Five Ideas for Better Onboarding in a WFH/Hybrid Environment

Speaking to a number of house building MDs over the past few weeks a common theme has come up: onboarding of new recruits.

This is proving a challenge as many people are working from home to a far greater degree than ever before. It’s just harder to recreate the informal ‘welcome to the firm’ experience with a half empty office and reduced time for new employees to spend directly with colleagues and their manager.

So here are five ideas to help you adapt to the present (and maybe future) working arrangements:

1.Create plenty of post-offer touchpoints with new recruits

Forming a positive working relationship with your new employee before they start is more important than ever. Use the time they are serving notice elsewhere to arrange to meet up, chat on the phone, or have a video call to talk informally. Do this multiple times.

Focus your conversations around how their first few days and weeks will look and who they will be working with most closely. Give them plenty of opportunity to ask questions and signpost them to people in the business who can help them with their settling in period.

2.Encourage a collaborative effort to welcome a new starter

Get your colleagues to take joint responsibility for welcoming your new starter. Task them with coming up with ideas to help your new employee find their feet. This could be anything from showing them around the office to organizing a zoom lunch for the whole team. This way there will always be someone in the office who is helping the new starter bed in and will demonstrate that everyone is invested in them being a success.

3.Establish two way feedback early and often

Create a regular confidential process which allows you to both provide and receive feedback from your new employee. You won’t have as much opportunity to pick up on the informal signals from your team or the individual as to how the first few weeks are going so having a clear, discrete process that creates a new channel for feedback is crucial.

If there are any problems you will be able to respond before it’s too late. Keep in mind a new starter may be reluctant to speak up about concerns so creating the right environment for them to do so is critical.

4.Trust the abilities of your new starters and build their confidence

House building is a traditional industry which offered very little remote working before the pandemic. For that reason many senior managers have been on a journey of developing trust in employees they are no longer sharing an office with for five days a week. It’s crucial that this trust is extended to new starters. Remember why you hired them and what they bring to the business.

Avoid the temptation to micromanage and, instead, focus on building up their confidence to work autonomously and take ownership of their workload. Be clear and realistic about what you expect from them over an initial time period. Their path to productivity will be much quicker as a result.

5.Create a well-documented remote onboarding process

Formalise your onboarding changes into a universally agreed upon process which is clearly documented. Make it part of your company culture and a consistent set of action points that give every new employee a great start to working from your company whether they are in the office, working remotely or a hybrid.

I hope these points give you some ideas on how to improve your onboarding process for your new colleagues. 

If you have any questions or suggestions not mentioned here I would love to hear them. Feel free to email me or give me a call on 07946 577145.

Simon Edbury

Boris Bounce

Savills share price jumped 7% on an announcement that they expect 2020 housing transaction results to be at the top end of expectations. “Looking to the year ahead, increased political stability in the UK should maintain improved sentiment in real estate markets” was their summary to investors.

Many residential agents are reporting the “Boris Bounce” following the general election result with increasing transaction levels. A good year for house sales will only intensify competition for senior staff in house building.

Last year I shot three two minute videos each focusing on a tip to help you maximise your chances of making the best possible hire you can in our candidate short market.

The need to embrace this advice is likely to increase over the next few months as pent up demand for new homes hits the market. So to get the new year off to a great start I have attached links for all three.

I know the content will help housebuilders successfully compete for the staff they need.

If you want further advice on salaries, benefits or anything else recruitment related reply to this email or call me on 0161 924 2384.

Don’t slip into this trap

From time to time I work with house builders who have a senior level vacancy but get caught in the trap of an ad hoc recruitment process. 

Typically, they are receiving CVs of potential candidates from multiple sources on a drip feed basis. When someone catches their eye they will interview them. When that candidate proves not to be the right person for the job they go back to reviewing CVs as and when and from wherever they emerge. 

The problem is ad hoc recruitment processes aren’t really a process at all.

