Within a few weeks, many workers around the world were forced to trade in their office - with all the benefits of a familiar IT (information technology) environment, the convenience of having their own desk and personal contact with employees -- for the home office.
For companies, this transition also presented challenges on various fronts. In addition to maintaining both ongoing operations and the productivity, efficiency and motivation of employees, some employers decided to hire new employees despite the prevailing crisis. From recruiting to onboarding -- alternative processes had to be created for these processes and technologies had to be used to enable them. This was just like the actual work itself that had to be implemented remotely.
Many companies struggled with the politically, economically and socially difficult situation during this period. Just what impact does such a change have on the onboarding of new employees, and what will this process look like in the future?
Secure and consistent
Two factors play a major role with regard to IT when a large number of employees work remotely, ensuring security on one hand and consistent IT usage -- or the (digital) employee experience - on the other.
Even if a company assumes that its network is basically resilient, it must be effectively secured against cybercriminal attacks despite several thousand connections. To counteract this, a zero-trust security strategy must be developed and implemented comprehensively across all business units and the entire IT landscape.
While building a resilient infrastructure can prove relatively easy, maintaining a consistent employee experience can prove much more tricky. The modern employee insists that working from home feels and functions just as if he were in his traditional workplace. Although flexible working has proven its worth in recent months, there is a growing need for the right equipment such as monitors, (ergonomic) office chairs, mice and keyboards.
Since most offices will only be used to around 50% capacity in the future, any equipment that may have been previously used should be handed out to all teleworkers, so that they are fully equipped and can work as usual.
Onboarding in times of remote work
This experience would vastly vary across organisations. However, in our case, since a portion of the workforce was already teleworking full-time before Covid-19, the company benefited from existing processes and continued to enhance the onboarding experience.
IT teams as agile ‘product managers’
To gather more insights around remote work, a recent study by us showed that 58% of employees surveyed worldwide are confident that their employer needs to provide better tools, so that every employee can work remotely more effectively.
Even before the pandemic, employees preferred different tools and approaches to perform their daily work. Now, as remote work becomes more widespread, IT teams need to ensure that everyone has access to the technology they trust, including existing and new telecommuters.
A 'product management approach' can be used to identify these needs. IT professionals, whose primary concerns used to be implementation effort and costs, should adopt a user-centric approach. Instead of asking whether a project is within budget, they can now find answers to questions like "What do my colleagues want? What do they need to get their work done? Where are their biggest pain points?" By doing so, they can prevent employees from getting frustrated by using their personal devices and software that have not been approved by the IT department, thus posing an increased security risk.
The use of agile methods can help the IT team to approach a project. To do this, they need to think outside the box and look for working methods that are different from the traditional practices of many IT teams in other areas.
Despite the prevailing crisis situation, it is possible for companies to hire new employees and offer them a simple onboarding process - and all this remotely. Employers must also provide new employees in their home offices with the right technology -- both in the form of devices and accessories and software. The home office environment must be made as secure and consistent as possible.
Good virtual onboarding is most successful when you take advantage of the solutions that are available to you. Introductory videos and access to ample digital resources make it easier for new employees to find their way around both the company itself and its IT landscape - even if they have never seen the team in person.
For a successful implementation, end user requirements must be given high priority. This often means establishing working methods and practices that differ from traditional ways of working.
Ross Chippendale is head of workplace technology at Atlassian. The views in this article are his own.