Recruiting in a virtual world - An interview with CUNA Mutual Group’s Director of Talent Acquisition

Recruiting in a virtual world - An interview with CUNA Mutual Group’s Director of Talent Acquisition
Published: 20 May 2020

While navigating the numerous challenges COVID-19 has created, many companies also continue to recruit and hire talent.  As a result, some have found that there are opportunities to change their hiring practices and processes for the future.  Berwick Partners’ Brian Watson discusses some of these with Andrea Cooper, Director of Talent Acquisition and Management for CUNA Mutual Group.  

How have you changed your hiring and onboarding processes since sending employees home for COVID-19?

Early on during this situation, we had to quickly update some of our hiring practices to support virtual hiring and onboarding. That was more tactical to address an immediate need and it was great to see how quickly we could make those changes. COVID-19 has helped our leaders become more comfortable with virtual selection and has helped them appreciate the importance of a good onboarding experience, even more than ever.  For the longer term, we are continuing to develop our willingness and comfort with this new reality of virtual employee experiences and that includes enhancing technology and leadership development, and empowering the Talent Acquisition team to be an even greater influence with the hiring managers across the organization. 

Which of these do you think will be long-term changes?

I am confident the increased frequency and improved comfort with virtual interviewing will be a long-term sustained change. 

Are there any changes in attitude or thought process about recruiting that has come as a result of the way you’ve done things during this time?

In many cases the need to "shake a candidate's hand" before hiring them has been removed, and leaders have adjusted to a world of video meetings where their team's physical location is no longer relevant. I do think with executive hires, we will need to continue to build trust in the process that allows for virtual versus in-person selection, onboarding, and work location.

How will your future candidate pool change?

I am really excited about the likely expansion of our talent pool to be inclusive of talent across the country, offering more employees at all levels the opportunity to live and lead remotely. For us, this means expanded access to great talent that may not be open to relocating to the midwest, which should no longer be a concern as we have grown in our ability to operate virtually across all parts of the company.

People have been talking about the "future of work" for some time.  How do you think the way companies have handled the COVID situation will impact the expected change to remote working, flexible workers, etc?

I absolutely believe it has accelerated companies' acceptance of the shift to remote work. I believe the future of work will include many workforce and workplace changes, so there is a great deal more to do in preparation for the future. At a minimum, this situation has put a spotlight on where companies are prepared and where they are clearly behind and unprepared for the future of work. Coming out of this I believe candidates and employees will have different expectations. Companies that fall back to their ‘normal’ ways will not be able to compete for the best talent.

Do you see a connection between diversity and inclusion initiatives, and this "new normal"? 

Absolutely, I think there are many connections with diversity and inclusion and this new norm. COVID-19 has amplified the gender differences in the workplace. It is well documented that in dual working households, women take on more of the "domestic" duties. With the addition of homeschooling responsibilities and families being at home for this extended period of time, these differences are magnified and can make it even more challenging for women to successfully find a "balance" between home and work. On a more positive note, as companies continue to invest in diverse talent and creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace, the new reality of a remote workforce may increase access to diverse talent and may also improve retention of that talent if they are not required to relocate and can maintain their connections with family and community.

For more information on anything discussed in this article or on HR leadership please contact Brian Watson, Partner in the Human Resources practice at Berwick Partners. Brian recruits HR positions at Berwick Partners, advising clients on the best talent in the market.

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