The COVID-19 pandemic caused many employers to rethink how they hire talent, including the City of Houston. From virtual interviews to virtual onboarding, much of the city’s hiring processes were reimagined to align with the staffing and safety needs of city employees and departments.
“We’ve had to change the way we're doing interviews and we’ve had to change the way we do onboarding,” said LaTonya Roberts, a division manager with the Human Resources Department.
Roberts, who oversees the staffing team for the HR Operations division, wanted to ensure her team was meeting the city’s staffing needs in a safe way.
“I talked with my direct reports group, the HR supervisors and just said, you know guys we've got to figure something out,” Roberts said of coming up with ways to engage potential talent, while following social distancing requirements.
Roberts and her team worked quickly to find solutions to the sudden shift in how they engage, recruit, hire, interview and onboard talent during a global pandemic.
“We just started to explore different platforms,” Roberts said. “We actually did our first virtual job fair utilizing Microsoft Teams.”
In May the Houston Health Department hosted the Houston Together Job Fair through Teams. The fair provided job seekers with information on temporary COVID job opportunities that were going be available, as well permanent positions via job boards.
“Since that point, we’ve partnered with Workforce Solutions and we participated in a few job fairs that they've conducted,” Roberts said.
Roberts said she and her team have also been utilizing online platforms that focus on professional networking and career development.
“We utilize tools such as LinkedIn and other job boards specific to the skill set or professional licenses or certifications that individuals would hold in that role,” she said. “We recruit specific to individuals through searches to try and identify potential candidates.”
Along with virtual recruiting, Roberts and her team have changed much of their candidate interview processes.
“Many of the interviews have transitioned over to using Microsoft Teams, using Skype, or using Zoom,” she said.
If face-to-face interviews are held, Roberts’ team adheres to social distancing rules.
Christopher Liam had a virtual interview in May and was hired as a customer service representative for HHD’s Bureau of Tuberculosis. He joined HHD’s COVID Response Team in June.
“The virtual interview was definitely a unique experience,” Liam said. “I generally get nervous with interviews, but I wasn’t as nervous, being that I wasn’t physically in front of people.”
Liam said he believes the transition to virtual interviews is helping to keep current and potential employees safe.
“We’re in a pandemic and are advised to minimize exposure,” he said. “I think it provides a lot of flexibility and could be still be effective even after this pandemic is over.”
Along with staffing, the onboarding processes have adapted. New employee orientation class size has been reduced along with the introduction of a staggered scheduling to accommodate one person every 30 minutes.
Ruben Bagadion, a division manager who oversees the onboarding team, worked closely with his team to implement the changes. The team also transitioned a lot of information online, which enables new employees to prefill out forms and sign off on them when they arrive for their scheduled onboarding appointment.
“The teams have really worked hard to be creative and think outside of the box to look at nontraditional ways of accomplishing their job,” Roberts said. “We will continue to keep the health and safety of our team and the general public on the forefront of the decisions that we make throughout this pandemic.”
“On a personal note, I’d like extend a big thank you to my team for continuing to work hard through all of the challenges that they face in various ways throughout this tendon,” she said.