If there’s ever been an ideal time for HRIS software to facilitate onboarding, it’s been over the last six months. COVID-19’s lockdown saw many people adopt full-time homeworking practices for the first time. Cezanne HR’s onboarding webinar poll found that 65% of people had onboarded new staff while working remotely.[i] This begs the question: how do you onboard someone well, when you’re solely reliant on online channels?

onboarding covid 19

Onboarding encapsulates an employee’s experience of your organisation from the moment an offer is made until they settle into the business and become part of your wider employee engagement plan. It can also be influenced by a new employee’s perception of your brand before they even apply for a role, their experience of your recruitment process, and any other interactions they may have with your business – it all contributes to the relationship between employee and employer.

HR software as a communication tool

In the pre-boarding stage (between job offer and start date), HR software can be used to communicate with new hires by emailing welcome messages, hosting online ‘introduction-to-the-business’ portals, and sending and storing important starter-documents (with e-signatures if required). All of these opportunities to interact with a new employee are relatively easy to set up in a good HR management system – and can then be duplicated and amended as needed – but the ease of set-up doesn’t detract from the deep impact these communications can have on the new starter, showing that you’re invested in their appointment and that your business is organised and efficient.

Cezanne HR’s report: ‘The Psychology of Onboarding: Optimising the new-starter experience in the digital age[ii] includes survey findings from March 2020 that reveal: 18% of respondents hadn’t heard from their employer between receiving their offer and their first day on the job.

The survey goes on to show that this is a missed opportunity by measuring whether the employer’s level of contact increased or decreased (or neither) an employee’s enthusiasm for their new role. 64% of employees that did hear from their employer showed an increase in enthusiasm, 4% said it decreased their enthusiasm, and 33% selected neither. For those that didn’t hear from their employer, 35% said their enthusiasm was increased, 5% selected decreased, and 61% sat on the fence with ‘neither’.

How many of those people that hadn’t heard from their employer, and selected neither, could have had their enthusiasm increased with relatively little effort via a great HR system? And in a remote-working world, where people might already be feeling isolated, it’s even more important to connect with your new hires as quickly as possible – and as efficiently as possible.

Managing processes and workflows

Homeworking invariably increases email communications, driving even simple conversations between colleagues – that may have occurred face to face in the past – online. Using a Cloud-based HR system to maintain a record of onboarding processes and their fulfilment can help formalise your organisation’s approach, improve record keeping with all procedures, communications, and documents kept in one central place, and avoid important information being lost in inboxes.

Being forced to work away from the office might be the impetus HR needed to revisit and analyse their new-starters’ onboarding experiences. Without being face to face with colleagues and the new hire, HR must ensure everyone involved in the process is extremely clear about their responsibilities ahead of time, and they then need to check those responsibilities have been fulfilled. Using the checklist functionality from one of the market’s leading HR systems is the ideal way to do this.

Cezanne HR’s survey showed that 20% of survey respondents didn’t have their equipment (computer, phone, desk etc.) ready on their first day. This has the double whammy effect of leaving a bad first impression and increasing the time it takes a new employee to be productive. If someone is working remotely, they can’t simply walk down to IT on their first day and request a laptop – it has to be organised for them ahead of time. Using checklists in an HR system is one of the best ways to assign this task to the right person/department, and for HR keep track that it’s been done.

Checklists are also useful in the pre-boarding stage and after a person’s first day on the job. For example, compliance tasks, both longstanding and new requirements relating to COVID-19, can be easily monitored if HR can simply refer to a checklist of what has and has not been completed. And, any activities that your business has organised to help an employee settle in and get up to speed with their new role after day one can also be monitored this way.

Lack of onboarding and disengagement

Where the absence of a formal onboarding process might have been somewhat mitigated by face-to-face relationship building in the past, homeworking removes this crutch.

Cezanne HR’s survey showed a direct link between lazy onboarding practices and people taking longer to feel like they’d made the right decision in changing jobs. People who didn’t have a programme of welcome events after day one took longer to feel confident in their decision than the baseline of all survey respondents. People who didn’t have equipment ready for them on their first day similarly took longer in concluding they’d made the right choice.[iii]

Invariably, a lot of HR work that used to be ad hoc or face to face has been driven onto Cloud-based systems due to COVID-19 and the resulting increased homeworking. For onboarding, moving to more organised and formalised processes, formulated with a deep understanding of onboarding’s place in engagement and retention, is likely to strengthen employee loyalty and future talent pools. Better use of sophisticated HR systems also provides HR with the opportunity to track how successful their onboarding of new hires is – and to hopefully pinpoint where their approach may need improvement.

Find out how Cezanne HR can help with your
onboarding process

[i] 333 respondents, webinar poll | The Psychology of Onboarding: 5 insights to help HR improve their new-starter experience, 28 May 2020

[ii] https://cezannehr.com/onboarding-psychology/


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Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.