Digitally Adapting Recruitment and Onboarding to COVID-19

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Doodle Content Team

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

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Has the COVID-19 pandemic thrown a wrench into how your business operates? Do you still have a large number of ‘essential’ roles to fill right now? Are your HR and operations teams on a time crunch to get these roles hired and onboarded so your business doesn’t lose momentum? Are you feeling overwhelmed and confused about where to start and what tools to use? You’re not alone. Most HR and operations teams are in the same boat. 

If the coronavirus pandemic has proven anything, it’s that companies need to be nimble and agile enough to adjust, adapt and succeed in turbulent and unpredictable circumstances. But as our “Recruiting and Onboarding Employees From a Distance” research study found, there’s a major disparity between the growing digitalization of the workplace and HR’s ability to pivot and adapt its processes to go 100% virtual. 

Here are three of the most eye-opening findings and trends based on our survey of over 300 HR professionals in the United States. 

1: HR has a future-proof problem: ill-equipped to go 100% virtual amidst social distancing.

There can be hundreds of candidates per job opening, 10+ steps, multiple internal stakeholders and dozens of tools involved in the recruitment process. This was the case well before the coronavirus outbreak forced millions of employees to work remotely, indefinitely. But as a recent Fast Company article pondered, can this massive work-from-home experiment work after the outbreak has subsided and life gets back to normal (or some semblance of it)? 

When I read the Fast Company article, my first thought was ‘of course, it’s viable.’ But then I looked at the findings of our research study and realized that organizations have a long way to go before they are fully prepared to pivot, adapt and succeed with virtual recruitment and onboarding processes. For example, nearly half (44 percent) of the surveyed HR professionals said they typically conduct all onboarding sessions through face-to-face meetings only. Worse yet, 17 percent of the respondents admitted to not being prepared at all, while another 31 percent said they’re only ‘slightly prepared.’ 


I’m highlighting these findings, not to cause panic or stress organizations out, but instead to motivate HR teams to think about where to start and what tools, people and processes are needed to make them more agile and capable of adapting to turbulent, unpredictable situations like coronavirus. When I brought this up with our CEO, Renato Profico, he had a clear vision of how organizations – and their HR teams – can make themselves more agile to adapt and thrive during and after COVID-19 has subsided. 

“The first step is to get buy-in from the executive team. To do this, HR teams need to connect the dots from employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity to customer satisfaction, retention and revenue growth. These are benefits that the C-suite will appreciate, prioritize and approve when it comes to budget allocations. 

The next step is getting started. Instead of trying to do a complete overhaul of every process, start small and focus on one or two HR areas first. Given that recruitment and onboarding directly influence employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity and revenue growth, I’d recommend that HR teams start with these two areas first. From there, HR teams should do a complete analysis and assessment of their HR people, tools and processes to get a full picture of what’s working well, what’s slowing them down and where they can simplify, automate and improve.” 

Renato Profico, CEO, Doodle

2: Virtual onboarding fail: a recipe for low employee morale and early turnover. 

One of the biggest misconceptions right now is that all hiring has been frozen or delayed. That’s simply not true. While it’s certainly true for some companies (and depends on their business models and impacted revenue), there are other industries that are moving full-steam ahead with their hiring plans. In some cases, as with Amazon, hiring plans have been multiplied and accelerated to keep up with the surge in orders as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Once candidates are hired, how will HR teams customize their fully virtual onboarding process to be just as dynamic, engaging and effective as it would be if onboarding was conducted through face-to-face interactions? Our study’s findings indicate that HR teams, who are faced with onboarding thousands of employees virtually, could see an increase in early turnover. And the culprit could very well be HR’s inability to virtually onboard new employees in a way that’s just as informative, dynamic and engaging as it would be if it were conducted in-person. 

As our study found, 17 percent of HR professionals struggle to make remote workers feel like part of the team. Plus, 15 percent find it most difficult to integrate remote workers into the company culture. I wanted to get our CEO Renato Profico’s perspective on these findings. Here’s what he had to say. 

“For new hires right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty and panic about job security. That can lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact employee morale and cause remote workers to disconnect and disengage from their colleagues. HR teams need to anticipate these negative effects and build in the right tools, people and processes into their virtual onboarding programs to avoid them.”

Renato Profico, CEO, Doodle


Knowing that group meetings (i.e. town halls, all-hands) are a critical way of keeping all employees informed of company updates, team progress and milestones, it’s reassuring to see that 12 percent of HR teams make an effort to make group meetings more organized and effective. This will be even more important now as these types of virtual group meetings will prove essential in keeping employees informed on how the coronavirus outbreak may impact the business (and their roles) as well as making them feel like part of the team and integrating into the company culture. 

3: Despite a surge in virtual meetings, remote meeting tools are the lowest priority in HR budgets.

According to data from our platform, there was a 47 percent increase in the number of virtual meetings in Q1 2020, compared to the previous quarter. On top of this, the three most popular video conferencing tools used by people who scheduled meetings on Doodle in Q1 2020 were: Zoom (34 percent), Skype (14 percent) and Google Hangouts (4 percent). This makes sense considering most businesses instituted mandatory remote work policies in March. Being unable to physically interact with friends, family and colleagues (indefinitely) is certain to have contributed to this increase in virtual happy hours.  

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated, it’s that HR can’t afford to adopt a “business as usual” approach to allocating tools and resources in its budget. So while certain workplace collaboration tools like Microsoft TeamsZoom and Doodle may have once been considered optional and nice-to-haves, these will need to move to the top of the priority list now. Despite the increase in demand for remote working tools right now, our study highlights a serious contradiction between what’s needed and what’s available. In particular, video conferencing tools (weighted average, 1.88) and scheduling technology (weighted average, 1.90) both ranked very low on the priority list in recruitment and onboarding budgets.


To learn how your HR team can digitally adapt your recruitment and onboarding during COVID-19, download the full study. 

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