George has almost 20 years of experience in marketing, having worked for global brands like Shell, Vodafone, and Huawei, as well as small tech start-ups. Originally from Greece, George is now based in the UK and managing a remote team for DiDi.
Where you can find him:
Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.
Hiring remotely was a huge challenge for every business during the pandemic.
Losing the face-to-face interaction we were so used to interviews made it more difficult to form an accurate first impression. Of course, this was true for both candidates and employers, so that shift from in-person to virtual changed the dynamic of the hiring process entirely.
However, when challenges arise in the workplace, opportunities to learn and improve usually aren’t too far behind.
George said, “Taking that face-to-face element of the interview out of the equation completely means that you have to find something to replace it, because you’re literally just talking to a screen. So, we implemented a successful new element in the hiring process. We made sure that, for every single role that we put out there, there was also a business challenge that went with it that we would give to the candidate.”
“That business challenge showed whether the person, first of all, really wanted the role, because they had to put some work into it. It wasn’t just a matter of asking 10 questions, and if I answer them correctly I might get the job or I might move on to the next stage. You actually had to do research, go through a thought process, think about strategy. That automatically would eliminate any person that didn’t put enough work behind it to show they really wanted the role.”
This addition to the hiring process can give great insight into the candidates as people, and also demonstrate how they would perform if they were placed in the role. It highlights critical characteristics like:
George added, “We implemented this from the beginning, rather than leaving it to the last minute. Because it meant that, from the first call or interview that you had with that person, instead of asking generic questions like the ones that you tick boxes about people, you actually dived into a business challenge. It also gave the interviewee, or myself, or the hiring manager a good indication of how these people perform under a certain amount of pressure.
As touched on earlier, no matter how difficult or disruptive any situation gets, it’s always valuable to view it as a learning experience. With such a significant change to our daily working lives during the pandemic, there was certainly a lot to learn.
As someone who was still building a marketing team at the time, George said, “For me, the most important learning was that interviewees and hiring managers have to have more patience with this digital world and digital interaction. A lot of people might not feel very comfortable, or might not excel like they would in a physical environment, when they’re sitting behind the screen.”
“So, you need to allow a bit more time for that person to express their thoughts, explain who they are. If you’re doing business challenges, like we did, make sure you allow them enough time to be able to present properly. Ask questions, but don’t be critical right away. Don’t try to judge somebody’s work if you see that they’re stuck a little bit.”
So, when hiring remotely, try to allow a bit of extra breathing space into the process. When hiring in a digital-first context, be patient, choose your questions carefully, and go the extra mile to make the person you’re speaking with feel at ease.
For hiring managers, remember that it’s beneficial for you to make your candidates as comfortable as possible, because the best person for the job may also be the person who is most nervous. You wouldn’t want to lose out on a great candidate because the impersonal dynamic of a virtual interview put them off.
George continued, “The worst thing you can do is in this environment, where it’s very much, I wouldn’t call it emotionless, because you can still see the other person, but it’s still not the same as being in the same room. But you can’t read body language. So, therefore, you need to make sure that you fill in that gap by being more empathetic in asking questions, and being a bit more patient with that person who’s being interviewed.”
If you’re someone who is currently looking for a new challenge, check out our recent podcast episode exploring some of the different career directions available to marketers today.
“What I implemented as a leader was to sacrifice more of my personal time to make sure that I was always there for my team,” said George. “Because you don’t have that office environment and that physical interaction, where the other person is seeing you every day, and you have to have a Zoom call to see the other person, otherwise you’re literally just chatting on a messenger.”
It’s safe to say that any team working remotely should make adjustments to ensure that everyone feels support is available at all times. It’s important to remember that while the convenience of a Slack message or an email may be your preference, the person asking for your help with a problem may value the more personal connection of a phone call or Zoom meeting.
George continued, “You need to become more available to their messages, to their emails, to their calls, and that means you need to sacrifice some of your time. So you need to make yourself more available both mentally and digitally, not physically because you can’t have that physical interaction.”
“I saw it tangibly in results, because we do a performance review here at DiDi which is very, very thorough and it’s all data-driven. You get peer reviewed, manager reviewed, subordinate reviewed by as many people as you can, and then you get data points.”
“And I saw that actually helped my performance review, because people thought that I was there for them, that I was there to answer any question. Whether it was a personal, professional question, a small question, a silly question, or a serious question. Whatever that was, it helped them feel that I was there for them even though I couldn’t be physically there for them.”
Even though hybrid and on-site working are gradually becoming more common again, it seems that remote working is here to stay. Whichever side of the hiring process you’re on, it’s always worth making that extra bit of effort to break down the barriers we now face when communicating in a virtual setting.
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