Tips for Onboarding in the #FutureOfWork

Traditional onboarding has changed due to the rise in remote workers and consultants in the workforce.

With a quarter of the workforce predicted to be working off-site and the rise in professional temporary staffing year-over-year, the way we welcome and educate new team members has shifted dramatically. Numerous studies show that the onboarding process is critical to increasing employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. So, with the changes in how we work, and the threat of attrition looming in 2022, it’s crucial that we get it right!

As new employees, there was a time when the first week consisted of HR seminars, meetings, a tour of the office (to find the break room, of course!), and securing badges and parking passes. But with remote workers, perhaps sitting in multiple states, and temporary professionals, or consultants, having a finite end time to their assignment, the requirements have changed, and getting acclimated to a new company needs to be laser-focused and much more personalized.

Being in charge of onboarding requires a shift in thinking. For every step or deliverable, the question has to be asked, “how does this apply to our remote team members and our professional consultants?”

Here are some things to consider when outlining onboarding procedures in modern work environments:

Make it Personal: Assign an Onboarding Concierge

It was frustrating when the new team member had to wander the office, looking for the ‘go-to’ person to answer questions, but at least there was someone there to find! Imagine working 1,000 miles away from your new employer and only having a main line phone number to call and never connecting with anyone? Similarly, as a consultant, your job is to deliver on day one due to the limited nature of the engagement. Therefore, consultants need to know who to talk to today to do the job.

Staffing companies often assist with the logistics, like background checks, pay, benefits, and establishing the team member within the organization through credentials for security access, etc. Hiring managers must have dedicated personnel partnering with their staffing companies to guide new hires, like consultants and temporary placements, on a company level.

There needs to be a consistent point person assigned to each new hire or group of hires to answer all questions.

Draft a Modern Onboarding Manual: Generate a standard chart that itemizes the terms of employment and workday for all classifications of employees separately.

Most company handbooks have a detailed list of expectations and standards that apply across the board. But the way our workforces are now comprised of different worker classifications, the company must address the apparent differences depending on the type of employee. So it’s time to draft a new manual (and preferably electronically for easy changes – it should go without saying.)

There are nuances to a remote work classification, including critical regulations on salary. For instance, how do taxes in your paycheck work if you live in one state and work in another? For consultants, this is particularly important because you may not be getting a traditional employee paycheck and will need to understand the regulations for all the companies you work for. So don’t wait until pay-day to address these fundamental changes.

Time zones will affect workday time. Determine upfront the optimal workday. When we all worked in the same office, for the most part, the hours were the same – you clocked in, or you were visible at your desk by 9 AM, and you left sometime after 5 PM. Your lunch break occurred from 12-1 (theoretically). This may not be the same for non-traditional or off-site employees.

  • Do West coast remote workers start their day on their time or headquarters’ time, which happens to be on the East coast?
  • Do remote workers have to install monitoring tools to track their hours worked?
  • Are consultants expected to work full days, or do they pace their work according to the project to completion?
  • For consultants, do they partake in company holidays? Sick days?
  • Throw another component into the mix when illness is related to COVID. We need to be sure we follow state and federal policies that provide for employee time off, sick coverage, etc.

Expectations need to be clear; remote workers and consultants must be able to find the detailed rule as it applies to them in the company manual, not left up to interpretation based on general company rules.

Equipment Delivery: Speed and access to getting “set-up” is key

For remote workers, it’s essential that off-site access is reliable and secure and that instructions are readily available. The onboarding concierge should deliver all equipment before the start date so that remote workers have what they need. In addition, equipment should be fully loaded with the applications they need, or training time should be scheduled to help them set up requirements.

If consultants are on-site, their space in the facility may be temporary, but they should have all the equipment they will need to get started the day they walk into the office. Timing is important; a consultant’s work area should not be set up piece-meal.

It should also be determined, especially for remote workers, what office materials are provided to them since they are off-site. For example, do they get chairs, desks, office supplies? Or, instead of company-issued items, do they get a stipend to acquire those items on their own?

It might be tempting to let remote workers and consultants rely on their personal equipment since most have been set up to be self-sufficient. However, remote workers and consultants are part of the “office,” so accommodations should be made to help them succeed at their job.

Learning the Ropes: Keeping remote workers and consultants informed and making them feel at home.

With logistics covered and equipment delivered, it’s most important to make your new hires feel like part of the team. Sometimes that can be hard when they may be sitting far away or their time with you may be over before you know it when a project comes to an end. Either way, everything you do to familiarize new hires with their colleagues and the company culture should be extended to non-traditional workers.

  • All training needs to be accessible virtually. For example, seminars can be live-streamed; meetings and training sessions should always have a video-conference option.
  • Even impromptu company announcements or non-official gatherings can include off-site colleagues – zoom-call them into the conference room during birthday celebrations; Facetime when gathering for lunch. Give them opportunities to engage with the larger group to build relationships.
  • Assign a work buddy to remote workers and consultants. This colleague is there to be the greeter, check in with them daily or weekly, and help them understand the ins and outs of the organization that can’t be found in a handbook.
  • Schedule meetings on their calendar with the people they need to speak with to help them perform their jobs. They don’t know whom to talk with, so assigning them the task to reach out to people doesn’t always work. As the onboarder, you know the departments and roles and can make those introductions accordingly.
  • After the initial onboarding, set regular intervals during the first few months to check in with your new hires, answer their questions and see how they are adjusting.

Get Feedback, Listen and Adjust: Real input improves the process.

Onboarders are a fantastic resource for the company. However, most of their role is the ‘giver’ of information. Create ways to receive feedback from hires on what worked during the process and ask them how they like to engage. New members may prefer email updates instead of phone calls to help them stay organized. They might choose a roundtable of department introductions over a day or might like to spread out meetings one-on-one over the week. Companies will have their established procedures and protocols, of course, but it can’t hurt to ask people their preferences to learn what’s working and adjust.

While there have been significant changes to the onboarding process in new work environments, the good news about onboarding is that it is fluid. With advances in technology, we can pivot methods and adjust relatively quickly. The most crucial aspect to keep in mind is the human interest – yes, we need to disseminate the information and follow a procedure. Still, our focus on personalization and individual engagement are paramount to creating a successful employment relationship at the outset.

At SSI, we work closely with our candidates and have strong relationships with hiring managers to help make transitions into new roles successful. Contact us today to learn more about creating a workforce that reflects the new modern work environment.

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