The idea of a virtual workplace has often been discussed, along with its shortcomings and plus points. It was however the exception rather than the norm, and it has taken a pandemic of massive proportions to bring this new mode of work back into focus. Companies of all types and in all sectors are doing their best to figure out the right ways of getting their regular tasks done, given their unfamiliarity with the situation and the uncertainty of how business will move ahead.
This has of course meant some implications for the work of HR professionals. Apart from managing their own tasks virtually, they must ensure new hires and interns come on board in a virtual capacity and that this happens smoothly. Suddenly changing the methods of internship and onboarding from those in use for a number of years is not easy, and they must quickly get in line with the new model. PwC, for instance, is going fully virtual with its internship plans, putting 3,500 summer interns through the corporate world from their own homes.
Show empathy and consideration for work-from-home situations
Every new hire comes on board expecting to work in an office with a professional environment. When this suddenly changes to virtual work, HR professionals must ensure there is adequate support and kindness extended to the employees. There may be background noise from pets, children, roadside vendors, or other sources. There are responsibilities to be handled when at home, such as preparing meals, answering the door, or other tasks. The company should show some flexibility in these matters, as long as assigned tasks are completed.
What is also important is to maintain the human element. It is a must to check in on the new hires from time to time, scheduling virtual coffee meetings to discuss work and non-work matters. This is a great way to develop professional and personal capabilities of the new hires.
Encourage them to go fully digital
Remote work in the COVID-19 era brings its unique set of challenges. Prime among these is the fact that the workplace may have changed, but the same amount and type of work must be delivered as per similar schedules and standards. HR leaders should encourage new employees to upskill themselves with digital capabilities that add to their knowledge and help them to make their careers future-proof. The company could offer such opportunities to learn digital skills through apps, online courses, or other media, and encourage employees to take these up by giving due weightage in appraisals and offering recognition. They could also bring in tools and technologies that make routine tasks simpler and allow employees to expend more effort on value-adding tasks. This will help employees to be more effective and efficient even when away from the workplace.
Be available always to help them with any issues
The virtual work environment makes it hard for a new hire to understand the culture and ways of working at a company. HR professionals need to make this process smoother and more effective, given that there will be no in-person supervision to suggest ways to deal with challenges or to offer one-on-one coaching. They need to familiarize them with communication protocols and styles, and to ensure communication is smooth and regular.
They must encourage employees to bring up their concerns, ideas, and questions, and should acknowledge their ideas to improve work quality or processes along with acknowledging their achievements and ideas. This could be done through regular video or telephonic communication to discuss work progress, concerns, and deliveries. Staying approachable is important to ease the hesitation that a new hire may have, and will smoothen his or her process of coming on board.
To get skilled on the best practices of onboarding and other aspects of hiring, HR personnel could choose to pick some of the best HR and Talent Management certifications. A good certification equips the person with the latest skills and knowhow in the field, along with showing drive to grow further in an HR career.
It is important to remember that there are new challenges and uncertainties in this new era of remote work, proper communication and good digital initiatives will make for an excellent experience.