A Digital Onboarding Experience for Seasonal Hires

As a retailer, you’ve no doubt met your hiring quotas by now for the holiday season. Next comes an equally weighty challenge: how to onboard, train, and most importantly, engage those thousands of seasonal workers that Santa has so generously placed under your corporate tree.

Many chains try to complete this formidable process through a series of automated enterprise HR software systems. Workflow automation apps can simplify typical onboarding tasks like payroll, IT, tax/regulatory documentation, enrollments and the like. eLearning platforms offer online training in the form of videos, on-demand courseware, and testing. And benefits portals can help employees with their insurance questions.

To raise employee engagement, retailers often resort to perks and incentives. Swag bags, employee discounts, bonuses, generous PTO policies, flexible scheduling, and prize drawings are just some of the fringe benefits touted by retailers to raise morale and enthusiasm. Mentoring programs and skills development can also help to keep workers engaged; some even offer end-of-season bonuses or signing bonuses to returning employees.

Despite all these efforts to keep seasonal employees happy, the turnover rate for part-time, hourly retail employees remains high. Smooth onboarding and training, in addition to creating a positive employee experience, is vital to the success of new retail employees. After all, no one wants to feel overwhelmed in their new job; furthermore, many want to feel like they’re part of something important and larger than themselves. Strong HR tools can create this sense of purpose, giving employees a sense of belonging and assurance that they’re a good fit for their new employer.

Streamlining Resources
Although many organizations have standardized platforms to manage the recruiting process, very few have a coordinated solution in place to welcome, onboard, train, and engage seasonal workers. This is where digital workforce platforms are changing the nature of employee engagement. Workforce portals intelligently analyze and track each individual worker’s needs, customizing their personal experience to match their situation as well as the company’s priorities.

Everyone has faced a “first day” scenario in which they feel unsure of what to do, where to go, or what to expect. Digital workforce platforms, such as Deloitte’s ConnectMe, which connects employees to relevant HR resources and tools, combat this dilemma by providing the hand-holding new hires may need. As a one-stop resource, these platforms or portals can also eliminate frustration and bewilderment; instead of exposing new workers to four or five different systems, a single employee platform gives them a much simpler experience. Fragmentation, multiple log-ons, and information disconnects are no longer an issue.

From the moment the new employee accepts his or her position, digital workforce platforms can provide relevant information. For example, a welcome video from the CEO can explain the company’s culture, its approach to customer service, and how it differentiates itself in the market. The platform can lead the new hire through the process of signing W-2’s, completing employee documentation, benefits enrollment, and IT registration. It can also deliver whatever compliance-related training is required (e.g., safety, workplace behavior, apparel requirements, etc.) via video training. As the worker progresses in his/her job, the platform can assist further via links to upcoming work schedules and company announcements, or to manage important life events such as getting married, having children, or changing addresses.

Catering to Digital Natives
For many new hires, digital workplace platforms are desirable because they sync with modern lifestyles. Millennials in particular are “digital natives” who are used to technology. They want their lives to be as frictionless as possible, and online resources fill this need. In fact, portals can make a retailer more attractive in a highly competitive job market—imagine a candidate evaluating three different job opportunities, but only one has a video featuring current employees praising the company’s forward-thinking approach as evidenced by its convenient digital resources. Solutions such as these can play a valuable role in a candidate saying “yes.”

Saving on Costs
For employers, workforce portals can also provide a net cost savings. In the past, employees would have to call the HR service center three or four times to navigate life changes or to have a benefit question answered. By providing a resource for employees to service their own needs, HR service delivery experts can focus on services that add higher value to the organization. Additionally, digital workforce platforms, by helping to ensure consistency in onboarding, training and messaging to new hires, can be key to providing consistent and exceptional customer service by freeing up the employee to focus on the customer and by retaining top quality workers.

A digital workplace platform can usually be implemented in three to four months and for a fraction of the cost it takes to roll out typical enterprise software. Companies considering such a move should remember to focus on culture first, and technology second. Portals are a means to an end—and that end is an exceptional employee experience. Employers need to configure those “moments that matter,” so the result is an optimal employee experience.

To help ensure a successful rollout, consider an outside consultant with a wealth of experience building and deploying workplace solutions. These parties can assist with content creation, best practices in change management, and fresh ideas that can help ensure a successful, innovative, and functional platform.

Hiring seasonal workers is perhaps the biggest staffing task facing any retail HR organization. Yet by engaging these workers quickly—and providing exceptional work experiences over time—seasonal hiring can actually become more efficient. Temporary employees are more likely to come back, and full-time employees are more likely to recommend their workplace to others. Holidays may be a challenge—but in a hot labor market fraught with uncertainties, retailers will find that a digital workplace platform can be a gift that keeps on giving.

Bill Docherty is managing director and general manager of ConnectMe, Deloitte Consulting LLP.



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