By Jeff Venza

In any industry, hiring, training, and effectively onboarding new staff is a significant undertaking that is often wrought with nuanced challenges. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, however, we find ourselves in an entirely new landscape.

Over the past 12 months, rapid digital transformation has enabled organizations to reimagine how they work and manage talent completely. By 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers (Upwork), and internal communication and support processes across organizations have been placed under a critical lens. Workflow breakdowns and lapses in best practices have come to the forefront while employees struggle to leverage digital tools in a way that mimics real-time collaboration and communication.

Those in leadership positions are faced with more responsibility than ever before as they grapple with the limitations of the work from home model. How can managers ensure staff remain engaged and supported from afar? Do employees receive adequate peer-to-peer recognition within this new model? Are productivity levels remaining consistent? Are workflows optimized? Are staff receiving the support they need during a historically stressful time?

More importantly – as company leadership looks to hire back and effectively onboard staff in a post-pandemic world, what will that process look like? How can managers ensure that critical learnings, especially those relating to company security, remain accounted for? Furthermore, for those industries, such as hospitality, that rely on in-person experiences, what pandemic-specific protocols must staff be trained to execute?

As our team at VENZA continues to grow during uncertain times, we find our leadership striving to answer many of these questions in real-time. We know first-hand that, in the coming months, training and awareness throughout the onboarding process should be top of mind. From an IT perspective, specifically, companies that pay attention to detail when considering and reforming their onboarding and mentorship programs will help to onboard a workforce that is not susceptible to ransomware and attacks.

New Hires in a New World

Whenever a new employee joins the team, a company has their work cut out for them. Over the course of their onboarding/orientation, managers must address all crucial elements of working within the company, from culture to workflow expectations, team introductions, security considerations, training, and so much more. In many ways, every employee’s early experience informs and shapes their likelihood of success within that company in the future. Let’s consider the following statistics:

  • A negative onboarding experience doubles the chances of an employee seeking other opportunities
  • A great onboarding experience ensures 69% of employees stick with a company for three years.
  • A poor onboarding program was reported by 32% of global executives.
  • Only 12% of employees would strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees
  • Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity

The case for a great onboarding process is undeniable, but we are relying on an onboarding process that is mainly virtual in a post-pandemic world. Despite the challenges associated with the remote infrastructure, managers still have a responsibility to personally guide new hires through any potential barriers and immerse them in the business in both an engaging and detail-oriented manner. This program’s creation should be focused on compliance, clarification, company culture, and connection, which demands buy-in from all organization levels.

A Digital Welcome

A company’s onboarding program should be delivered through an onboarding portal that allows new hires to access company information and interact with customers and customer data. To this effect, companies should have clear standard operating procedures related to the software and access rights, how to share and request information (including customer information), documents, and keep data safe. Here is a list of tools to consider:

  • Phone (cell phone, office phone, apps)
  • Pitt mail (email client, web browser, phone, tablet, etc.)
  • Group messaging tools (Slack, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, etc.)
  • Video conferencing software (Go-To-Meeting, Zoom, etc.)
  • File-Sharing (Box, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Point of Sale
  • Ecommerce platforms
  • Email platforms

Prior to a new hire’s first day, make sure you have completed the following tasks:

  • Communication outreach from HR and management
  • Approval from the senior management team to set up new accounts
  • Invite new hires to log-in to the onboarding portal, along with all necessary log-in details
  • Invite new hires to join corporate accounts
  • Send new hires a clear breakdown of any security protocols associated with their daily role and access rights, including internal and customer information
  • Communicate the impending arrival of the new hire to the rest of the organization

Before their first day, new hires should have a complete picture of the organization at large, the department they work in, the teams they will engage with, and the expectations associated with their role.

Post-Pandemic Security

In the coming months, organizations are encouraged to consider security from both an external and internal perspective. Externally, businesses are expected to invest extensively in their health and safety protocols, ensuring that public safety remains at the forefront of their offering. For many industries, this will require an enhanced emphasis on cleanliness, capacity limits, hands-free technology, and PPE regulations. Understandably, communicating these protocols and expectations will be a critical component of onboarding programs moving forward, as a brand’s reputation can be severely impacted by an employee’s inability to comply with current regulations.

Internally, organizations must recognize the increase in ransomware attacks across industries since the onset of the pandemic. As the world collectively shifts to embrace an online experience, attackers are honing in on unsuspecting employees who are poorly protected (or simply poorly trained) in the realm of digital security. In fact, research shows that the number of ransomware attacks has jumped by 350% since 2018. In July, Garmin, the multinational technology company, was hit with a $10m ransom from attackers. Since then, cybercriminals have expanded their exploitative efforts beyond the traditional world of commerce to include healthcare organizations, hotels, travel brands, and more.

With this in mind, organizations should emphasize online security protocols during the onboarding process, ensuring their growing team can grasp current cyber hygiene practices.

The Importance of Mentorship in Onboarding

Beyond the administrative housekeeping associated with bringing on a new employee, companies should also look to give new hires a sense of belonging and adequate one-on-one training and mentorship to cement their position and elevate the onboarding experience.

In fact, mentorship is a key part of the onboarding processes offered by high-performing companies. Quora, a popular question-and-answer website, allocates a personal mentor to each new hire. The start-up also “pushes new hires towards making meaningful contributions and tackling a manageable project by the end of week 1” and organizes ten onboarding talks over the first few weeks of a new hire’s employment. Twitter is also a notable leader in the onboarding space, with over 75 steps facilitated across recruiting, HR, IT, and Facilities. Simultaneously, Buffer, a fully remote workforce, provides new hires three “Buddies” who play different roles in their six-week onboarding ‘boot camp experience.’ With the help of a ‘Leader Buddy,’ a ‘Role Buddy’, and a ‘Culture Buddy,’ new hires are seamlessly guided through their onboarding experience with frequent communications, check-ins, and tangible support – even from afar.

Onboarding allows a brand the perfect opportunity to tell their story and, more importantly, clarify each new hire’s role in continuing that story. Taking the time to connect directly with each new hire and relay its history, values, best practices, and big-picture vision helps ensure that the employee assimilates meaningfully into the corporate structure.

Although IT and security may seem, at first glance, like a separate world from company culture, it’s important to marry these two areas together. An employee who buys-in to the company vision and values is an employee who approaches their work with care and precision. An employee who takes their work and their place within a company seriously is an employee who doesn’t make needless mistakes or falls victim to security-related threats. Trust is a two-way street, and earning the trust and appreciation of incoming employees helps to ensure that they, in turn, can be trusted to fulfill their potential within the company.

Ultimately, a great employee onboarding process leads to well-adjusted, invested, and accountable employees that are well-positioned to become long-term, valuable team members. Setting your new hires up for sustainable success, in turn, sets your organization up for success with heightened security and IT protection, improved retention, strong organizational commitment, reliable employees, higher performance, and happy clients.