Recruiting during a pandemic – building a business remotely in a COVID world

30th November 2021
Recruiting during a pandemic – building a business remotely in a COVID world

Building a company is never an easy process. It requires commitment, passion and dedication to take an idea in our minds to then develop infrastructure, processes and business functions around it, but most importantly for it to succeed it’s about bringing the right talented people together to create a successful working culture. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations to adapt to remote working environments and to manage the challenges that arise as a result of the absence of in-person working.

Here at Lilli we sat down with our Head of People, Sharn Aujla-Osborne, to discover more about recruitment and how Lilli has gone about building a prosperous working culture during a pandemic.

How has the pandemic changed recruiting?

“I think the pandemic has changed the way organisations recruit dramatically, in a post-COVID recruitment world the need for being able to better ‘sell’ your company has become increasingly important to attract candidates. Professionals now have arguably more choice about who to work for and under what circumstances as businesses recover given the shift to remote working and the greater flexibility at work whilst also having an opportunity to reassess and take stock of what really matters to them. It’s therefore more important to have a strong recruitment process and to be able to clearly communicate the company’s purpose and vision to candidates in a post-pandemic world.”

What has this meant for Lilli?

“At Lilli, we adapted our approach to seeking candidates in line with this and have been aided by the meaningfulness of the Lilli brand, by putting what we stand for and the broader positive purpose behind our product right at the very centre of how we talk about Lilli.

In that respect I’ve found with Lilli that it’s not been difficult to sell the company to the candidates and get people engaged with the brand. People want to be part of it as they get a sense of why Lilli is so special; the genuine potential this software has to help so many people. I feel really passionate about it and it’s that passion I also get from the people I recruit.”

How has the recruitment process been affected?

“Further down the recruitment process, the virtual environment has actually brought a lot of positives which has fast-tracked potential candidates and made their process a lot easier. Being remote has sped-up the process as being online makes everything faster cutting the commutes and some of the logistical puzzles. The traditional limitations of location have also been greatly reduced because of the nature of remote working. The expansion of the candidate pool due to the removal of geographical barriers that are based on proximity to a bricks and mortar office has been particularly beneficial for the start-up space, allowing Lilli to recruit highly-skilled and talented people from all over the UK, and beyond.”

What has been a major challenge?

“A major recruitment challenge in the tech start-up sector has been the surprising resilience within industry as the sector has weathered the impact of COVID better compared to others, which means talent is still in high demand. Whilst some organisations and job roles may have faced redundancies and scale downs as businesses attempted to consolidate their losses, AI, data science and cloud engineers fared slightly better at retaining their roles. There was arguably an increase in demand for them as the pandemic hit because of the need for many businesses to transition to more virtual and digital approaches to business and ways of working. In fact, they were perhaps better prepared to adapt to the global shift to remote working, as many were already successfully working remotely pre-COVID.

One of the biggest challenges for us was recruiting from these talent pools after the pandemic as they were limited and in such high demand. Particularly for early-stage start-ups like ourselves it has been tricky to make sure we got the best and importantly the right people for Lilli. So we have to stand out, but I think the power of our brand purpose and vision to really drive transformative improvements in the health and social care sector makes that part a lot easier.”

What’s important for cultivating a good remote working culture?

“Building a successful working culture remotely has been a unique challenge, because you are trying to do it all virtually. Finding talented people virtually and bringing them together to foster a genuinely positive working environment encapsulates the special work we are doing at Lilli and our people-first approach when it comes to recruiting. We have created an organic culture without even trying – it’s been so natural!

There are no egos at Lilli, we are all just as important as each other. We really put great emphasis on celebrating each other and everyone’s brilliance individually and our achievements collectively.

Also, we know it’s not all smooth sailing as a start-up, and there will be setbacks. But throughout that we have made sure to overcome any challenge with positivity, learning and working together to become better versions of ourselves. Having a clear understanding of our culture and our values and ensuring all our teammates are a good fit has helped us bring a fantastic team together and keep this great momentum going and it’s what we look for when building our team; authentic, joyful, fearless, engaging, warm people. Real human qualities that make Lilli a truly special place to be.”

What are some successes for you and Lilli?

“With Lilli touching over a year in existence we have done tremendous work and achieved a lot in a short space of time. I’m really proud of all of the people we have hired which has been a personal and collective success for us. Creating a hiring process and building a fantastic team that has brought Lilli to life. Growing the team to almost 20 strong from just a handful of us in a year.

Also, for me personally, celebrating my 1 year anniversary at Lilli. Hopefully there are still plenty more achievements to come as we expand.”

How have you replaced the physical workspace?

“The absence of a ‘real-life’ office setting could be a potential concern as remote businesses like Lilli have to compensate for the lack of those important small daily interactions that make up our working lives. According to Indeed, in 2021 half of remote employees miss their commutes to work and around 73% miss socialising with colleagues in person.

At Lilli we tackled this by creating a ‘virtual office’ on our Lilli pond intranet which has been received wonderfully by our team allowing for informal chats, shoutouts, sharing what we are loving (and hating) at the moment, and of course those all important ‘water cooler moments’ where you can get locked into fierce debates about what makes the best biscuit!

The emphasis on making sure everybody has those connections and human interactions is of high importance to us and has contributed to the creation of a friendly, entertaining and collaborative atmosphere at Lilli.

I have also learnt that onboarding is really important for everyone joining. Making sure there is a robust induction plan, making sure you meet with everyone. Having weekly team meetings with everyone and redefining them to have a greater sense of purpose, celebration, and collaboration. As Head of People I make sure I try and check in on everyone and give them support if and when they need.

Such as monthly team lunches and co-working days and our big quarterly get togethers have kept elements of real-life interaction to supplement the virtual working environment, and have brought great positivity and morale boosting to our staff.”

What has inspired you?

“Our incredible team and our leadership team really inspires me. I have a bit of a limited understanding about tech but have recruited a team of geniuses! They have never made me feel patronised or out of the loop and want to help and inform people and that is something really kind and warm about Lilli. We are all there to help each other out and truly work together. Everyone brings a real drive to achieve our goal of helping people live safely and independently and reduce the pressure on social care and you can feel it across the whole company.”

What have you learned to take forward?

“Looking forward, I want to further build on what we have already created, expand out and refine our virtual workspace, and hopefully bring more people who can join us and share the values and culture that we have cultivated. We need to carry on adapting and making sure we continue building on the steps we have taken to get to this point with a small team as we recruit more people. I think it’s important to be able to capture the spirit that has got us here and made Lilli a joy to work at, and continue implementing it as the business grows.”

The future

Lilli desires to bring more talented, skillful, authentic and passionate people together to help us on our mission. Building a business is never easy, but to do it entirely remotely in the midst of a pandemic has required immense creativity and dedication to be able to adapt to create a vibrant and supportive working environment.

Thanks to Sharn and our fantastic team at Lilli for getting us to where we are, our team has achieved so much in such a short space of time and we are even more excited to build-on this for the future.

If you think you would make a good fit for Team Lilli, have a look at our
current available opportunities here.





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