From employees who have been furloughed (or stood down in Australian parlance) for a certain period of time, to those who have been made redundant, 2020 has presented plenty of bad news for employees and the HR teams who have had to coordinate and follow-through with these tough decisions.
However, the final months of the year may present some glimmers of hope as the economy improves, recruitment picks up and furloughed employees are welcomed back. This latter development also presents some challenges to HR and business leaders: how should they be “re-onboarded”? What steps need to be taken and what needs to be tweaked from a standard onboarding process that would occur for a brand-new hire? Here are some tips to ensure you welcome “old” employees back with open arms.
- Acknowledge the “new normal”
Most businesses will still be operating with a mix of remote and on-location employees. For on-location employees, the standard COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be in place, and communication policies may have changed to provide work from home employees better access to managers and colleagues. It’s important that employees, regardless of whether they are brand new or “old hands”, understand what’s changed. Things like sanitary guidelines, hygiene measures, sick leave, health monitoring such as temperature checks will all need to be covered. Focus on all the touchpoints of the employee experience, but also acknowledge what’s been happening in their lives away from work. Have they been dealing with sick relatives, home-schooling of children and other stressful situations?
- Keep the communication flowing
New starters – even if they have previously worked in the company – will likely be nervous and uncertain about returning to work. Transparent communication is important. Be upfront about the future plans for the company and the status of jobs. For companies that have stood down or furloughed employees, it’s best to communicate to everyone what the plan is – i.e. “We plan to bring back 30% of employees, and here’s why…” Explain the rationale for whatever decisions are being made, and make sure multiple communication channels are used, from town hall meetings (in-person and virtual) to email and instant messaging such as Slack. Also ensure that staff are given plenty of opportunities to provide feedback, both anonymously through surveys, or directly through manager check-ins.
- Changed workloads and/or job descriptions
Some sectors have seen demand for products and services surge since COVID-19 hit, and others have taken a serious hit. Job roles have naturally also been impacted and it’s possible that workloads have dramatically changed. Employees of companies that have seen redundancies may have been forced to take on additional responsibilities, while companies that have seen spikes in demand may be struggling to keep up with new demands. Again, transparency is key. Communicate to returning employees how their role has changed, what their new responsibilities are, and what the performance expectations are. Offer additional training and support as required.
- Consider creating a designated transition team
As always, a danger with ad-hoc onboarding is that it varies widely from manager to manager and department to department. A designated “re-entry” team to guide the transition process can work with those involved in standard onboarding processes to ensure “new” elements of the onboarding process are done consistently and correctly. This team might consist of a member from HR, facilities/operations, legal and management and will be responsible for tasks such as re-configuring the physical workspace, staggering work hours and days, and ensuring sanitising of common areas takes place. They can play a key role in ensuring all employees are aware of the changes that have occurred as a result of the pandemic.
- Don’t “dumb down” the experience
It’s important that the past experience of employees returning to the workforce after being furloughed or stood down is acknowledged. These aren’t “new” employees; they’ve been there before and they’ve been exposed to onboarding essentials like the introduction of corporate vision and values, as well as the rules and regulations. And, unless the geographical location has changed, they’ll know their way around the workspace and know who does what (unless of course this has also changed in the interim). However, it can’t hurt to provide a light refresher for all of these areas as people can and do forget – especially as it may be anything up to six months since they last stepped foot in the workplace.
Personal details (such as tax, bank, contact details) for employee profiles will need to be refreshed, log-in details for technology re-created, and new contracts may also need to be updated, signed and filed.
It’s important that employers understand that life has changed. It’s equally important that all employees – old or new – understand that it’s unlikely they will be returning to a pre-pandemic “normal”. Try to personalise the onboarding experience as much as possible based on everyone’s history with the company, be as transparent as possible, and be open to any and all questions that come your way.
HROnboard, an ELMO company, offers a best-in-class software solution that reduces the amount of time HR teams and leaders spend securing the best candidates and undertaking the critical onboarding process for new hires. Our solution also helps manage internal employee role changes and can create a smooth and seamless process for exiting employees.
ELMO Software offers innovative cloud-based HR & payroll solutions to more than 1600 organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, helping them to manage, engage, and inspire their people. Our solutions span the entire employee lifecycle, from ‘hire to retire’. This includes a comprehensive suite of complementary solutions that further enhance the onboarding experience, namely Recruitment, Learning Management, HR Core, Survey and Connect. For further information, contact us.