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Rethink Employee Onboarding for 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reshaped employee onboarding, likely permanently.

The traditional onboarding process of having new employees visit your corporate office to become acclimated to the company culture, meet with colleagues and complete their onboarding paperwork. But in the last year, onboarding programs have been redesigned overnight for remote workers, with workflows simplified and new on-going communications through purpose-built onboarding applications.

But it hasn’t been easy. A PwC survey found 30% of executives felt employee onboarding was more challenging than it had been pre-COVID. The right onboarding checklist, supporting technology tools and workflows—along with a mindset to deliver new enhancements quickly— are integral to overcoming these challenges and delivering the right employee onboarding experience in increasingly remote workplaces.

Onboarding checklist: Employee Onboarding Do’s

Effective onboarding helps new employees contribute earlier and also fuels employee retention long term. For remote workers, a positive onboarding experience includes clear, structured workflows — like those for completing your compliance-related tasks for tax withholding and I-9 verification— that are as easy to follow on a laptop as they would be in a company conference room.

Prioritize these employee onboarding do’s for the best results when designing and implementing workflows for remote workforces.

Do: Give employees proper guidance and training on onboarding tasks

A typical onboarding checklist includes tasks related to:

  • Preparation: Gathering documents, sending introductory emails and giving new employees everything they’ll need on day one.
  • Orientation: Completing all necessary HR and compliance steps, enrolling in benefits and learning about role-related tech tools.
  • Integration: Ramping up new employees and familiarizing them with company culture.
  • Engagement: Checking in with workers, perhaps via video conference, and answering questions.
  • Follow up: Reviewing performance and conducting trainings.

Automation and standardization are essential to scaling these employee onboarding tasks to remote environments and providing a consistent experience for all new hires. Remote teams may work in numerous locations with differing tax laws, including those in which the organization didn’t used to have a tax nexus. This means the company must ensure its onboarding solution is capable of managing proper withholding and compliance in every jurisdiction.

States vary in how they tax nonresidents and whether they maintain reciprocity agreements with other states on income tax withholding. Manually determining how to withhold for each employee, based on their home and work addresses and the ever-evolving applicable laws in their areas, is impractical.

Employee onboarding workflows, like the ones available from the CIC Plus and ServiceNow partnership make life easier. Proper, up-to-date tax withholding forms always get delivered to remote workers no matter their locations.

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Do: Give HR administrators visibility into employee onboarding progress

An oftentimes overlooked aspect of a well-functioning onboarding program is how well HR can monitor the progress of new hires. HR may struggle to know if all steps in an onboarding program are finished if proper reporting isn’t available, especially when you employ paper-based employee onboarding. This lack of visibility increases the risk of noncompliance and can lead to a less than ideal onboarding experience for new hires.

I-9 verification is a prime example. A long-term increase in enforcements, the limitations of manual processes with paper forms — which go missing and/or have errors — and the rise of remote work have all made the I-9 onboarding process challenging and an increased risk for employers.

A better onboarding solution leverages digital forms and automated workflows for superior visibility. CIC Plus offers a fully automated I-9 Management System for fast, accurate I-9 completion, including full E-Verify integration, and complete HR visibility during employee onboarding. Companies like Merieux have completed their entire I-9 workflow in one system.

Do: Be flexible to deliver new tools and processes quickly that can support your remote workforce

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that companies need to be prepared to respond quickly to changes in their workforces. Overnight, your workforce had to shift to working remotely. The companies that had invested in the proper technology and workflows were able to pivot quickly to meet the new needs of their organizations. We don’t anticipate this trend changing even when your employees return to the office.

Also, if something doesn’t have to happen in-person, consider doing it in a remote-friendly way for more scalable employee onboarding. For instance, Section 2 of Form I-9 previously required in-person verification of employee documents, but now convenient remote completion is also an option. It’s important for employers to be prepared after the pandemic when ICE will once again require verifying documents in person. CIC Plus makes this easier by providing access to more than 500 locations for remote verification to ensure proper completion of this important onboarding step.

What to avoid: Employee Onboarding Don’ts

Now let’s turn our attention to avoiding some common mistakes to reduce the danger of low employee engagement — and to reap the benefits of 30x higher job satisfaction among workers who felt their employee onboarding processes were effective.

Don’t: Overlook opportunities to make employees feel welcomed and prepared

Social distancing may have put team lunches on ice, but there are still ways to integrate remote employees into the company culture. Possibilities include:

  • Conducting virtual office tours, lunches and happy hours.
  • Setting up schedules for work-related check-ins and updates.
  • Providing equipment and access to other company resources.

The last one is key. Since fewer people are in the office, it’s important to ensure that remote workers have reliable access to the hardware and software they need for their jobs. From laptops and headsets to secure cloud-based systems for accessing employee statements, focus on implementing the infrastructure that will reliably deliver these essentials to your workforce.

Upgrading your HCM tools can help here, by providing a more scalable and integrated platform for managing employee information and identifying and addressing their needs. CIC Plus works with multiple partners in this space to ensure tight technology integrations that pay off in the form of more efficient processes across onboarding, HR, Payroll and Benefits.

Don’t: Rely solely on the same onboarding applications as before the pandemic

Remote onboarding requires specific tools. Beyond solutions like video conferencing platforms and SaaS productivity suites, you need onboarding tools that can scale and adapt quickly to the unique compliance challenges of remote work.

Federal, state and local laws change constantly. The complexity of managing the associated compliance tasks only increases as more people go remote. Solutions like the CIC Plus Compliance Library simplify the onboarding process by doing the work of keeping up with regulatory changes for you. Accordingly, you’ll face fewer delays and mistakes throughout new employee onboarding.

Don’t: Overload new employees with information

Onboarding is an inherently information-dense process, with numerous forms to complete, policies to remember and trainings to complete. You can alleviate the strain on new employees and lower burnout risk by automating key processes and workflows.

Instead of making employees fill out numerous forms by hand, consider electronic delivery. Moreover, make sure you’re presenting them with the right forms by using a workflow like the CIC Plus-Workday integration. Sending the wrong forms not only wastes time during onboarding, it’s a regulatory risk as well.

How to Ensure Success with Virtual Employee Onboarding

Overall, effective onboarding of remote employees should follow this basic blueprint:

  1. Communicate early and often with new employees — using email, video and other channels — about the onboarding schedule, expectations and important people to contact.
  2. Review onboarding materials like employee handbooks, presentations and videos and make them available on-demand.
  3. Give new hires all the tools and applications they’ll need as quickly as possible.
  4. Set up automated workflows for important tasks like completing tax withholding elections and employee I-9 verification.
  5. Fully plan out their first week, with virtual meetups with key teams relevant to their role so new hires can begin getting acclimated to your culture.
  6. Continuously engage new hires using multiple communication channels to monitor progress, collect feedback and conduct performance reviews.

Your exact employee onboarding process should be customized to fit the needs of your organization, but you’ll always need the right supporting infrastructure and tools to make this blueprint work. CIC Plus can help you build a flexible onboarding program optimized for remote employees, with compliance and automation built in at every step. Learn more by scheduling a demo or connecting with our team.