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Struggling to keep up with Remote Onboarding? Here's how to fix it

Onboarding has always been something that requires a delicate balance to get right. Throw new hires in at the deep end and they might struggle to keep up. Take a more hands-off approach and they might struggle to get going. 

Studies have shown that successful onboarding can boost employee retention rates by as much as 82%. And yet, most new employees feel as if the onboarding process leaves a lot to be desired. This is even harder for IT teams now that so many of them are working remotely.

So why has remote work made onboarding so much harder? And what can you do to fix it?

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Why remote work has made onboarding harder

An IT team working with 50 new starters would usually get their new equipment delivered to the office the week before. Then they'd install the right certificates and set up the machines with the imaging and software the new hires need, ready to be used in the office the following week.

Ordering the new devices, setting them up, checking them and distributing them to the right users has always been fiddly and time-consuming work. But remote work has made it much more complex in two important ways.

working from home on a laptop

First, it introduces a lot of shipping. How much shipping will depend on how dispersed your IT team and new hires are. If everyone is totally remote, then devices will need to be ordered and shipped to IT staff, set up, then shipped to users. Just organising the shipping is a fairly complex task in and of itself.

Second, all the machines need to be configured correctly the first time around. All the software, imaging and device configuration needs to be sorted out-of-the-box. If there are issues with new or refreshed devices, IT will have to solve the problems remotely, or the devices will need to be returned. This can create even more admin.

Thankfully, new challenges usually result in new ideas and solutions. IT teams that try to approach remote onboarding in the same way they do for on-site workers will struggle. IT teams that embrace a new way of onboarding staff will be able to make it work.

So what do IT teams need to do differently for remote workers?


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Put a 'zero touch' logistics system in place to handle the ordering and shipping

Your IT team should be focused on IT, not admin. The first thing to do is to establish processes that take the hassle out of ordering devices and getting them to the right place at the right time. 

There are two key things to consider here. You need a system that can order the devices you need. Ideally, this process will be self-serve or automated, so that your IT team isn't acting as a middleman between your new starters and your IT suppliers. 

Systems can be linked to HR platforms so that new devices are automatically arranged when hires are made. For instance, our Direct 2 Desk solution can connect with your HR systems to automate the sourcing and supply of the right devices directly to the desks, home or office of new hires. 

Once again, this should be a 'zero touch' system that can make the right decisions on behalf of IT. This system should also be able to handle returning them for refreshing and reallocation, recycling or repairs when necessary.

Put a reliable system in place to handle the build, imaging and installations

Getting the devices where they need to be is one thing. But it's no good if those devices aren't set up and ready to use. This is even more important in a remote working setup, because devices that haven't been set up properly may need to be returned, leaving new starters without devices for the first week or so of their employment.

There are two options here. The first is to have your IT team continue to do the build, imaging and software installations, just as they always have. However, the downside to this is that this work is very hard to do if your IT team is working from home. It's much easier if you're in an office with the right equipment and enough space.

Working out of office

If you have a remote IT team, then you'd be better off getting a supplier who can handle the build, imaging and installations for you. IT orders the devices and your supplier does the rest. Or, if you have a 'zero touch' system in place like Direct 2 Desk described above, IT manages the systems and the systems work with your suppliers to do everything else. Device enrollment products like Microsoft's Autopilot programme or Apple's Device Enrolment programme can also help with remote software imaging and device management. 

How does this help IT teams handle remote onboarding?

Before the pandemic, this process was optional. Now that so many people are working remotely, these kinds of processes are more necessary for fast-growing companies with lots of new starters.

They save dozens of IT man-hours, reduce costs and give you the ability to scale faster and more efficiently. If you're an organisation that's onboarding dozens of people, onboarding the "old way" is a massive drain on resources. 

A new normal

We have yet to emerge on the other side of the pandemic but it appears likely that one major trend catalysed by the pandemic is here to stay: when we're onboarding people, we're not necessarily onboarding them into an office. We might be onboarding them in their own homes, in the office or some combination of the two.

working from home office setup

In many ways, this presents an opportunity to streamline the onboarding process in a way that requires very little hands-on work from the IT team themselves. However, for a complete solution that encompasses everything from hardware sourcing to software and device retirement, Direct 2 Desk is the most practical and logical option for remote working teams. Because while software is important, it means nothing if you don't have the equipment in place to run it.

Ultimately, it takes a lot of the busy work associated with starters, movers and leavers out of the hands of the IT team. And when you consider you could have an IT team of 4 or 5 people working at a business that employs hundreds or even thousands, the easier you can make a process, the better.

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Published on 12 Jan 2022

Last updated on 17 Feb 2022

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