How to hire and onboard remote employees during COVID-19
The Rippling Team — Mar 18, 2020
COVID-19 has forced thousands of employees across the United States — from local coffee shops to Apple and Salesforce — to work from home in order to help contain the pandemic.
Think about that for a second. Millions of people who typically work at their desks in the office are now working from their couches at home. Businesses that never managed a single remote employee now must manage their entire company remotely. It’s a huge challenge.
One of the biggest challenges is hiring and onboarding employees 100% remotely.
Normally, when you think about onboarding a new hire, you envision someone showing them to their desk, helping them fill out forms, setting up their work computer, and so on. But how do you do all that from your home office? How are you supposed to remotely verify someone’s I-9? Or remotely set up and ship their work computer? Or remotely add them to all of the apps they need, like Slack, Office 365, and G Suite?
In this handbook, you’ll find the answers to these questions and many more. Read on to learn everything you need to know about onboarding new hires 100% remotely.
Remotely manage offer letters and agreements
The worst part of onboarding is the paperwork. So much paperwork. Here are just a few onboarding documents that nearly every company has to manage:
- offer letters
- employee handbooks
- stock options & IP assignment agreements
- benefit enrollment documents (health insurance, 401k, etc.)
- personal information forms (name, address, bank, SSN, etc.)
And every time you hire someone new, the cycle starts again: create the paperwork, send the paperwork, collect the paperwork, manually enter all of the data from the paperwork, and finally store the paperwork.
It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.
And the problem is even worse for remote employees because you can’t drop off and collect their paperwork in person. You either have to mail their paperwork or manually coordinate via email.
Modern HR systems like Rippling allow you to automatically create and digitally send (via email) all of the documents you need new hires to fill out and sign.
Hiring managers just enter some basic hiring info — like title, salary, and start date — and the system instantly generates all of their paperwork for review and e-signature. It also allows you to see who signed what, when.
Alternatively, you can use standalone electronic signature software like DocuSign or Adobe Sign. But they can’t integrate with your core HR system, which means you’ll have to create, send, and manage employees’ documents in a completely separate system from where you manage all of your other employee information.
Remotely verify I-9s
Nearly all the i’s can be dotted and t’s can be crossed digitally these days—but there is one big exception: I-9 Employment Verification.
Federal law requires all U.S. employers to complete an I-9 form within three days of a new hire’s start date and certify an employee’s identification and work eligibility documents in person.
On March 20, 2020 ICE released a statement announcing that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will temporarily allow employers with employees working remotely due to COVID-19 to defer the physical review of Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9).
How the temporary deferment works:
- Employers must inspect the Section 2 documents remotely — e.g. through video call, email, or fax — and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents within three business days of employment
- Once normal operations resume, all employees who were onboarded using remote verification must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of their eligibility documentation and I-9
- Employers should enter “COVID-19” as the reason for the physical inspection delay in the Section 2 Additional Information field once physical inspection takes place after normal operations resume. The employer should add “documents physically examined” with the date of inspection to the Section 2 additional information field on the Form I-9, or to Section 3 as appropriate
Modern HR systems like Rippling can automate much of this work by requiring employees to upload a picture of their eligibility documentation during onboarding and automatically assigning tasks to managers (and emailing reminders) to review them within three days
What happens after the deferment ends?
Once ICE’s deferment ends, you can remotely verify employees’ I-9s by assigning an Authorized Representative to visit the employee at their home, view their completed I-9, and physically inspect their eligibility documents.
An Authorized Representative is anyone you trust to review and confirm their documentation in person. While you can technically assign anyone, you’re still legally liable if they incorrectly confirm a new hire’s information. So make sure to train whomever you assign or confirm in advance that they know how to properly review I-9 documents.
Here are a few possible solutions that might work for you.
|1. Remote notaries||If you Google “remote notary near me,” you can find and book a local notary to visit the employee at home. A formal notary seal does not need to be (and should not be) applied.|
|2. Coworkers||If another employee lives close to the new hire, they can visit them and verify their documents.|
|3. Friends or family||If you have a trusted friend or family member who lives close to the new hire, they too can visit them and verify their documents.|
Remotely upkeep payroll
Fortunately, most payroll systems nowadays can be managed online. That said, there are a few advantages to using a newer, more modern payroll system like Rippling or Zenefits rather than a legacy system like ADP or Intuit.
Modern payroll systems can integrate with your third-party systems — like your 401k, insurance carriers, time and attendance software, and more — so no one has to enter any data in order to run payroll. By eliminating payroll data entry across every department, you eliminate the need to coordinate with people to run payroll, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home.
Remotely enroll employees in benefits
Most businesses still use offline processes to enroll new hires in some (or all) of their benefits — medical, dental, vision, 401k, commuter, life, disability, and so on.
Offline enrollments usually look like this:
- Step 1: Your broker gives you a stack of forms for your employees to fill out
- Step 2: You give the forms to your employees to fill out
- Step 3: You collect the forms and send them back to your broker
- Step 4: Your broker emails or faxes (yes, faxes) the forms to the carriers
- Step 5: You hope there weren’t any errors and everything goes OK
The whole process reads like an Abbott & Costello skit. It’s inefficient, prone to error, and becomes even harder when your employees aren’t in the office because you (or your broker) will either have to mail their forms or coordinate manually via email.
