• 9 min read

Remote Workforce Management 2021

2021 promises to be a year of remote working, continuing the new normal of 2021. Is it time to move your flexible workforce recruitment online? In this article we take a look at ten tech innovations that have made remote recruitment a practical option.

2020, the year staffing went remote

Nobody could ever have foreseen how a virus would change the way we work so fundamentally in March 2020. Millions of people were suddenly told to pack up their desk, grab their laptop and head for the door. It left talent leaders with a new crop of business challenges:

  • How to plug the resourcing gaps that had emerged as the direct result of business model changes
  • How to support a workforce working from home
  • How to establish a new way of working that would ensure continuity in talent programs

Fortunately, for many organizations, new recruitment and staffing technologies have come of age just at the right time. Today, digital technology arguably makes it possible to manage a flexible workforce operating from home JUST as ably as was possible when they worked in the same office.

Here are a few examples to illustrate how technology is supporting the transition to remote recruitment:


1. Finding Talent (Moblie-First Apps)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most candidates for new work use their mobile phones to browse job opportunities and they will reference sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to explore what options are open to them. The latest talent platforms, like SimplifyVMS, are engineered as mobile-first solutions that allow users to access job opportunities and respond to them online.

The great thing about a mobile phone is that it connects applicants to their existing resources (such as previously submitted C.V.s, etc.) so it’s easy for individuals to respond quickly to your open vacancies.

Furthermore, phone features (like the ability to take a selfy or do a quick video) make it easy for individuals to enrich their applications and expose their personality; something a great many companies now care about.

2. Making Applications (Online Job Boards) 

For applicants, it’s really convenient these days to reply to a LinkedIn or online job board work opportunity. All documents can be submitted electronically, and links to personal profiles on sites like LinkedIn provide companies with a good understanding of the work history of applicants in addition to their character and references.

Job boards presented through social media sites, like LinkedIn, are proving to be a very effective way of attracting talent that is either already known to a company—or the company in question is already known to the applicant (perhaps because they’ve been following the brand on social media because they’re a fan). This DIRECT SOURCING approach dramatically cuts agency fees and it’s likely any applicants are already more committed to the brand they seek to work for.



3. Sifting through Applicants (AI-Driven Application Reviews) 

One of the most time consuming jobs for hirers is to sift through job applications and pull out the most promising candidates. Artificial Intelligence (AI) today performs a major role in assisting in this task by profiling candidates against the ‘must, should and could’ requirements identified for any particular role.

Another key contribution AI is making to the recruitment discipline comes in the area of overcoming gender or diversity bias. The use of language in job descriptions and C.V.s—that creates an uneven playing field for applicants—can be identified and redacted using AI.

4. Skills and Competency Testing 

Psychometric tests have been a feature of the recruiting landscape for some time, but it’s only been in the past few years that effective testing regimes have been ported online by easy-to-use self-service apps.

In addition to ‘cover all the bases’ competency tests, for deeply technical roles like software coding, it’s important for applicants to also have their skills tested.

Modern online skills testing platforms like HackerRank, CoderByte, TestGorilla, SkillsArena, and Eras offer recruiters the tooling they need to pre-vet applicants prior to interview; reducing time and costs.


5. Interviews (Video and WebInterviews) 

For many hiring managers, 2020 was the year they experienced what it was like to hire someone without ever meeting them face-to-face. Thankfully, online meeting technologies, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Huddles, Facebook Workplace, and jit.si have really come of age at the right time. It means that face-to-face interviews can be performed online without the risk of sharing viruses.

Another way to add more personality into the applications process prior to interview is to have applicants record a short video introduction to themselves, normally answering a series of set questions that would normally have been posed during an interview. It means a ‘shorter-list’ of candidates can be profiled for a web-meeting style interview.

6. Background Checks (Artificial Intelligence-led Checking Systems) 

Another task to perform remotely is the act of performing background checks. The cost of onboarding applicants that are improperly coded, or that lack appropriate insurances, is a sizeable risk to companies. That’s why a host of software-led companies have developed AI-driven Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions in recent years to fill this void. These systems, perhaps best exampled by greenlight.ai equip companies with the online background checking tools they need to mitigate these risks. They do this by asking the right questions, in the right order through question scripts based on the specifics of the case, and they underwrite answers with guarantees.


7. Onboarding (Online Tools and AI-Driven Chatbots) 

An activity most hirers would never have thought to be necessary is the onboarding of workers ‘virtually.’ When workers aren’t required to ever go into the office—perhaps because they are home workers, or they live a long way from the work location—it’s now necessary to onboard individuals online.

