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By Jeff Herzog, President, FPC National

remote workingThe transition to remote working that’s been thrust upon Corporate America by the pandemic hasn’t been smooth for many employers. While for those companies still in a position to make new hires during this time, on-boarding new hires remotely while managing a newly remote workforce doesn’t make things any easier.

Understanding some of the challenges the pandemic is posing was why we assembled a panel of senior HR, Finance and Operations experts from across Corporate America and hosted a panel debate to uncover the issues.

We asked our panel 5 key questions related to the impact of COVID-19 and will be serializing this session over the coming weeks. In this video the panel talk through their experiences of how remote working and remote on-boarding has impacted companies:

Our thanks go to our expert panel members for their time and for sharing their insights so openly:

Jenn Ryan – SVP Operations – Xometry
Douglas Krieger – Director Global Sourcing – Herbalife
Julie Bank – SVP Human Resources – Brighton Health Plan Solutions
John Rorick – VP, Client Services – AgileOne
Steve Lagnado – CFO – Insider Inc

Additional Thoughts on The Impact of Remote Working and Remote Onboarding

The importance of making new employees feel welcome from the start, and especially during the on-boarding process can’t be exaggerated. Research has shown that one of the most common reasons for employees leaving within their first three months is sloppy on-boarding procedures whilst 69% of employees will stay with a company for three years or more if they had a good on-boarding experience.

While most companies already have a strategy in place for welcoming new traditional employees, it is unlikely such strategies will work without being refined when your teams work remotely, especially if you are hoping to deliver a remarkable on-boarding experience. In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss some of the challenges businesses are likely to face as they navigate the largely unfamiliar waters of remote working and remote on-boarding.

Getting The Paperwork Done

Traditional on-boarding which usually takes place in the office typically involves a lot of paperwork. New employees are required to fill out and sign many forms, from providing payroll details to completing I-9 forms. Also, there’s the process of physically verifying official documents for authenticity. While there are several digital solutions available today that can facilitate this process for new employees – and by extension other remote workers who may need to fill out and sign some forms – not all paperwork can be verified and processed digitally.

Moreover, it can still be a daunting task, especially for employees who may not be necessarily tech savvy. This presents a huge problem for HR teams who handle the filing and processing of such paperwork. In this case, they can either insist that the employee physically come in to the office or pay for a notary service to verify the documents.

Emphasizing Appropriate Security Protocols

New remote employees and off-site employees in general are likely to use the company’s technology in public places and potentially also log onto public Wi-Fi networks to access various online accounts while doing their job. Employers need to take every precaution to provide their workforce with secure access to business-critical tools. Even then, you can never be 100% certain of protection against a security breach, especially with the increased rates of cyber crime.

According to research, malicious hacking attacks occur every 39 seconds and the average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million. Hence, it’s essential that employers go the extra mile to stress appropriate security protocols or risk compromising the security of the company IT infrastructure. The company tech support will also need to provide employees with adequate training on data security (e.g., password policies, use of anti-virus software and so on). Essentially, remote work exposes businesses to greater risks and unless employees are familiarized with business critical systems and how to use them appropriately, they may be unable to mitigate those risks.

Providing The Right Tech Support

The fact that your employees are willing to work from home does not mean they have all the equipment and software required to efficiently do that. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide employees with all the equipment and tools they will need to properly do their jobs. You can’t expect remote workers to stay productive when they have not been equipped to do so by the company they work for.

tech supportIn a traditional office setting, workers typically have their work space equipped with everything they need to access the programs, resources and people they require for fulfill their role in the business. It shouldn’t be any different when these people work remotely. However, due to the COVID-19 health crisis, getting the essential tech kit like new computers, business phones etc., to remote workers needs more planning. Also, these tools are usually set up and configured by the IT team before the employee can begin to use them, but with the company’s IT team working from home as well, this only complicates things further.

Beyond the physical tools, businesses also have to ensure that their employees, especially the newly on-boarded ones, know how to access all of the software and equipment that they’re going to use. In a traditional office, the internal IT teams usually take care of this but with people working remotely, there’s no doubt that tech support may not be as readily available when an employee experiences software or hardware troubles and additional resourcing may be needed here to overcome this.

