Ross Wilkers

MARKET OUTLOOK

How COVID has reshaped talent acquisition

Nearly every job interview process has some element of virtual or remote connectivity at the beginning when conversations about an open position with prospective candidates start through a phone screening we have all gone through.

Of course, just about everything is different in a world with the novel coronavirus and that has pushed government contractors’ talent acquisition processes even further in the remote and virtual direction. The most notable companies told us that almost unanimously when we asked them how hiring was going during the pandemic.

Substantially none are slowing down and all seem agree that the socially distant but virtually connected methods of hiring and onboarding talent are the norm for the foreseeable future.

Here are snapshots from our conversations with two company leaders in talent acquisition.

Maximus

“We are thinking about what the future looks like under this new environment, we recognize that a lot of our protocols and things that we had to put in place [were] in response to the current crisis,” said Rebecca Kenawall, Maximus’ human resources lead for COVID-19.

“But we're also being realistic and understanding that the future is probably going to look a little different than what it did in the past,” Kenawell also told us.

Kenawell acknowledged that the start of remote job interviews can be slower given that both the candidate and company official are not used to the format, but said the conversation does begin to flow in the same manner as if it were in person.

Onboarding and training may be where Maximus had to make the biggest adjustments in a world with COVID-19 as it looks to fill its open positions.

Maximus is generally mailing equipment to employees’ homes so they do not have to physically visit an office, but the company has a process for when in-person may be required.

“If you're coming into a facility, the equipment will be set up for you by the IT team, they'll put it on a cart, and leave it in a hallway or leave it in a mutually agreed upon place where you'll pick it up,” Kenawell said. “Then you can go in and get your equipment so that way you're not having that one-on-one contact with the individual from it for your equipment.”

Now what of new hire orientation and training? Those are largely happening through Zoom sessions: which is how we connected with Kenawell for this conversation.

Maximus rolled out a Skillsoft-based platform as its training tool for all employees and is trying to replicate the learning process as if it were in-person and for when questions come up.

“If someone has a problem, they hop on a zoom call or some type of WebEx call with the trainer in the same room, they screen share and work through it together, so that they can still get that one on one attention,” Kenawell said.

Parsons

Parsons Corp. has footprints in 25 countries as a government, technology and critical infrastructure services company and thus that wide presence implies a great demand for connectivity to begin with.

When COVID-19 became a national emergency in the United States, Parsons put 90 percent of its 16,000 employees on remote work and shifted substantially all of its onboarding phases to a virtual setup.

The Centreville, Virginia-based company has nearly 2,000 open requisitions across its federal and critical infrastructure segments. But when we spoke with Parsons Chief People Officer Debra Fiori to see what they are up to, she also pointed to the company’s college internship program as a key priority along with remote hiring and onboarding.

Fiori told us that she and the leadership team of that internship program have worked across Parsons’ business units on creating a new virtual experience for interns, many of whom their stints began in late May.

“We did not know the length of the period the shelter-in-place would exist, and so we have planned around that and have already been onboarding our interns,” Fiori said.

Parsons has also set up a remote mentor-mentee program across the company for both new hires and interns in a move to try and replicate that in-person experience.

Fiori said both new hires and interns also get an assigned “buddy” to run questions by whenever anything comes up when it comes to getting acclimated to Parsons.

Workday is Parsons’ platform of choice for the virtual onboarding and training of new hires. Given the market dynamics, Parsons sounds like a company that cannot turn back from adding staff.

“In our industry and specific to Parsons, in some ways there’s more work than there was before COVID, so we knew we had to do that,” Fiori said. “Not only because we made commitments to future hires that had accepted positions and hadn’t started yet, but the continued pipeline of growth in the company and the positions that were available.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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