Modern HR systems like Rippling allow you to enroll new hires in all of your benefits, all online and in one place. If you already have a broker, they can also use the system to manage your employees’ benefits—whether they’re on-site or remote.
Alternatively, you can ask your broker to implement a standalone system like Ease or Employee Navigator, though they require more manual data entry since they aren’t built into your core HR system.
Remotely manage employees’ computers
When Zendesk hired their first marketing executive, she showed up on her first day to discover nobody had thought to get her a laptop. CEO Mikkel Svane recalls in his book Startupland that he had to run out to the Apple store and buy one. But what if their CMO worked from a different location? She would’ve had to go buy a laptop on her own or wait several days for one to be delivered — missing critical time she needed to get up to speed.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to manage your employees’ devices now.
Rippling device management software allows you to remotely manage employees’ devices right from your core HR system. When you hire and onboard a new employee, you can easily buy, set up, secure, and ship any device — from their computer to monitor — right to their home.
And if someone loses their laptop or leaves the company, you remotely lock it, wipe it, and reassign it to another employee.
Alternatively, you can use a standalone mobile device management (MDM) solution like JAMF or Manage Engine, but they typically require a dedicated IT team to help set up and manage.
Remotely add new hires to every app they need
The average company uses well over 20 cloud apps and systems. And odds are your new hire will need (and want) access to many of them. In particular, remote employees need access to communication and coordination apps right away — think Office 365, Slack, Zoom, Loom, Dropbox, and Asana.
For new hires, getting access to all the tools and systems they need to start working is one of the most tedious parts of joining a new company. And it’s even more frustrating when they’re remote. They can’t just walk over to someone to get help. So what do they do?
Rippling is the only HR software that allows you to remotely provision new employees’ apps in one-click — with or without a dedicated IT team.
For example, you can create a new employee’s Slack account and add them to #slack channels. You can create their GSuite account and work email. If it’s a salesperson, you can create their Salesforce account.
Alternatively, you can use a standalone identity management (IDM) solution like Okta or OneLogin into provision apps. Note that they require a dedicated IT team to set up and manage this software.
Remotely manage passwords
Employees (and human beings in general) are notoriously bad at sharing passwords. That’s because more often than not, people take the path of least resistance.
When everyone’s in the office, people tend to share passwords in-person or on post-it notes. And when everyone’s out of the office, it gets even worse. That’s when people share their passwords over non-secure channels like email and Slack.
Rippling is the only HR system that comes with a password manager built in. It’s called RPass, and it’s the first password manager built for team password sharing. Employees can securely share their login credentials with specific people or whole departments, right from their Chrome browser windows.
Remotely welcome new hires with swag
Some companies — especially tech companies — like to make employees feel welcome by welcoming them with corporate swag: a company t-shirt, backpack, and other fun stuff.
But how do you welcome new hires with swag when every new hire is working from home?
You can still use apps like SwagUp and Social Imprints without Rippling to help manage your swag, but it requires a bit more work, because they aren’t integrated with your core HR system so the sends can’t be automatically triggered.
Remotely assign and manage tasks
Onboarding employees is a team sport. Every department needs to do something to set up a new employee. HR needs to prorate their first check. IT needs to ship their laptop. Finance needs to add them to the expense system. The list goes on and on. It’s hard enough to coordinate this cross-departmental dance in-person, let alone remotely.
Modern HR systems like Rippling and BambooHR allow you to automatically create and assign tasks to managers and new hires across every department, whenever someone new joins.
Alternatively, you can use a standalone task management app like Asana or Trello to help manage everyone’s tasks. But again, they don’t integrate with your core HR system, so they require a bit more work to manage.
Remotely collaborate and build culture
It can be tough to build trust with new hires and make them feel invested in the company when all of their relationships are virtual. One study of 1,100 remote employees found that they are much more likely to feel left out, mistreated, and ignored.
Given that dynamic, it’s critical to build a strong collaborative environment so remote workers feel connected, supported, and engaged. Here’s how you can help make employees successful on their first day and every day after that.
- Implement best-in-class software for remote work. For this, we recommend reading Zapier’s Guide to Working Remotely. It covers everything from what software you should buy to how you can help remote employees avoid cabin fever.
Here is the core software we at Rippling use to operate remotely, for what it’s worth:
- Plan a fully-fledged virtual orientation on your new hire’s first day. Their calendar should be full so there’s no doubt who they’re talking to, how they should connect, or what they’re doing next.
- Use video by default for all meetings and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Seeing someone’s face reminds them they’re talking to a real person. If video calls aren’t possible, voice calls are the next best thing. Don’t let most of their communication be emails or Slack messages.
- Schedule fun virtual events. It’s easy to feel distant when everyone’s working remotely. Scheduling fun virtual events helps the company feel connected. For example, here at Rippling we virtually host weekly group fitness classes that the whole company can attend. It makes for a lot of laughs (and sweat).
Act now. Don’t wait to future-proof your company.
COVID has forced businesses across the world to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: They simply can’t manage remote employees well using their legacy systems and processes. Fortunately, if you just follow this guide, you’ll be able to onboard anyone, anywhere, without missing a beat.
And if you want to go more in-depth into the ins-and-outs of onboarding employees remotely, be sure to register for our upcoming webinar: How to Onboard and Hire Remote Employees During COVID-19.