Here’s why doing it this way feels like a good idea:

  1. It’s not taking up too much time. If you just review the odd CV and perform the occasional interview it’s not a distraction from the day job.
  2. If multiple recruiters are working on it then all prospective candidates will be covered and you will get the right person.

Here’s why, in reality, it’s a bad idea:

  1. Before you know it months will have drifted by and you still haven’t appointed. You will constantly be going back to square one. Each time you interview a candidate and they are not right you are back to hoping the next CV you receive is a good one. 
  2. You aren’t making any meaningful comparisons between possible candidates. If there is more than a couple of days between interviews your ability to make objective comparisons becomes significantly reduced. Do you end up picking the best candidate?
  3. As the weeks slip by, you subconsciously lower the bar in a bid to get the position filled. Your expectations change with time. There’s a very real chance you employ a candidate who is not as good as someone you discounted a couple of months ago.

So, in summary, decide which recruiter you are engaging with, set timeframes for CVs and interviews, all of which will enable you to hire the best candidate in a sensible amount of time.

The 8 differences between ‘Good’ and ‘Great’

Good recruitment gets a reasonable performer into the business in a timescale that was probably a little longer than expected.

Great recruitment gets a top performer in a specific time frame.

So how do you go from good to great?

Here is a checklist for you to use. You need 100% if you are going to run a great process!

  1. You have clearly identified the key traits of a high performer in your vacant job. You will need these to structure your interview questions.
  2. You have thought carefully about why your company is a more attractive employer than others in your sector. You will need to articulate this to candidates during the interview process.
  3. You have properly benchmarked your target salary. Is it sufficient to get the skills and experience you want?
  4. You have prioritised this recruitment process. In other words, you don’t allow other commitments to result in cancelled interviews, slow feedback and poor communication.
  5. You have already consulted colleagues who may be involved in interviewing about their availability over the course of the process. Are you familiar with the internal sign off process on a job offer?
  6. You understand that good candidates have other employment options including staying where they are. You are ready to sell the benefits of your opportunity.
  7. You take personal responsibility for negotiating the offer with the candidate and gaining their commitment to accept.
  8. Your working relationship with the candidate starts the moment they accept your offer. Ensure you invest in that relationship before they start through regular contact.

In summary, get yourself prepared for every stage, become an ambassador for your company and don’t let your core job derail the process.

The reward is a better employee joining in a quicker time frame and that always reflects well on you.

Eggs in one basket?

When interviewing several candidates for a job there is often a bias towards one candidate. In fact, there should be! After all, you need to pick just one person to offer the position to at the end of the process. But it’s those last few words that get can be overlooked and prove costly: “…at the end of the process”

On numerous occasions, I have seen recruiting companies try to shortcut the process to reach a conclusion more quickly. Feeling that recruiting someone is a distraction from the day to day activity and needing to get someone in quickly, the hiring manager decides who their preferred candidate is at first interview and only brings back that person for a second meeting usually caveated with something along the lines of “we’ll just keep candidate B warm in case things don’t work out with candidate A”  

This is a poorly judged gamble. If the company isn’t successful in hiring candidate A and they want to go back to B they will encounter the following problems:

  • Delay of appointment: Having spent aborted time with candidate A they now have to go back to candidate B and will add at least a couple of weeks by restarting the second interview with B. 
  • Back to square one: Feeling second best, candidate B has withdrawn their interest or been offered a job elsewhere. The company may be looking at starting their recruitment from scratch with no viable candidates in the pipeline.
  • Increased salary cost: Candidate B now knows that their negotiating position re salary has considerably strengthened given the hiring company’s lack of alternatives and possibly B having established an alternative job offer in the interim period.

So what is the cost of mitigating all of this risk?

An hour of your time.

That’s all it takes to bring candidate B in for a second interview at the same time as A and make sure your process is completed before making a decision. If you need to revert to candidate B you won’t face the difficulties outlined above if you have moved swiftly in switching your job offer from A to B.

