Empowering the Deskless Workforce with Automated Onboarding

Bryan Herijanto

A majority of HR pros consider onboarding automation to be some of the best ways to enhance the onboarding experience

With automation tools, ceaseless admin work, legal intricacies, reminders, and processes are easier to handle; they greatly increase efficiency while reducing costs and human errors.

Managing a deskless workforce adds another layer of complexity to employee onboarding. You’re dealing with staff scattered across multiple locations that need immediate and brief input, with limited time to respond to urgent requests (which is why you should also consider pre-boarding).

Luckily, plenty of frontline-related issues can easily be mitigated with automated onboarding. 

Today, we’ll explore what automated onboarding looks like for deskless workers and the many benefits it introduces to HR and team members alike.

What is automated onboarding?

Automated onboarding leverages digital tools to create a streamlined onboarding process that works on autopilot and minimizes the need for human intervention. 

Sounds complicated? 

Let’s go through this definition step by step:

  • Digital automation tools are AI-powered allies that store, manage, and disperse critical employee information. Over the years, HR tech has advanced to cover a variety of tasks, including benefits, payroll, employee engagement, and onboarding, to name a few. 
  • The streamlined onboarding process is brief, efficient, and eliminates unnecessary tasks. Each part of the onboarding process has a purpose and is directly tied to the work they’ll perform from day one.
  • Onboarding on autopilot means that HR can delegate repetitive work to the automation tools and work on more meaningful tasks. 
  • Minimized need for human intervention doesn’t mean that new team members will never meet their mentors and superiors in person! Automated onboarding provides people with extra time for a personalized approach and human touch.

So, onboarding automation means that employees can quickly receive critical information without waiting for their supervisors to respond. On the other hand, HR can work without interruptions, dedicate their time to personalized employee engagement tactics, and provide face-to-face communication when it matters.

What does onboarding automation look like for a deskless workforce?

Providing a great onboarding experience is critical for a deskless workforce, and needs to provide the following:

  • Accessible onboarding platform — Unlike the office workforce, frontline workers don’t have the luxury of browsing huge screens while sitting down comfortably. Deskless workers, as their title suggests, need to have access to the onboarding platform in various working conditions.
  • Streamlined knowledge base — While having an internal company wiki may be best practice, a deskless workforce has different needs. They need to pinpoint and access vital chunks of information in a digestible format, fast.
  • Quick response time — It is easy to imagine a customer being angry at a retail worker for being unable to provide the information fast. Onboarding automation relieves the tension by retrieving the info fast, upon request.
  • Established communication channels — To ensure staff members get the right information quickly at all times, you need to establish communication channels for specific purposes and delegate mentorship to the right people.
  • Sufficient support at work — The onboarding period at the brand new job is exciting but stressful; having someone to rely on in-person means a lot to the new hires. Automated onboarding goes much further than we initially imagine. The shift-scheduling tools will automatically delegate the available mentor to a new hire and share the schedule with interested parties.

Mobile phones are ideal tools for frontline workers: small, portable, and equally powerful for communication and information storage. It all boils down to two work modes:

  1. Multi-purpose apps require complex and expensive development and constant upkeep. Although you can create bespoke and powerful solutions, there’s a learning curve for users and building one may require investment outside the core of your business.
  2. Chat apps are ready to deploy instantly, cheaper, and less cumbersome for frontline workers (who, by the way, probably use at least one of them). Mercu uses this communication method to create a smooth and engaging onboarding experience (with loads of additional functionalities).

Benefits of automated employee onboarding

Improved resource management

Better use of time and cost savings are the number one reason HR departments double down on onboarding automation.

Automation tools use the “set it and forget it” principle as inspiration. HR personnel are required only for initial set-up, update them as needed, and review performance periodically.

Sending emails, reminders, PTO tracking, payroll, meeting scheduling and other recurring tasks are taken care of. Companies need fewer people in HR, while humans remain in charge of strategic and creative share of work.

Reducing human mistakes on both ends

“To err is human, to forgive divine” — but why ask for forgiveness when you can eliminate mistakes? 

Calculating payroll, PTO, and benefits is better left to a tool that doesn’t have headaches or bad days, and gets the numbers right each time.

