By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
Onboarding has always played a key role in helping employees make a successful transition to your organization. The COVID-19 pandemic raises concerns that many HR organizations have never dealt with before, whether it’s remotely onboarding newly hired employees or employees returning to the office after months of remote work.
Here are some suggestions for key topics to cover that put employees at ease and help keep everyone safe.
Health and Safety
- Foremost in everyone’s mind is the question “Am I safe here?” Provide employees with details on what the company has done to clean, disinfect, and prepare a safe working environment. Details are important and posters or infographics are a great way to communicate this information.
- Be sure to give written and verbal instructions of your company’s expectations, including masks, disinfectants, distancing, and so on. Let people know what items you will provide where to find them.
- Describe how restrooms are being maintained.
- Will there be regular temperature checks or health checks?
- What are the expectations and requirements for meetings and break rooms? Are meetings held outside?
- What should employees do if they are not feeling well?
- Have arrangements been made for food trucks or lunch delivery?
- Consider providing employees with a washable mask — perhaps in company colors or with your logo.
One of the essential elements of successful communication is to keep it simple and frequent. Changes in local or state rules may create the need for new working arrangements or office set up, so be sure to develop opportunities for employees to provide feedback on what is working (or not working) and gather their ideas on how to make everyone comfortable and productive.
Special Considerations for “Reboarding” Current Employees Back from Working Remotely
After several months of remote work, current employees will benefit from a special onboarding session. While they are familiar with your company and culture, it’s likely a lot has changed. In addition to covering the points listed above, be sure to consider:
- Advising people before they return if you have changed layouts and office spacing. Have conference rooms been converted into office space? Where will people be sitting? Also be sure to discuss any scheduling changes, shifts, or other means developed to space people out.
- Breaking the ice and having employees share a memorable experience or a challenge they overcame while working from home.
- Leaving time for lots of open discussion concerning the success or otherwise of the new operational procedures.
The more you plan and communicate to employees, the smoother their onboarding will be.
Another important step is to educate yourself on the legal considerations around bringing people back to onsite work. The CDC has issued extensive guidelines concerning temperature checks, mandatory masks, distant desks, and the closing of common areas as well as detailed information around communication. These do get updated, so you will want to check periodically for changes and your state may have stricter guidelines. You may wish to consult with an attorney for clarification or if you are a union facility, your union leaders.
The more transparent and consistent you are with your processes and the communication around these, the more successful your transition will be.