Online onboarding is a blend of document processing, education and an explanation of policies and procedures. For individuals hired through a third party, many of these duties fall on the employer of record, but they nevertheless do need to be performed expediently and completely.

The best platforms provide onboarding journeys for new starters to complete that take individuals through the steps they need to completed in a logical order, introducing them to the brand and it’s values, together with the people, processes, tech tools, culture and teams they are to join.

Chatbots ‘trained by AI’ are the latest development to aid the remote onboarding process. New starters have many questions that need answering, but most are predictable. Those that are not can be trained into chatbot systems using modern AI-platforms like EMO Technologies’ Chatbot Trainer. This means new hires enjoy a much faster, always online service that improves over time and dramatically cuts the time and cost of calls to Hiring Managers and HR contacts.

8. Learning (Video Academies and Mass Learning Courses) 

For economic reasons, most company courses had already shifted towards self-served distance learning formats by 2020 anyway; the cost of classroom training proving too high for most policy awareness and skills development courses.

Most companies today are also using Learning Management Systems to make it simpler for companies to deploy their educational programs while ensuring individuals each complete assessments to validate they have understood the learning lessons. Social office platforms, like Facebook Workplace, now include basic LMS functionality into their standard collaborative team-based systems, democratizing LMS capabilities still further.

In the last couple of years, many companies have launched academies, building on their LMS and video course assets. Courses are structured around pre-canned video (embracing both real-life and animated formats) to federate learning to larger audiences. A more recent trend has been the adoption of live mass learning platforms. Synchronous learning tools like Big Blue Button  allow large audiences to be trained, virtually. Delegates enjoy a live training experience—a richer collaborative experience—while training costs are kept low.


9. Operations (Time Management and Billing) 

With more and more people working remotely, managing time and activities has become harder. A new technology feature of this landscape are apps used to track time and monitor activities.

Solutions like Time Doctor, Timecamp, DeskTime, Hours, and Hubstaff record user activities and automatically calculate hours worked. Hiring managers enjoy rich insights into work activities, with some tools even allowing desktop sharing functionality, so supervisors can see precisely what people are up to at any time during the day.

Some argue these apps are bad for work culture because they signify a lack of trust between hirers and workers, while others insist they are a necessary evil in a world of work that has shifted mostly to remote working. While the efficacy of such tools will always come under question, one of the dividends of this type of app lies in the automated production of time sheets, so that workers don’t need to manually produce their own timesheets at the end of a day, week or work period.

10. End-of-Contract/Exit Interviews (Video Stories) 

Another great role for web-meetings and video interviews is the exit interview. Learning from the experiences of workers to improve systems, processes and methods is always helpful, and asking individuals to perform an exit interview is now something that can be supported extremely well by embedding video exit interviews into working practises.



Final Thoughts

Step back in time by just a few years, and one of the challenges talent leaders faced was the huge negative impact that came from adopting new technology platforms. Vendor Management Systems (called ‘VMS’ platforms for short) have earned a reputation for being difficult to install and implementations are known to be highly disruptive on daily operations because of their broad user community. It’s not easy to educate exec teams, hiring managers, suppliers, and workers on how to use a new system . Additionally, any VMS will need to be configured to best-fit the way an organization chooses to use it. This ‘adoption hurdle’ puts many people off from considering a change to newer technologies.

But it shouldn’t.

Thankfully, new VMS solutions don’t require companies to ‘eat the whole pizza.’ In fact, most new systems are modular, which means companies can implement useful value-adding services such as Statement-of-Work operations and Direct Sourcing (via social media job boards) without having to implement a huge chunk of enterprise technology that brings with it all the hurdles of winning hearts and minds, training large user communities, entertaining systems integrations and actioning pages of change requests.

About SimplifyVMS

The digital tech that runs flexible working for businesses around the world. 

Simplify is a technology company operating in the contingent workforce and service procurement market. Our savvy team of technologists create unique and agile solutions that enable human resource, procurement, and talent sourcing professionals to maximize profitability, optimize their non-employee labor programs, and gain visibility into their extended workforces.  To find out more, get in touch.

About the Author

Ian Tomlin is a management consultant and writer on the subject of enterprise computing and organizational design.  He serves on the SimplifyVMS Management Team.  Ian has written several books on the subject of digital transformation, cloud computing, social operating systems, codeless applications development, business intelligence, data science, office security, customer data platforms, vendor management systems, Managed Service Provisioning (MSP), customer experience, and organizational design.  He can be reached via Twitter or LinkedIn.