Why virtual onboarding may not be enough

Most HR teams have overlooked this need, says head of career insights

Why virtual onboarding may not be enough

While recruiting staff during the pandemic has proved challenging for brokers and other business owners, another challenge has arisen that needs to be addressed, said Jay Munro, head of career insights at Indeed. Many of the workers recruited during the pandemic who were onboarded virtually may have just started to work from the office without an in-person onboarding experience to help them settle in. MPA spoke with Munro about the effects COVID-19 has had on the Australian workforce and what brokers can do differently to help their employees moving forward.

Recruiting and onboarding a new staff member in the middle of a lockdown was unchartered territory for most businesses across Australia this year. Like many brokers during this time, Sarah Thomson of Loan Market Geelong felt the challenge of hiring new staff; taking on four new team members during a period of lockdown. She told MPA that all the usual rules for onboarding new staff went out the window as she grappled with the question of training and conveying staff culture in a virtual environment.

In recent months, many businesses across the country have started encouraging their staff to return to the office for at least one day a week, but, for workers who started with the company during the lockdown, this could feel like they are starting the role all over again – without a proper onboarding experience to help ease them into the team.

“It must be a really big shock for people,” said Munro, adding that most HR teams he is in contact with have overlooked the need for a second onboarding experience. “There definitely needs to be that workplace socialisation aspect where you do spend time with them and make sure they know where things are and who people are.”

A recent survey by Indeed showed the effect of COVID-19 on the Australian workforce, uncovering some startling trends based on worker age, tenure and environment. In the report, people who had continued working full time in an office or other out-of-home environment such as a restaurant or store, overwhelmingly said their confidence to deliver their job hadn’t changed (71%), nor had their ability to concentrate (59%). In contrast, for people working full time from home, only 53% said their ability to deliver work hadn’t changed and just 39% said their ability to concentrate hadn’t changed.

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It also showed that employed Australians aged 50-65 years old were least likely to feel negatively impacted by the pandemic, with 72% saying they didn’t feel their motivation levels had changed and only 26% concerned they could lose their job. In contrast, almost four in 10 (37%) respondents aged 18-29 years said they felt less motivated to complete work tasks compared to pre COVID-19, with nearly half (47%) of under 40s concerned they could lose their job in the future. Sixty-four per cent (64%) of the 18- to 29-year-old group reported personally knowing someone who had lost their job – a significantly higher percentage than the 43% of the 50-65 age cohort who knew someone in the same situation.

The report found those who personally knew someone who had lost their job were considerably more likely to feel increased stress/anxiety levels (60%), to feel more isolated working from home (67%), and to be more concerned about job security (51%).

According to Munro, the results show how important it is not to have a blanket view of the effect of COVID-19 on Australian workers.

“One of the things that stood out was those feelings of vulnerability because of the COVID epidemic,” he said, adding the report “highlighted that people are responding differently across generations and experience in the workforce.”

“There needs to be a real focus on psychological wellbeing. It’s very difficult for people going through this - we have to be a bit more aware of the impact it has on individuals and how that can manifest in terms of their professional performance,” he added.

Read next: How brokers can prevent staff burnout

This requires more of a non-linear approach – one that looks beyond considerations of technology and process in order to incorporate the mental health needs of workers and the overall needs of the business, he said.

“The virus is still around, so how can we continue to look at offering that flexibility of people staying safe and working from home versus what the business needs and what that looks like?” he added.