How technology can close the gap for onboarding non-desk employees

February 28, 2018 - 5 minute read

Organisations need to communicate with their employees. That’s a given. Table stakes. No brainer. And yet 70% of employees claim to want better communications from their employer, so there’s still a gap to be filled.

And it’s an important one to fill - not just for the employee but for the organisation too. Fluid internal communication is shown to improve employee engagement and to help deliver an improved customer experience. It’s essential in building an organisational culture but, from a more practical perspective, great internal comms also help to get HR jobs done.

And while there are hundreds of tools aimed at delivering HR experiences to office-based employees, non-desk employees are often left isolated. Ludicrous given their prevalence.

As much as 80% of the global workforce is likely engaged in “physical or deskless work” on a daily basis. Three billion people. And even in the UK, around half of the 32 million workers are engaged in non-desk occupations.

“These workers typically do not have a computer issued by their employer and are left to work with antiquated technology solutions and processes. However, many of these workers are now carrying mobile phones and an opportunity exists to create enterprise-grade mobile apps that cater to their day-to-day functional needs in their respective industries to maximize flexibility and productivity.” - 2016 report by technology investment firm GP Bullhound.

This is reinforced by the fact that, in 2016, 1.5 billion mobile devices were shipped globally, compared to just 270 million computers. Add to that the fact that there are 1.15 billion daily active mobile Facebook users with more than 100 billion connections and that every day 60 billion Whatsapp messages are sent and the message is clear - if you want to reach your non-desk employees, the method must be mobile, real-time and easy, like the platforms they’re used to using every day. Step forward enterprise social media…

What does your onboarding currently look like?

Unfortunately, for too many employees in non-desk professions, the first day still looks something like this:

  • Arrive too early because you’re not sure what time you start
  • Wander around the area a few times trying to figure out where the staff entrance is
  • Follow some other employees inside and wait til someone accidentally runs into you and recognises you as “that new person”
  • Get told a bunch of things really quickly that you forget because you’re nervous
  • Get introduced to some colleagues whose names you immediately forget too because there’s so much to take in
  • Be told you’re wearing the wrong thing
  • You’re then thrown out onto a shop floor, a restaurant counter, a factory floor or behind the reception desk and are expected to make total sense of that 5 minutes of on-the-job training
  • Inevitably either spend hours desperate to go to the bathroom or totally miss your lunch break because nobody told you when, where or how to take breaks
  • Go home exhausted and dreading the next day

Staff Training - Green Office Folder on Background of Working Table with Stationery and Laptop. Staff Training Business Concept on Blurred Background. Staff Training Toned Image. 3D..jpeg

This isn’t only problematic from the employee perspective, but also incredibly short-sighted from the organisation. Research suggests that employees who are well onboarded will reach highest productivity levels after just 4 months instead of the standard 12 months; a good onboarding experience decreases staffing turnover by 25% and early retirement of good employees by 50%; and one 2014 study revealed that 80% of best-in-class organisations with the highest profits and returns began their onboarding process before day one

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And the great surprise is that a top class onboarding experience doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming or expensive.

Having an enterprise social network (ESN) or engagement platform aimed at non-desk employees is key - mainly because these don’t require a company email address and so you can add new recruits to the platform and the relevant groups as soon as they sign a contract to come on board.

  1. The hiring manager posts a message welcoming the new recruit to the team and telling the team when their new colleague will be starting
  2. Team members are encouraged to like the post and send their own welcome messages - this will make the new recruit feel valued and at ease asking any questions they may have prior to their starting date
  3. The hiring manager sends a private message to the new recruit telling them where in the ESN they can find work rosters and documents, such as an Employee Handbook, giving the new worker time to read up before their first day which helps them take on information more quickly during the first weeks
  4. Close to the starting date, the new recruit’s manager or supervisor sends a message telling where and when they should arrive (send a map if it’s complicated), and who will meet them there

This is about as simple as onboarding can get, taking a maximum of 30 minutes time total for the hiring organisation, but will result in a new non-desk employee who arrives educated about the company and its processes, confident that they’re valued in their new role, and ready to be a productive member of their team. If each new employee isn’t worth 30 minutes, then how can you be worthy of their time, loyalty and best efforts?


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Matt Warnock

Written by Matt Warnock

Matt is an experienced journalist-turned-content marketer who writes about all things tech, SAAS and B2B.