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Virtual Onboarding and Virtual Separation for Federal Agencies

The onset of COVID-19 and its rapid spread has created challenges at a micro and macro level for the private sector and public sectors alike. Job growth has been stunted in many industries, but there are still needs federal agencies must meet. Right now, USAJobs has over 430 open positions – just to help with the COVID-19 emergency alone. So, with all of the new restrictions imposed by social distancing requirements and remote working environments, federal agencies are facing a completely new challenge.

Virtual recruiting isn’t new. Online job boards and websites have been an important tool to find talent for private companies and federal agencies. Yet, other human resources tasks like onboarding and separation are a different story.

Onboarding is a process that begins during the first interview and continues well into the first weeks or months of employment. It typically includes meetings with human resources, management, and other leaders in an organization. Onboarding also includes interaction with teams and groups. This makes it difficult to immediately jump on the virtual onboarding bandwagon. The same is true of tasks related to the separation of employees.

The current global pandemic requires private and public sector organizations to rely on creative technology solutions to help them successfully adopt virtual onboarding and separation. Human resource professionals at federal agencies already have specific requirements for onboarding and separation that greatly differ from practices in the private sector, adding an extra layer of challenges. Fortunately, technology solutions exist to deal with these struggles. EconSys provides a series of modules to help you manage your virtual workflows for onboarding and separation. Below we offer an overview of some common challenges associated with virtual onboarding and virtual separation during the current global pandemic followed by in-depth information on how EconSys addresses many of these issues.

Challenges with Virtual Onboarding During COVID-19

Stay-at-home orders across the U.S. have forced federal agencies to conduct as much business and day-to-day operations as possible in a virtual environment. Onboarding comes with ample tasks and paperwork for human resource professionals and new employees. Some common challenges associated with virtual onboarding include:

  • Mailing forms. The spread of the novel coronavirus has impacted mail and delivery service of all types and levels. Whether you are trying to send forms via the United States Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, or another carrier, you cannot rely on specific delivery dates. In some cases, service has been temporarily discontinued, so you may not even be able to ensure your recipient gets the forms they need.
  • Walking forms. Engaging in the virtual onboarding process means you do not have the convenience of simply walking a hard form down the hallway or to a specific department in an agency. In cases where federal employees are working in an office, they still must practice social distancing guidelines, so walking forms still is not the best choice.
  • Agency-specific forms. Many agency-specific forms, such as non-disclosure agreements, contain sensitive information. Sharing them online with new hires is not always secure.
  • Signature requirements. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requires “wet signatures” for some forms, specifically beneficiary forms and I-9s to verify employment eligibility. OPM is considering changing this requirement, but currently, it still poses a challenge for virtual onboarding.
  • Transparency. Virtual onboarding creates a lack of transparency for HR specialists because they do not have the visibility they need into the process.
  • Tech Assistance. No onboarding tech assistance is available to connect HR specialists to applicants. This challenge is compounded by the fact many federal agencies have not converted to virtual onboarding.

Challenges with Virtual Separation During COVID-19

Those tasked with duties related to separation share some of the same struggles as those who handle paperwork, especially in terms of forms and signature requirements. Yet, virtual separation has some unique challenges.
  • No access to the latest organizational structure. Each time an employee separates from an agency, whether to quit, transfer, or retire, it impacts the organizational structure. Working from home means that HR specialists do not have access to changes in the structure, making it difficult for future planning and filling vacant positions created by separation.
  • No access to official personnel folders. Retirement is the most frequent type of separation and HR specialists need access to official personal folders to figure out the correct retirement accounts. Without this access, it also makes it difficult to process transfers or deal with the death of an employee.
Broadly speaking, federal agencies are facing an overall business process challenge in this environment. EconSys provides a solution to this challenge and enables government agencies to improve their ability to handle virtual onboarding and virtual separation. The best way to successfully tackle the challenges of virtual onboarding and virtual separation is case tracking, a feature that is available with the EconSys FedHR Navigator technology. FedHR is ‘cafeteria-style’ in the way that each module is à la carte and you can pick and choose the ones you need. You simply add the onboarding module or whichever one you need. Keep reading to learn about EconSys solutions for the challenges your agency is currently facing.

