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Remote onboarding becoming the norm for dealers during COVID-19

Typing on laptop

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, some dealerships are continuing to hire staff and, for safety reasons, many have been forced to move all or part of the process online.

That has been extended to onboarding new employees remotely, driven by the need for social distancing, home working and the rise of video conferencing.

While it’s not always feasible to do some aspects digitally, many dealers have already transferred their entire onboarding process to online.

Drayton Motors is a motor retailer which was ahead of the curve. It took the decision to digitalise its onboarding back in 2015. Initially, this involved simply getting employees to e-sign their employment contracts.

It has since been developed to include other documents such as GDPR and health and safety agreements, and, more recently, videos showing how to deal with customers in a COVID-19 safe environment.

“The benefit of all this is that the employee can log back in and review any platform at any time as well as having date- and time-stamped electric forms to show that the employee has fulfilled the initial onboard training and recruitment process,” says Darren Bradford (left), director at Drayton Motors.

Arnold Clark also recognised the need to update its onboarding process, with its in-house digital development team building a bespoke system that went live in June 2019.

Videos by department heads explaining the different parts of the business and group managers and HR giving an overview of procedures were also uploaded for new hires to view, as well as short quizzes to complete.

“The system keeps us fully informed at all times as to where our candidates are in the process; previously where packs were sent out we were working blind if we hadn’t heard anything back from the candidate,” says Arnold Clark group head of people Lynne McBurney.

Jardine Motors Group has also moved to a more sophisticated system used by high street retailers which enables full assessments to be carried out virtually as a seamless start to the onboarding journey. In addition, its Online Learning Innovation platform enables training modules to be completed at home. 

“A lot of training can be done online now, so employees can do, for example, much of their COVID-19 ways of working safely and FCA training beforehand,” says Clare Wright, group HR director at Jardine Motors Group.

There is a host of technology and software available to help with the onboarding process, including contactless platforms such as Adobe Sign, for new starter signatures. Microsoft Teams is also a valuable communications tool.

Arnold Clark uses its employee portal to provide joiners with information about its values and culture, and policies and benefits, as well as news stories and video interviews with directors. The ACE (Arnold Clark Employee) learning platform also delivers its induction course and regularly updated COVID-19 safety training.

“For new starters this gives a real sense of reassurance that we have everything in place to ensure their safety while at work,” says McBurney. 

Aside from doing away with unnecessary paperwork, a key advantage of digital onboarding is that any major or structural changes affecting workers or processes can be updated automatically, keeping staff induction content up to date.

However, there are also significant challenges involved in remote onboarding, not least the absence of physically face-to-face engagement and making new employees feel like part of the company’s culture. To overcome this, the use of video and other forms of communication is key.

Another problem is checking the authenticity of an individual’s documentation. When drawing up an online onboarding strategy, Bradford recommends setting up a working group with a range of specialisms and experience, encompassing senior managers, HR and marketing.

Only then can motor retailers truly start to shape the future of their onboarding processes.

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