The year 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and the construction industry had to pivot quickly to rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19. Many activities — job postings, interviews, trainings, reviews, quality control and processes — moved to a remote structure. Meanwhile, on-site safety protocols were completely overhauled to ensure worker safety and well-being.
When these functions shifted to a remote format, the top priority was maintaining all steps of each process. Across the board, contractors found success in these shifts, and well into 2021, these measures are still in place — some are even here to stay. So, how do managers in construction make the most of what a remote format has to offer?
Overlooking the details of any process has consequences on a business’s ability to attract and retain top talent. This is true of both hiring and new employee onboarding, where new hire success can hinge on high-quality delivery of virtual programs and tools.
Construction unemployment was at 9% to begin 2021, down from its peak of 21% in April 2020. As we continue to see projects reemerge and backlogs rebound, it’s important to adapt to some of the virtual hiring changes that will continue post-pandemic. If you’ve decided to move certain hiring and onboarding programs to a remote process or you’re thinking about it, here are a few steps to improving retention and employee engagement.
Update Materials & Set Clear Expectations
The first major adjustment to make when transitioning from an in-person to a virtual employee onboarding program is to update your learning materials. There’s no utility in training new employees on the way things used to be. Zoom and other virtual conferencing options can help facilitate onboarding in place of in-person groups. After making sure all onboarding material directly addresses updated workflows, organizations must add new steps in the onboarding process to ensure access and retention across multiple learning styles.
Consider creating a resource document for new employees to outline expectations. New, expectation-setting employee resources can include a remote onboarding checklist sent in advance of initial training, communications infrastructure and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocol once on-site. You may want to go over the checklist in an optional welcome call to outline what new hires can expect on the first day and first week on the job.
Finally, a clear focus on first-day health and safety and jobsite protocol is key. Taking the time to educate employees and following up to ensure understanding of these protocols is critical. These processes are only as effective as the people adhering to them.
Use Communication Methods
Whether the goal is effective interviewing, screening, or remote onboarding, organizations must understand every facet of their virtual communication software and take advantage of multiple features to cater to a variety of learning styles.
Platforms like Zoom help with face-to-face interviewing but getting creative with the different features these technologies have to offer can help optimize the construction hiring process.
Scheduling a day of 10-minute interviews, group interviews, or even virtual hiring events allows candidates to be vetted from the safety of their homes. It also gives employers the same turnkey hiring solutions as in-person group events once provided.
If you are onboarding a group of employees, consider using the chat function for questions, as well as breakout groups with direct check-ins. Increase the number, frequency and range in type of retention checks. Also encourage, but don’t require, leaving cameras on as a way of promoting engagement and collaboration.
The virtual environment needs to contain a diversity of thought. Ensure you’re adaptable in the teaching process and creating a welcoming culture with one-on-one check-ins, but also mix in large or breakout group activities to facilitate different learning styles.
No matter what changes you make, candidate engagement and proper follow-up are the most important communication principles to follow. Employees are navigating brand new environments and processes and they need more direction, follow-up and constant communication than they may have needed in the past.
Build up Your Remote Infrastructure
Marathon in-person onboarding or hiring sessions may be a relic of the past, so some businesses need to adjust their infrastructure to better fit the “new reality” of the virtual setting. The first change regards timing and cadence.
A virtual hiring event can do a great job of preliminary-round conversations. However, expect other touchpoints afterwards with qualified candidates to ensure they are not only engaged, but
fully understand the role and have time
to ask questions.
On the onboarding side, a virtual group training needs to allow more time in-training for questions and making sure people understand, but on an overall program basis there also needs to be a longer runway for ingestion. Many companies have seen success by
utilizing condensed training modules with a narrower focus in smaller class sizes.
The speed and rate of engagement throughout hiring and onboarding is a major differentiator — fast, responsive companies incentivize candidates and make them feel valued. And no matter what the use case is, there needs to be adequate IT infrastructure and support.
Prioritize the Exchange of Information
No matter how proactive you are in building out a great remote program, you’ll miss a few considerations. Leave room for future adjustments and encourage feedback and participation in process improvements.
Open dialogue about the hiring, onboarding and training process sets a positive precedent. Show your employees that you value their input and keep them engaged by asking for their opinions. For employees who are hired and onboarded remotely but work on-site, seek feedback from them on how helpful their remote experience was. And then, continue to make tweaks to your processes by balancing the virtual and in-person experiences.
If your business is hiring new employees, bringing on contingent help or retraining current workers to new remote tasks, fully leveraging the possibilities of remote hiring and onboarding processes will be well worth the investment.