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Even before the storm of 2020 descended on us, onboarding new employees was never easy. You’ve got to sift through piles of paperwork, adhere to guidelines and follow a long checklist. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and the onboarding process becomes even more chaotic, given the disjointed communication often inherent in a remote work environment.

This discord comes as many employers remain uncertain about the timing of a return to the workplace. A survey in August by The Conference Board, a nonprofit business organization, found that 35% of US companies don’t know when their offices will reopen.

However, it’s not as if hiring has screeched to a halt during the pandemic. In fact, in an August survey of HR professionals and employees, The Manifest found that nearly half of the companies surveyed had hired at least 10 employees since the start of the pandemic. Due to the swift rise of remote work and virtual onboarding, this discovery is unprecedented with the lack of experience and training in these new methods.

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Here are five tips for removing as much stress and uncertainty as possible from the onboarding process while we navigate this “new normal”:

  1. Supply Covid-19 fact sheets that provide up-to-date health information and dispel myths and rumors. Keep in mind that these fact sheets should be in a format that allows them to be distributed electronically.
  2. Produce easy-to-digest guides with detailed information on matters ranging from tax credits to mask protocols. These guides can serve as a one-stop shop to answer questions that newly hired and rehired employees are likely to ask. Because many of us are working remotely, be sure these guides can be shared electronically.
  3. Establish return-to-work best practices and checklists so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations for coming back to the office. This should cover line-items such as hygiene protocols, on-site temperature checks and wellness screenings. As with the fact sheets and guides, these best practices and checklists should be in a digital-friendly format.
  4. Review and update forms for sick leave and medical leave requests, and for travel acknowledgements. All of these should be kept in a digital hub where HR professionals, managers and employees can easily access them.
  5. Consider a technology makeover. With operations seemingly moving in 10 directions at once during the pandemic, it’s critical to look at leveraging tech solutions and platforms that can simplify onboarding, centralize pandemic-related information, and streamline tasks, conversations and various administrative duties (like benefits enrollment and payroll). This tech-focused approach can go a long way toward calming the pandemic frenzy at a time when HR professionals, managers and employees might already be struggling to cope with stressors outside of work.

To minimize the chaos in one’s onboarding process, it is more necessary than ever to streamline the operation, thus reducing burdens on the HR department and easing anxiety that new hires might be feeling. In the end, a well-organized, tech-focused onboarding process can help retain employees — and can help avoid the possibility of replacing employees who were frustrated by a jumbled onboarding process and other disorderly HR functions.