April 14, 2021 HCM Support, HCM System Support, HCM Technology

Improving the Remote Work Experience: Employee Engagement & System Efficiencies

2020 was a year of upheaval, quick adaptation, and fast-fix band-aids plastered onto ‘temporary problems’ caused by the pandemic-induced shift to remote work. After over a year of navigating the changing pandemic work terrain, it is clear to many that the ‘temporary problems’ are not so temporary. Finding productive, efficient and sustainable fixes for remote work challenges such as employee engagement, paper-based processes and onboarding new hires is now top of the list for many. Fostering connection in the manager-employee relationship and achieving higher levels of remote-worker satisfaction and well-being requires a new set of tools and considerations. Below, Wise consultants who have been on the front line with clients have taken a moment to share some of the issues, ideas and solutions they have discovered.

Improving Employee Connectedness

The number of people working remotely due to the pandemic remains high. Though it varies by region and industry, this group is likely to remain sizeable because many companies are making it optional to return to a physical work location and some are even deciding that remote works well enough to eliminate physical workspace altogether. Savvy HR teams and managers have been quick to realize that new processes and communication techniques are needed for remote workers.

Amanda Babbidge, GBA and Wise consultant, says the remote worker is naturally more disconnected, but that there are ways to promote better feelings of connectedness. “When you are walking by someone’s cubicle, you can see their face and sense when someone is having a hard time, but remotely that becomes impossible. As a manager, having a way to assess whether someone is struggling is key.” Most HCM systems have features that can help HR and team managers do this, though they might have been overlooked at the time of core system implementation. Features that might have been considered ‘fluffy’ and not worth the investment to set up or add on can now be leveraged as valuable tools.

Leveraging HCM System Features to Build Engagement

Measuring feelings of engagement, personal struggles, commitment to team goals, low-retention indicators and flight risk can be tricky without the help of tools that are easy to use and dashboards to help spot trends. Amanda points out that Ceridian’s Dayforce product offers Team Relate, a feature that focuses on communication skills between employee and manager, gathering information about the employee that the manager can use to understand which communication techniques will be received most positively and encourage the best response.

Pam Mackie, PMP, a UKG Pro-certified Wise consultant, says that UKG is very aware of how companies are working to improve the remote employee experience. “UKG is currently testing a new feature called Continuous Feedback. This will allow ongoing communications between Managers and Employees. We do not know what the release date will be, but it is coming soon. UKG Pro also has a module called Perceptions, which is a survey tool used to measure key elements of the employee experience.”

Another Wise consultant from our UKG practice, Jody Burton, PHR, SHRM-CP, shares that a feature in UKG Pro called Leadership Actions can help managers plan activities or tasks aimed at communicating and engaging with employees in ways that promote longer retention.

Analytics from features aimed at improving employee engagement and retention can really help managers see the value of interacting with remote employees in meaningful ways and can also be useful in predicting flight risk.

Making Onboarding a Better Experience for HR and the New Hire

Payroll consultant, Anita Kulik, CPP, says there are several challenges she sees clients grapple with on the remote onboarding front. She suggests that replacing physical paperwork with virtual document completion processes and working to keep the new hire connected are two items that are worth putting time into. “One of the main issues I had when I first started working remotely eight years ago as a new hire, and I was new to remote working, was there were days when I wanted to knock on my laptop and ask, do you guys remember you hired me? To have engagement tools in the software would have enabled me to reach out and make the connections I needed as a new hire. Employees can really feel like they are out there on an island by themselves and they can be struggling but not wanting to show it because they are new.”

At Wise, we were lucky to have recently implemented Microsoft Teams when the pandemic hit, which has helped us stay connected. Our consultants were also used to working remotely because they are located all over the country, so we have built connection into our culture over time. But for companies that went from 100% in the office to 100% remote, they may still just be trying to identify the best ways for their teams to stay connected.

As for all that onboarding paperwork, Amanda says she saw many clients go into emergency mode at the beginning of COVID, “when they all of a sudden realized how many paper forms a new hire has to fill out, there was the question of how do I get the information from people securely because I used to use paper? So, there were a lot of short term, band aid fixes put in place to accommodate that and now would be the perfect time to back and review them more holistically as you examine how your HCM system can help, such as clicking some boxes to enable electronic tax forms. With onboarding, it’s trying to get 100% paperless. Benefits should already be paperless using the enrollment form that’s in there but there could be some other forms of documentation that have to do with benefits, such as a life event or providing employees with actual benefit coverage booklets…or electronic forms that used to be available on a shared drive that now people are having trouble accessing remotely…you can place those in your HCM system. It’s time to move beyond the emergency use of the paperless fixes that may not be 100% PII-secure to a long-term plan for putting as much into your HCM system as possible.”

Look for Easy Fixes First

Anita has been helping clients troubleshoot everything from lack of payroll documentation to lack of reliable WiFi connection during the pandemic. In the first few months, she says, the makeshift home offices were not equipped, and people struggled. Some people are still struggling because they haven’t been able to invest time into making simple changes that can help tremendously.

Anita feels lucky to be able to help clients make some of these changes. “Because we deal with all different HCM software platforms, we know that when people use the modules in their system that help them process payroll most efficiently, that saves a lot of time if you have a large population and could eliminate manual processes and physical paper going back and forth. A big complaint I hear is that people like to print things out, which can also cause security issues, and if you are printing at home you need to shred it. Your company should provide a shredder for workers in this situation. We have also found that something as simple as a second monitor being provided to payroll and HR employees allows for the printing to be vastly reduced and thereby more secure. Companies need to understand that providing employees with things like second monitors and hot spots is important for worker well-being as well as security around sensitive data.”

Building Remote-Friendly Practices into Corporate Culture

Since many companies are allowing a return to the physical workspace to be optional for employees, it makes sense for them to put energy into building inclusion and support of remote workers into the company culture. There are many reasons why an employee might opt to remain remote – children still on hybrid school schedules who can’t be left alone, caring for parents recovering from illness, relocation due to any number of factors – and workplaces that forge a meaningful connection with remote employees, engage with them, gather feedback about their experience and proactively employ remote-friendly management tools are not only making workers more satisfied, they are promoting higher levels of well-being.

Wise consultants can assist with implementing or activating HCM system employee engagement features, work with payroll teams to document processes to protect payroll continuity, identify areas of compliance and security risk and much more. Reach out to our team for information at HCMHelp@wiseconsulting.com or 800-654-4550.


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