Why Exclusivity Benefits You

It amazes me how many companies still think giving vacancy exclusivity to a recruitment consultant is to their detriment and only benefits the recruiter.

Their thinking typically goes along the line of ‘more recruiters means more candidate coverage equals a better shortlist’.

In a vast candidate market where industry-specific skills are not being sought that logic would be fairly robust, for example, if the business was seeking an Admin Manager.

However, house building recruitment is diametrically opposite in its characteristics. Supply of experienced candidates is very limited and industry experience is normally a prerequisite.

So here’s what happens when multiple recruiters get instructed on the same vacancy in house building:

  1. The recruiters know there are only a handful of potentially suitable and interested candidates so it becomes a race to get to them first and claim the introduction. This will always be at the cost of a thorough search of the candidate market and a full explanation of the house builder’s vacancy requirements to any prospective candidates. 
  2. Inevitably in a tight-knit industry, the recruiters will cross paths by calling the same candidates. Those candidates will be put off by recruiters competing for their attention on the same job. The last thing you want to do in a ‘skills short’ market is create barriers to potential candidates. 
  3. The recruiters will prioritise work they have exclusively over vacancies where they are competing at their own risk for a fee. The impact is time slips by as recruiters focus on another house builder’s vacancy first, leaving you with little or no progress on your recruitment.

So if you want to get the best from a recruiter, to fully search the market and maximise candidate interest, invest the time in selecting and engaging a consultant you really believe in. Then give them the work exclusively.


Being Open Minded About Who You Interview

Let me be clear from the outset – there is a balance to be struck here.

However, in my twenty years of recruitment experience, the tendency is for hiring managers not to see candidates they have any doubts about based on their CV rather than meet them to investigate further.

Those doubts typically come in one of the following forms:

  • Not enough perceived experience at a given level

  • Regular changes of employer

  • Some time spent outside of the specific industry sector

Sometimes these concerns are well founded and the candidates are unsuitable. However, meeting them is rarely a waste of time.

Meeting ‘borderline’ candidates can provide a good benchmark to other interviewees. It helps a hiring manager to do their due diligence on the candidate marketplace and feel comfortable that they have explored other potential employees. This, in turn, gives more confidence to go ahead and hire their favoured candidate.

But don’t assume that we are just talking about stalking horses. Sometimes, a great candidate is hidden behind a disjointed work history. Or perhaps they have had far greater responsibility than their job title suggests. There are certainly plenty of examples of my clients being reluctant to even interview a candidate only for them to be hugely impressed and recruit that person.

If you still don’t feel comfortable about formally interviewing a borderline candidate lower the stakes. Arrange to meet them off-site for a coffee. Or arrange a phone interview. A 30-minute chat will be more than sufficient to determine if someone is suitable to bring in to a more structured interview process.

I am not suggesting that you should interview anyone and everyone. Your time is valuable. Just be wary of dismissing someone with potential based on a single concern arising from the CV.

The Value of Interview Timings

The Value of Interview Timings

It is normal and expected that a hiring manager wants to interview several candidates for their vacancy. It helps them explore the candidate market and gives them a choice to best match technical skills and cultural fit.

But where there is more than one candidate being interviewed it’s really important to get the interviews very close together.


There are two main benefits:

Firstly, it’s much easier to be objective about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and draw comparisons whilst it’s all fresh in your mind. You are more likely to make the best selection of which candidate to offer.

Secondly, you don’t lose the interest of candidates interviewed early on. For example if you have four candidates to interview and you arrange the interviews over a three week period, the first candidate’s interest is likely to have cooled significantly without any progress for three weeks. What if the first candidate proved to be the best? You now have an uphill battle to regain their interest. Maybe it’s too late and they have accepted a job with a competitor.

Make sure you arrange interviews as close together as possible even if that means seeing candidates out of office hours or at an offsite location. This will help you make the right choice and avoid losing the interest of your preferred candidate.