As a result of COVID-19, many Australian and New Zealand businesses have slowed external hiring – some have imposed a hiring ban altogether. Gartner polled 334 HR leaders in April and found that 82% of organisations anticipate a decline in external hiring over the next three months, and 63% of recruiting leaders report that more than half of their job openings are on hold. It also found that 54% of organisations have delayed candidates’ start dates, and 31% have cancelled internship programs. COVID-19 is the ‘spanner in the works’ for so many.
However, there are other businesses that are thriving due to a surge in demand. IBISWorld has identified the industries that have been outperforming during the pandemic. In Australia, the top five outperforming industries are: data storage services, online food ordering and delivery platforms, childcare services, electronics retailing, and hardware and building supplies retailing. In New Zealand, four industries were identified: data processing and web hosting, courier services, online shopping, and health insurance.
Businesses in these industries, especially, are needing to fill key roles in order to keep up with the supply in demand and to maintain business momentum. Yet, they are having to re-evaluate their approach towards hiring and onboarding to comply with social distancing regulations.
It’s a strange time to onboard someone/be onboarded. However, it’s critical that quality onboarding is not compromised because staff retention, engagement and satisfaction depends on it. It has been reported that 22% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment, which is why it’s crucial that new starters have a positive onboarding experience, and to measure that onboarding experience systemically via an onboarding survey.
Gartner’s poll found that 86% of organisations are incorporating new virtual technology to interview candidates from a distance during the pandemic.1 But what is the best practice when it comes to remote onboarding?
Here are 6 considerations to help employers complete virtual onboarding successfully.
- Start the process quickly
When an employee is hired remotely, there may be an element of trust that is lost due to the lack of face-to-face interaction. Therefore, the onboarding process must begin promptly because it reassures the new starter that they are in the safe hands of a trustworthy employer.
The current environment calls for all documentation and contracts to be shared and signed digitally to minimise manual handling. This is much more efficient than posting paperwork to a physical address – and suits those who do not have printers and/or scanners. Contracts can be easily (and legally) signed digitally using e-signature tools, and then digitally sent to relevant Government departments, making the process smooth and pain-free.
Employers may choose to schedule a HR orientation for all new starters where they can walk them through their contract, benefits, leave allowance, etc. and provide logins to accounts and programs they will be using. This will increase the trust between employer and employee.
The prompt administration of paperwork is the first step of a positive onboarding experience, and the more positive the onboarding experience is, the more satisfied a new starter will be in his/her role, and the longer they are likely to stay.
- Provide an employee handbook and hardware
When an employee is onboarded in-person/in a physical workplace, they have a better gauge on company culture, the pulse of the workforce, the roles of each department, etc. compared to when they are onboarded remotely. Therefore, it is advised that each new starter is provided with an employee handbook that introduces them to the company: the company mission and values, goals, strategy, achievements and accolades, employee testimonials, department structures/organisational chart, leadership teams, processes and workflows, and the most-used tools and programs that have been adopted company-wide (e.g. preferred email provider and communication channels).
If hardware (e.g. a laptop) is to be provided, HR should arrange for it to be delivered to the new starter’s home address or arrange for it to be safely picked up from a physical workplace/office. It is also a nice idea to send new starters company swag (branded t-shirts, mugs, notebooks and pens, etc.) so that they feel part of the team.
Being organised and efficient in providing new starters with relevant information and tools will give a good impression and strengthen the employer-employee relationship.
- Get them online and schedule team introductions
The next step is to get the new starter online and connected to the workforce. This may mean setting up a virtual IT orientation so that the IT team can grant the new starter access to the company intranet, communication apps, software and digital platforms. They may also need a VPN to access the company’s private network remotely.
Once the new starter has remote access to all the required technology – and have become acquainted with it – they should be added to any team messaging groups (e.g. a team Slack channel) and introduced to their colleagues. The employee’s manager should then host an informal video conferencing meeting where they can (virtually) meet the rest of the team and learn about the different roles within the department. Such team meetings should be a regular occurrence so that the new starter feels properly integrated.
- Create an individualised onboarding plan
The mistake some employers make is viewing onboarding as a one or two-week process. In fact, onboarding should span 3-6 months (or their probationary period) and include plenty of checkpoints where the employee/employer can discuss performance, provide feedback and raise any concerns they may have.
Don’t be afraid to overwhelm a new starter. Instead, create an onboarding plan that includes clear set objectives, both on a personal level as well as team KPIs (key performance indicators) and OKRs (objectives and key results). Giving the new starter action items and goals to achieve will ensure they hit the ground running and have an opportunity to showcase what they can do.
- Job-specific training
Another key aspect of successful onboarding is role-specific training. Our parent company ELMO’s 2019 HR Industry Benchmark Report found that the most time-consuming onboarding task for SMBs is ‘role-specific training’, which takes up an average of 7.3 hours per week.
During COVID-19, all role-specific training must be conducted remotely, however, training via online courses is both efficient and productive. ELMO’s Course Library offers over 400* online training courses to Australian and New Zealand businesses covering a range of topics including compliance, soft skills and productivity training. The portfolio has recently been expanded to include COVID-19 related eLearning courses.
- Get feedback, make improvements
The only way to really ensure that your onboarding processes are working is to systematically collect employee feedback via a professionally designed and deployed onboarding survey. The benefits of doing this can include, but to name a few:
- Identifying areas where a new employee does not understand their role or duties, which enables you to provide targeted training
- Helping you understand the strengths of your induction and training program, and to identify opportunities to improve it
Employee training and development is an investment all businesses should make. If done right, organisations can experience great return on investment and, in turn, increased staff retention.
The employee onboarding experience sets the tone for the rest of an employee’s journey with an organisation, so getting it right – especially during COVID-19 – is crucial. Effective remote onboarding should involve heightened communication and connectivity with team members, prompt administration of paperwork and technologies, clear objectives and goals, and increased support.
It’s also important to bear in mind that even when economies begin to rebuild and companies are in “growth mode”, remote working practices may still prevail, so remote hiring and onboarding may be normalised. Getting it right now will set a business in good stead for the future.
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Our parent company ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll can help business leaders manage their workforce, even while operating remotely. As a cloud-based solution, ELMO helps employers manage their teams from anywhere at any time from a secure, centralised database. All employee-employer touchpoints are covered by ELMO’s suite, from ‘hire to retire’. This includes recruitment, onboarding, performance management, payroll, rostering / time & attendance, learning & development, and more. For further information, contact ELMO.
 “Gartner HR Survey Shows 86% of Organizations Are Conducting Virtual Interviews to Hire Candidates During Coronavirus Pandemic”, Gartner, April 2020  Five Industries Set to Outperform Due to COVID-19  Four Industries in New Zealand Set to Outperform Due to COVID-19  “Help New Employees Succeed: Beat the Statistics”, SHRM Presentation by The Wynhurst Group, 2017  ELMO HR Industry Benchmark Report 2019