Onboarding automation will also reduce staff mistakes at the workplace. If they’re able to request and receive crucial info quickly, they’ll make fewer mistakes and act fast. Automated onboarding will reduce workplace injuries, disgruntled customers, and fast-track synergies amongst teams.

Empowering employees from day one

Manual onboarding shouldn’t be long.

With onboarding automation, you can shorten the time to productivity and help staff work “for real” from their first day. Automating the onboarding process helps them find the info themselves, whenever they need it, without waiting for their supervisor or HR’s response. 

Automated onboarding eliminates the need for their physical presence too, which is perfect for a scattered, deskless workforce.

Shorter and more efficient training

Automated onboarding can help start the onboarding process before the new staff comes to work. Digitised onboarding assets let deskless staff learn at their convenience and prepare for the workplace on time. 

Once they arrive, they’ll be prepared in theory, and ready to learn from practice. It will take less time and effort for their coworkers to train them and help them get around. New team members will also have most of their questions already answered.

With more time on their hands, HR can tailor and personalise the onboarding experience.

Mercu’s onboarding platform facilitates the process of data collection from new team members and enables discovery for experience improvement opportunities. Once identified, HR can create custom onboarding for different business functions, or narrow it down to a shift.

Overcoming challenges in automated onboarding

Managing resistance to change

When the time comes to send an annual or quarterly employee survey, many employees will outright ignore them.

You can’t blame them, though. The dreaded employee surveys are lengthy, tedious, take time from real work, and the feedback employees provide may not always feel acknowledged.

The number of frontline staff you manage can make it expensive or even impossible to schedule performance reviews and receive the survey answers in person so that they can’t evade them.

The solution is to take an entirely different approach. Here’s how:

  • Ask direct and brief questions;
  • Let the recipients answer effortlessly;
  • Use friendly language to relieve the tension;
  • Create a fear-free atmosphere so they can answer honestly;
  • Create an action plan to apply their suggestions;
  • Let them know about your next steps.

Ensuring data security and privacy

Maintaining a human touch

Hybrid work in the post-pandemic era introduced plenty of comfort and efficiency to people who have the option to work from home. 

Frontline workers don’t have that luxury. 

This creates a strange situation where deskless employees never have to see their employers in person. One can get hired, promoted, or fired without ever speaking to a real person in real time. At work, they might feel alienated, disengaged, or stranded. However good, an app can’t make up for it.

Letting these powerful automation tools do everything they possibly can sure is tempting. 

The key is to use them wisely, not to let them replace you.

Let the onboarding automation tools handle administration and paperwork, and leverage your time to meet your new team members. If an in-person coffee chat or lunch isn’t possible, you can create a welcoming virtual space too. Schedule a Zoom meeting with them, and invite the whole team so they can get to know their coworkers.

You can also send some company swag their way. A thoughtful gift will cheer them up, and make them feel part of something great. Even better: kindly ask them to fill out a survey about their gift preferences, so you can create a custom package they’ll love.

Another way to use automation tools to prevent estrangement of your workforce is to set up reminders for their important dates: work anniversaries and birthdays.

How to implement onboarding automation for deskless workers

Here’s a step-by-step process that will help you automate the onboarding process for a deskless workforce:

  1. Assess the organisational needs, so you can pick the right employee onboarding software. Consider your price range, functionalities you need, predicted growth, and tool scalability.
  2. Hop on a demo call with your top vendors and learn how they work, so you can choose the right one for your needs.
  3. Customise the onboarding workflows. The tool will likely have some ready, but you need to adjust them for a perfect fit.
  4. Integrate your existing HR tech stack for a seamless workflow and make sure everything works without hiccups. 
  5. Track the key metrics and data to gain deep insight into your deskless workforce; 
  6. Frequently iterate and optimise the onboarding process as you go.

Automate your onboarding processes with Mercu

Mercu ticks all the boxes when it comes to onboarding the deskless workforce — taking care of hiring, employee retention, and feedback channels.

It’s a delightfully simple platform that keeps employees engaged in a fast-paced work environment. With a few clicks, your deskless staff can stay on track while enabling HR to learn about their frontline coworkers in parallel.

Your workforce is mobile. Your tools should be too.

In a sea of existing tools that aren’t built to solve your deskless workforce problems, Mercu is the exception. Automate enablement with a chat-based platform that gets results.