Lack of Engagement

Remote work can get pretty lonely, especially for new employees who might find it harder to connect with other members of the team. While remote work nonetheless offers the benefit of working from the comfort of your home, if you’re used to being around colleagues in an office, feelings of loneliness and isolation are to be expected. And the more isolated your workers feel, the less likely it is that they’ll have a strong connection to your company.

When the new starters feel disconnected from their colleagues, it might be difficult for them to collaborate effectively or stay productive and this will definitely take a toll on your company. To boost engagement and collaboration amongst teams, employers can start by organizing online team meetings to introduce new joiners to their teammates. It is also recommended that mentors are assigned to the new team members so they have someone to turn to whenever they’re feeling nervous or need help. Regular meetings where employees in the same group can chat over video conferencing sessions and get to know each have also been found to help.

As you’ll have seen in the above video, John Rorick really stresses the importance of organizations ensuring that employees feel like they are part of a team. Making engagement a priority in remote work will ensure that team members don’t feel isolated, with no understanding of company culture, or what’s expected of them. “It’ll be interesting to see how we ultimately take a step forward as organizations to assure people feel like they’re a part, they’re productive, they’re trained and they understand how they contribute to the organization without actually physically meeting them. It’s going to be really interesting” he said.

Issues With Compliance and Regulations

When organizations hire people, as a part of the on-boarding process, background checks are usually run. This is the compliance and regulation side of on-boarding. This is what helps you determine if your new employees are truly who they say they are. However, with the new remote work way of working, HR teams may find it more challenging to fulfill regulatory compliance requirements and this needs to be factored in.

John Rorick, the Vice President Client Services of AgileOne, spoke about the difficulties companies are likely to face with ensuring regulatory compliance:

 “I like to put on-boarding into kind of two buckets when we talk about it in the current crisis. You have the regulatory and compliance aspect of on-boarding, meaning how we approach our background checks. How are we getting through all the regulatory compliance requirements to make sure everyone is who they say they are and all the other check-the-box things that we have from a talent standpoint?”

Recruitment is typically undertaken to fill a specific vacancy that will help the company move forward. The current crisis is creating scenarios where companies have an immediate need for new staff and may have to bring on new staff without having completed the regulatory compliance aspect of on-boarding. According to John Rorick, those staff who are yet to be fully vetted by the company due to parts of the government being shut down are given the “pending” status until obligations are able to be fulfilled from a regulatory standpoint.

Moving forward, Rorick believes that technology will fill the gaps for regulatory compliance in the remote work environment:

“It won’t go back to the way things were traditionally, and I think that’s a good thing because there’s a balance and there are benefits of both. On the regulatory side, it’s going to be very interesting to see what technologies advance. And I think the people that take to that first, are going to win in that space. Because you have to make sure you mitigate the risk of your employees and who you bring on board.”

Challenges With Integrating Into The Company Culture

company cultureIn the early days of an employee’s tenure, the company typically puts them through training sessions to educate them on the policies and procedures of the company as well as exposing them to – and ingraining – the company’s culture. This is where they’ll learn more about the company, everything from its values and vision to dress code. However, with remote work, newly on-boarded hires can’t physically attend these orientations. Here, the challenge for hiring managers and HR teams is how to share electronic versions of company documents that explain the company’s vision and provide virtual training sessions to replace the in-person training sessions to brief new employees about the culture of their work.

But without being physically present, it can be hard to ensure that employees take these orientations and training sessions seriously – or that they have the same impact. The challenge for businesses is to make the on-boarding experience more engaging for remote workers. This is important as the upside, when remote employees are fully integrated into the company culture, is that they are less likely to feel disengaged and disconnected from the team and they are more likely to be productive hires for the company.

Final Thoughts

Managing remote employees while simultaneously on-boarding new starters can be challenging especially for businesses who just started working remotely during the pandemic. Nonetheless, with a clear remote on-boarding plan and the right remote working strategies, the challenges of remote working can be effectively managed. If you’d welcome a discussion about how to achieve this more effectively in your organization, please reach out to our team and we’d be happy to help.

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