• Businesses that experienced an unprecedented rise in demand amid COVID-19 found they needed to hire or contract potentially thousands of workers — quickly.
  • Some organisations are still beholden to manual and paper-based onboarding processes which hinders their ability to rapidly deploy new staff. 
  • Onboarding and compliance software can help streamline the process and help establish a positive employee experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned many facets of organisational workforces. While some industries were forced to temporarily suspend their operations, others faced sudden and surging demand. 

Onboarding is a critical event in an employee’s journey with an organisation that helps set them up for success. But as the changes brought by COVID-19 and social distancing measures revealed, digitisation of this process is critical to meet the rapidly evolving needs of business. The opportunity it creates to cut onboarding time from weeks to days, for both the business and the new starter, can be achieved through digitising of the entire process from contracts, verifications and compliance through to e-learning and connecting new workers with their teams.

Changing industries,
changing workforces

Many businesses in the travel industry had to stand down workers as flights were grounded to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, demand for consumer staples, such as groceries, rose beyond expectation as citizens stocked up on essentials to abide by social distancing measures. 

To meet the changed demands, and offset the pain of struggling industries, we saw examples of businesses coming together, offering employment to out of work employees where there are skills overlap. For example, in Australia, grocery chain Woolworths offered to employ laid-off Qantas airline workers.1 Healthcare industries too faced the growing need for intensive care staff, and some filled that gap by redeploying and upskilling specialists from other disciplines such as elective surgery, or from less affected areas.2 Regulatory bodies also worked to re-register retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists to bolster numbers.3

The case for

The organisations that experienced a lift in demand needed to act quickly to fulfil the needs of their customers, clients and patients. This included ensuring that staff were fully empowered with the relevant pre-job training (such as OHS and compliance) so they could hit the ground running in a safe and effective manner. In many places, this had to be achieved while maintaining government social distancing guidelines, such as in a remote working setting.

At a time when many companies still rely on manual- and paper-based onboarding, the prospect of signing on thousands of new staff, getting them compliant and out in the field in just a matter of weeks is no simple task. In our experience, onboarding a single candidate can take in excess of two weeks, with individual business units and back office administration systems independently coordinating the various onboarding activities with the candidate, with much face-to-face contact that simply became impossible during COVID-19.

For those organisations that have now digitised this process in an effort to streamline onboarding — it’s proved an essential element in providing an employee experience that set staff up for a prosperous relationship with their company. For others, COVID-19 has provided a powerful motivator to speed up this process, with the need for a uniform digital onboarding experience never more critical. 

The digital onboarding

When developing a digital onboarding process, organisations should look to ensure it does more than just fulfil the needs of today, but sets the organisation up to rapidly meet the unforeseen demands of tomorrow.

A robust and digitally enabled onboarding process will allow organisations to rapidly onboard new cohorts, but additionally, to elevate the data and information integrity between business units (and technological systems). In addition, it should allow for compliance checks, such as visa or police checks, to be verified in real time through direct connectivity to trusted document sources (for example, the Australian Government’s Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) and Document Verification Service (DVS)). Ultimately, this will allow organisations to stand up workforces faster and build richer candidate profiles that can be used to meet future needs. 

Through streamlined digital onboarding, a candidate can quickly fill out skills, qualifications, certifications and other needs that will enable hiring managers to effectively place them in the most suitable roles. Organisations whose workforces need to be redeployed to new industries in future can then leverage analogous skill sets and experience to place their people in the best roles.

Onboarding processes should be able to also meet identity, tax and superannuation compliance requirements. 

Benefits of

Through a digital process, companies can build a richer, aggregate view of their total workforce and when instances occur where certain parts of the business surge, but others ebb, they can proactively manage the capacity by hiring, or redeploying people from underutilised parts of the organisation. For example, in addition to hiring hundreds of casual workers to meet the demands brought by an increase in online shopping deliveries, Australia Post is redeploying its postal workers into parcel delivery amid a fall in demand for letter deliveries.4 Moreover, digital onboarding will elevate data quality and mitigate downstream costs inefficiencies such as payroll discrepancies. It will enable a more streamlined offboarding process too, which is pivotal in relations to short term and contingent staff. 

Onboarding software offers organisations the chance to set new employees up for success and build powerful candidate and workforce profiles. In turn, these can be used to to help businesses respond effectively to a crisis or evolving business demands. 

COVID-19 has forced organisations to think about digitisation like never before. Whatever the future may bring, the need for online, streamlined solutions are likely to continue and accelerate — it is a perfect opportunity now to bring these to the fore, in a time of critical need.