This is certainly a strange time for businesses to be hiring. The traditional rule book for recruiting and onboarding new employees has been temporarily re-written. Don’t overlook these key things when onboarding WFH employees.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has caused damage on a remarkable scale, after all, resulting in the loss of many lives and the implementation of lockdown measures that have forced some companies to cease operation and required others to hastily begin operating remotely. Survival itself can feel hard enough.
But it doesn’t help anyone for businesses that are capable of carrying on to be bearish on their financial futures. So many competent professionals have lost their jobs that the employment market is rich with talent, and people stuck at home need opportunities. Where financially justified, companies should continue to grow and produce more remote-working roles.
If you’re fortunate enough to be at the helm of a company that’s really rolled with the punches (or you’re simply involved in the hiring process), then there’s a great chance you’re in the midst of taking on some great new hires — but you need to get the onboarding process right, not only to make life easier for the new employees but also to get them working effectively much faster.
Here are four things that warrant a lot of thought during the process of onboarding new working-from-home employees:
Home office optimisation
Having a solid home office is vital for productivity and morale. Someone sitting in a messy area with minimal light and having to use their laptop literally as a laptop for extended periods isn’t going to get as much done as they would at a comfortable desk setup. Accordingly, a key part of the onboarding process is ensuring that the new hire has suitable equipment (and guidance).
If they need a new desk, or a bigger display, or an ergonomic keyboard, or a better chair, then it’s probably financially justified for the company to buy it. What matters is the long-term impact, and a worker with a comfortable setup will be more productive in the long run (an ergonomic keyboard doesn’t seem so frivolous when someone develops carpal tunnel syndrome).
When you bring a remote worker into your company, security is obviously a major concern. You’ll be giving them access to important business files and information in an environment you don’t (and can’t) fully control, and getting vital data leaked can be disastrous. You must take action to ensure that there’s a solid level of security.
The primary way to do this is to mandate the use of a company VPN: this will effectively protect connections from unauthorised access and stop people from snooping on company activity. You’ll then need to explain to your new hires what they can and can’t do with the access granted to them. You can’t have them sharing company passwords in insecure channels, for instance.
Additionally, it’s worth thinking about the security of the home office equipment. It’s likely that a given hire will end up with a mixture of company-purchased items and personal items: a company laptop and chair with a personal keyboard and monitor, for instance. What happens if someone breaks into their home and steals all that equipment?
The company-bought items should already be insured through the company, but the personal items may not be. It’s sensible, then, to encourage every employee working from home to invest in contents insurance (you might even want to financially incentivise this by offering to cover some of the cost for them, since it’ll hurt your bottom line if their productivity suffers).
Working from home is made possible by sophisticated digital tools: most notably SaaS tools that don’t require any installation. This doesn’t mean that there’s no work required to get new hires using the preferred tools, of course, because there always is.
You first need to get all the necessary accounts created and configured with the right levels of access. Which tools does each new hire need to use? Might they need any others that you don’t already use? (If you’re bringing in your first graphic designer, for instance, they’ll no doubt need tools — such as Adobe Creative Cloud — that you haven’t previously licensed.)
After that, you need to go through basic training on all the core tools: everything from how they can book annual leave to how they can log their time. This doesn’t need to take a huge amount of time, but it does need to be fairly comprehensive because these things matter so much. You don’t want to discover after six months that your employee has been working very inefficiently because they were never told about some core software functions.
A team comprising remote workers is literally fragmented, but it shouldn’t feel fragmented, and that comes down to establishing a comfortable team atmosphere. In an office environment, fresh hires don’t necessarily need introductions because they have plenty of time to slowly get accustomed to their new coworkers — just get them started, wait a few weeks, and you’ll start to see introductions and conversations occur naturally. This doesn’t happen online.
Due to this, you need to make those introductions and conversations happen as early as possible. Get everyone to stop what they’re doing for a short period of time so you can present the new employee (via something like Zoom or Hangouts) and explain their role. After that, encourage your existing employees to reach out to them and learn more about them.
They don’t need to have extended talks every day or become great friends. It’s all about achieving two things in particular: having everyone know what their colleagues do, and having them feel sufficiently comfortable to communicate with those colleagues when needed.
Each of these four things is extremely important in the process of onboarding an employee who’ll be working from home. Without a good home office, strong security measures, training on required software, or comfort with their colleagues, they’ll be less productive and more of a liability — so take action.