How to Onboard Employees in the Midst of a Crisis

Last updated: 06-25-2020

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How to Onboard Employees in the Midst of a Crisis

Much of the country has begun to open back up after a protracted lockdown period. As a result, many businesses are already ramping operations back up, including the hiring process. Quite a few companies need to hire people quickly to meet demand. 

Yet with the current health crisis posing an ongoing threat, how can you safely onboard new employees in a risk-aware way, without putting the health and well-being of current or new employees at risk?

Related: 7 Ways to Recover From Too Many Online Meetings During the Day

The overarching answer is to update or adopt a set of tools and policies, including hiring and onboarding procedures that marry the strategic use of technology with the experience and skills of existing staff. Use the following tips as a framework, but make sure you adapt that framework to your company’s unique set of needs and objectives. 

Once you’ve selected a candidate for the job, you’ll still need to provide adequate training for the new hire and ensure all the requisite paperwork is filled out and filed properly. You’ll also probably want to arrange some sort of mentor relationship to help your new employee get acclimated to the company’s culture and environment. 

Your normal timelines for onboarding new employees will almost certainly be extended now, thanks to the practical realities of life. That’s why it’s important to recognize the added challenges you’ll face in this process and build in extra time to accommodate those challenges. 

Take the opportunity now to examine your processes for onboarding, which can be a complex and daunting prospect for new hires even in the best of times. If a specific activity yields little value either to the new hire or the company, toss it. Focus instead of those tasks that help new hires feel more at home and get acquainted with their new colleagues and corporate culture. 

The good news is that you can use the same technology that makes remote work feasible to welcome your new employees and help them get started. Use the first day or two to help your new hire install and use the requisite software.

A simple use of technology in the onboarding context is to scan in all required paperwork and send it via email. You can also utilize PDF formatting to create a digital employee handbook that can be shared either through email or via secure file-sharing apps. Integrate digital tools like DocuSign to help employees simplify executing legal documentation and save paper. 

One of the most important ways you can take advantage of that technology in onboarding is by scheduling early and regular face-to-face meetings via video conference calls. For example, you can schedule a meeting with key personnel from your human resources department to go over paperwork that the new hire must fill out. A video call from the new employee’s mentor or peer guide to make introductions and allow each participant to get to know each other a bit is another great use of video conferencing technology. 

An LMS — or learning management system — is a digital application designed to manage the administration, delivery and analysis of training or educational programs and classes. You can find many open-source LMS platforms, such as Moodle and Chamilo, or you can utilize one of the many cloud-based LMS providers. Look for a security-conscious provider that offers around-the-clock client support and excellent independent user reviews. 

SCORM compliance is also important. It stands for “Sharable Content Object Reference Model” and is a collection of guidelines for the various parts of an LMS. Compliance with SCORM means that your LMS is well-crafted and coded, secure and efficient. 

You’ll need to create the content for your training course, then upload it to the user platform and assign privileges to specific users, such as new hires. It’s also a good idea to test out the course content and flow by letting experienced current employees go through the sequence and analyze the results. 

Related: Is Your Onboarding Process Broken? Here's How to Fix It.

In the normal course of onboarding events, your company will likely give new employees the opportunity to meet and socialize with company and the members of their own team away from work. Set up online video meetings and small-group social hours to let your new hire begin the process of adjusting to their new work family. 

These kinds of low-expectation, fun activities can help new team members feel more at home and lower the natural anxiety any newcomer is likely to feel during the first days on the job. They also serve another vital purpose: transparency. Introducing new workers to the company’s leaders early in the onboarding process provides clarity and guidance on your objectives and general direction. This helps new workers find their place in the larger “machine” of company operations. It also reinforces the concept of the “chain of command” for the company, empowering workers to know who to report to for emergency situations.


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