Companies in fields like construction and energy often spend a lot of time and manpower putting in place processes and systems that allow them to properly manage their remote employees—particularly field workers.
Yet, many companies forget the importance of establishing and implementing processes and systems for onboarding. This is a mistake that can have major repercussions.
According to the content technology experts at Interact, effective employee onboarding can increase employee performance by up to 11 percent, and employees are 58 percent more likely to be at a company 3 years after starting if they complete a comprehensive onboarding process.
But, onboarding remote employees has particular challenges that do not exist for those in the office. The following are a few of the obstacles your company may experience and how to overcome them so that your field employees feel equally as valuable as those in the main office.
1. Getting the HR Work Done
The first challenge is the most straightforward: How do you get the paperwork signed? New employees are required to fill out many forms, from providing payroll details to completing Forms W-4 or I-9.
Digital solutions can facilitate this process with field workers, but not all paperwork can be completed digitally. Most notably, original documents must be physically verified to complete Form I-9.
Be sure to inform employees of the documentation they need to bring and physically verify before their start date so that the paperwork can filed and processed by the time they start (if they are able to physically come in to the office), or encourage the employee to use a notary service in his/her area to verify the documents. Don’t forget to reimburse him/her for the notary fees.
2. Integrating Into Company Culture
Integrating new employees into the company culture—everything from the company’s values, ways of working and dress code—is one of the primary purposes of onboarding. It’s arguably more important to emphasize culture in onboarding for remote and field workers, who are not able to pick up cues about culture from spending the time in the office or with other employees.
For field workers, the culture of the worksite can be different from the culture of the main office, or the office where the onboarding materials are developed.
If this is the case, your onboarding process should include a briefing of new employees about the culture of their work location, as well as the culture of other offices. This will reduce misunderstandings and tension between field workers and office employees.
3. Establishing Communication Norms
Most of the time, field workers can’t pop by a colleague’s office to ask a quick question. If they urgently need a response from someone at another location, what is the best way to get one? What are the communication norms at the company?
If the company encourages employees to use a messaging app or phone call, rather than email (or vice versa), make sure field workers are aware of this and have easy access to the tools they need. It’s also a good idea to inform field workers of any communication expectations.
For example: If someone emails them, are they expected to respond within the same day? The same hour? Setting expectations will make communication easier for all involved and alleviate miscommunication.
4. Emphasizing Proper IT & Security Protocols
Remote and field workers are more likely than other employees to use company electronics in public places and log onto public Wi-Fi networks. They’re also less likely to have easy access to company tech support, which exposes them to much higher security risks.
As such, their onboarding must cover information on data security (e.g., password policies and security practices, such as the use of anti-virus software). In detail, emphasize how the nature of their work exposes them to greater risk and train them on how to mitigate those risks.
If your company requires that off-site employees use virtual private network (VPN) software when accessing the company computer network, make sure field workers know how to do so.
5. Making Them Feel Like Part of the Team
It can be lonely out there in the field. Help your remote and field workers feel like part of the team from day one by:
- Sending a welcome pack—A welcome pack can be simple (a mug, company t-shirt, notebook and pen), or it can be as creative and elaborate as you want. For a fun gift, a construction company could include a board game related to building, such as The Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne.
- Giving a virtual tour—An office tour is part of the day-one ritual at a new job, and hiring someone to work at another location is no reason to skip it. Use video conferencing software to lead a new employee through the office and introduce him/her to their colleagues from their mobile device.
6. Uniting Around a Common Purpose
It can be difficult for field workers to understand what other employees at other locations do or how the work of those employees contributes to their own assignments. Make sure your field workers understand the company’s mission, vision and goals, and explain how each department helps meet those goals.
Schedule video sessions with managers and other employees to discuss their jobs with new field workers. If it’s difficult to find time because of time-zone differences or other barriers, have office employees record videos for new field employees to watch on their own schedule.
Onboarding remote and field workers requires more effort than onboarding other employees, but thanks to technology, it’s getting easier. Use the tools available to ensure your field workers get the onboarding experience that will make their work more enjoyable and productive.