Lori Palarchio, Director of Human Capital at BCS Global Networks speaks around her experiences with video conferencing and the benefits its provides her in the human resource space.
Every HR manager spends many hours every month interviewing unsuitable candidates. Applicants often travel for miles to get to the interview and use their annual leave to attend. For this reason most HR managers give them a fair hearing, even if it quickly becomes apparent that they do not have the right qualifications or personality for the job.
If HR is interviewing for a senior position and the candidate has been head-hunted, they may find that the person they really want for the job is too busy to travel and will decline an interview, despite initial interest. Increasingly, the challenge of recruiting teams dispersed across the globe also needs to be addressed. In this case the cost of travel can become prohibitive and the company’s vision of recruiting only the best is put in jeopardy.
HR teams working for multinational organisations face these problems every day and this has driven a noticeable rise in interest in video conferencing solutions. However, despite the fact that many are talking about interviewing by video, many don’t know what is on the market or where to begin to decide what to buy.
In my experience as an HR professional, I would estimate that only around 25% of HR teams globally are interviewing and building employee relationships using video at the moment. However, I predict that with increasing mobile working and globalisation, this figure will rise significantly.
One of the reasons that video conferencing solutions are not yet mainstream is that many businesses still think of them as cumbersome, overly complex, expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Skype and other consumer-style applications may have changed this attitude, but they are not always suitable for business use. HR managers may be tempted to use these nonetheless as they are easy for candidates to access from their homes. However, IT departments will view this as a security risk. Running an enterprise video collaboration purely on Skype has been compared to running an entire corporate email system on Hotmail.
Today, increased bandwidth and the introduction of telepresence and high definition systems have brought a far more reliable and professional experience within reach. Also there are now mobile and desktop solutions aimed at professional use – and Skype itself can be highly useful if properly supported.
This continual support of the system is important if video is to be used successfully. Increasingly video capability is being offered as a managed service for a flat monthly fee which includes consulting, maintenance and support, making costs more predictable. Some providers can help revive older equipment by integrating the latest technology.
Interviewing by video saves travel costs and is more environmentally responsible. Users can conference in other colleagues from multiple sites and work across different time zones. One of the main advantages is that it enables HR teams to reach high quality, “passive” candidates who otherwise may not be persuaded to take the time to attend an interview. They may be discouraged by the need to travel but be willing to dial in to a video call at the end of their day. Once they are on the line, it is easier to build a rapport and assess suitability.
Conducting first round interviews by video helps select better candidates in less time. Interviewers usually sit with candidates for around 40 minutes for a first interview. Interviewing by video means that candidates have invested less of their own time because they haven’t had to travel and so if they really do show that they are not right for the job, it can be in the interest of both parties to reduce this to 10 to 20 minutes.
Interviewing by video is just the start. It soon becomes clear that other HR duties such as on-boarding new starters also work well via video. As businesses become increasingly international and with so many more employees working from home, it is an efficient way of introducing recruits to wider teams and making them feel part of a larger organisation. It is also good for training as sessions can be recorded and the link sent those unable to attend.
In fact any kind of employee/HR interaction works by video. It can even help HR managers be present at meetings to terminate employment carried out in another part of the world. For reasons of sensitivity, a senior manager who is in the same location as the employee would usually lead the session, but an HR manager can be video conferenced into the meeting to ensure compliance with all necessary procedures.
Part of the challenge is that IT departments don’t immediately think of HR when they consider video conferencing. However, HR can take the initiative and discus the possibilities with them. They may even already be looking at an enterprise-wide system, so it is wise to register HR needs sooner rather than later, otherwise the chosen solution may not take these into account.
HR teams need a straightforward system that can be easily accessed from outside the company firewalls. Spending the first half of an interview getting the technology right is unproductive. It can also make candidates more nervous than they actually are, preventing them from showing their true personality.
At first, an IT department may be reluctant to get involved with the specific needs of HR, especially if they want to roll out a global system. In this case, HR might suggest to them that they take part in a pilot project. A managed services provider will advise on solutions that can start small, but are easily scalable.
Demonstrating that the company is forward-thinking is good for its reputation, especially in today’s job market where candidates are increasingly forming strong first impressions based on the way companies are using technology. It could help sell the job to the right candidate.