Recruitment During Lockdown - How to Make New Staff a Success
Like every company and organisation in 2020, Action Appointments Development Recruitment has been through its own journey during the lockdown. Since we place people in jobs, when the pandemic hit, we wondered how we would be affected. Perhaps due to the strength of our 26-year-old brand in the development sector, we were busier than ever. Many of our NGO clients sprang into action immediately and as first responders to the initial disastrous effects of the lockdown had to scale up quickly to further support their already vulnerable beneficiaries.
Luckily, Action Appointments was ready to respond. At the first murmurings of a possible lockdown, we made sure our staff were well equipped to work from home, with laptops, modems and remote access to our server and therefore our database.
We thought it would be interesting to interview some of our candidates who were onboarded into new positions during lockdown, to see what it had been like for them.
A common trend among those we interviewed was the maintenance of their mental health. Lockdown obviously came with its own set of challenges and the stress of a workplace transition could seem to be yet another change to cope with. As Constance Matlholwa, placed as a Campus Health and Wellness Coordinator with Higher Health, said “if your mental health is intact you will be able to manage whatever”.
Many felt that managers should be aware that a little goes a long way when it comes to supporting new staff landing in a confusing and unfamiliar work environment. Several successfully placed candidates mentioned that regular check-ins and short, emotionally focused conversations helped them build good professional relationships while working remotely. Whether it is a Slack channel to share your lockdown experience or a WhatsApp message from a manager asking “How are you feeling?”, it’s clear that using online technology or just the phone to connect with staff is essential.
Change breeds innovation, and that has been the case for experts and strategic planners in the South African development sector. Jethro Abel, a Programme Manager for International Youth Foundation (IYF) in KZN, has “gained new skills simply because you must be able to conduct your work virtually”, and he doesn’t intend to slow down despite the lockdown easing up. Managers need to brainstorm new ways to connect, and they need to do it now. There has never been such a focused drive to make collaboration and knowledge-building more successful remotely, and successful organisations will be the ones that can make use of this focus to build tools that will benefit them for years to come.
During lockdown, Action Appointments developed a new website and commissioned a bespoke new database, and we are well on the way to working completely remotely and much more effectively. The harsh reality of the lockdown highlighted areas of our work that could be streamlined and we believe that ultimately, this pandemic experience has improved our effectiveness as a service provider.
Many experts and specialists working in NGOs and development organisations have improved their IT skills tremendously during this time, and what seemed initially to be an almost insurmountable challenge has proved to be a real opportunity for individuals and organisations to become more IT literate and able to work more effectively and potentially expand their reach. This is the time to develop new online meeting groups, build a new online tool or think about an essential part of your work that could be made better with virtual collaboration.
Masakhane Mlamla, also working at IYF as a Programme Manager, said that “a curious attitude towards work” has helped him to engage positively with a difficult situation, and many organisations are sharing that curiosity about the pandemic. Many companies and organisations are considering closing their physical offices permanently and using the savings to subsidise home offices for their staff. Working hours are changing, as the work-from-home directive means we are at home, able to manage our home lives, but also always at work and on call. This has led to a focus on deliverables rather than time spent in the office, which can only be beneficial for efficiency.
Clearly, there has been a rapid change across all professions. Some individuals and teams who have shown themselves to be flexible and resilient, embracing the ongoing change as an opportunity to discover and adapt to new ways of working, have thrived during this challenging period. Those who have exhibited those qualities and been aware that their staff and colleagues, while not physically present, are still humans going through a lot and have made the effort to check in on how they are doing, have managed to build even closer connections and more effective teams.