EconSys Solution Overview

EconSys offers solutions for the challenges discussed above. Below we outline solutions for difficulties federal agencies have been facing with virtual onboarding and virtual separation.

EconSys Onboarding Solutions

FedHr Navigator’s On-Boarding Management (OB) module incorporates technology and subject matter expertise to bring on new employees and assimilate them into an agency’s environment and culture. The OB module allows users to manage entrance-on-duty activities and provides a way for users to notify appropriate departments. For example, users can notify IT or logistics to get access to a computer, a workspace, and an employee badge/PIV card. The HR Specialist controls the onboarding process through the module by designating which forms a new hire must complete. Once a new hire’s employee record is established in the system, the new hire receives a system-generated email with instructions to log into a self-service portal in FedHR and fill out onboarding forms awaiting them. Each form within the module has e-signature capability, which federal agencies can utilize at their discretion to create a truly paperless process.

FedHR Navigator’s self-service portal is secure, allowing a new employee to complete a significant amount of traditional administrative work online. This frees up HR specialists to focus on more strategic aspects of their role. If at any time a new hire needs assistance (s)he can contact the HR office through the software. After a new hire completes all onboarding forms, (s)he submits them through Case Tracking. EconSys also offers a new-hire orientation module to acclimate new hires into the agency. The new-hire orientation module contains a comprehensive set of materials and online presentations to help new hires make decisions about benefits and ensure they understand their new role and associated performance expectations of the agency for which they work.

EconSys Separation/Off-boarding Solutions

EconSys offers a Separation Management module as part of the FedHR Navigator system. This module assists federal agencies with the separation of employees when off-boarding them from an agency, including going through the exit clearance process and de-provisioning access privileges and materials. The Separation Management module assists HR specialists in managing the exit process for federal employees while tracking actions, saving time, and saving money. The module also works with the FedHR Navigator Case Tracking features to designate the exit clearance type of work, an automated process that links specific forms to an electronic case within the software.

Another useful feature in the Separation Management module that helps overcome some challenges associated with virtual separation is a program that reads the federal agency’s organization structure file, which reflects the Program Office/Directorate of each employee. The program loads the file into FedHR Navigator and uses the Data Import Service to update the latest structure of the organization. This provides new roles and their corresponding functionality privileges as well as access to employee records for authorized personnel.

About FedHR Navigator Case Tracking

Case Tracking is a robust productivity tool that flows across all FedHR Navigator modules. Users involved in various HR processes can keep a complete record of different personnel transactions. Case tracking not only allows human resources staff to create, route, collaborate on, and track actions, but also provides this capability to managers and administrative officers in customer organizations. Each transaction and any accompanying documents or forms can be tracked in the system. Users can see who is responsible for the case, when the case came into their possession, what changes have been made, and when changes were made. Case tracking especially benefits HR Managers by allowing them to monitor productivity and modify work assignments. Agency employees can also use Case Tracking to submit electronic requests manually or configure automatic requests to go to the appropriate individual or group. Finally, Case Tracking can be used for status reporting ensuring that everyone involved with a particular case automatically receives all necessary information and has the ability to take action when needed.

COVID -19 has created unforeseen challenges by pushing the federal workforce into a virtual, work-at-home environment. Fortunately, the technology exists to overcome those challenges and improve upon business processes, so agency employees at all levels can remain in a virtual workspace indefinitely. EconSys has worked with federal government agencies for more than 25 years and continues to provide technology solutions. FedHR Navigator remains a comprehensive and customizable enterprise solution, especially in this time of need and uncertainty.

FedHR Navigator

A fully configurable Federal HR solution that meets your agency’s unique Human Resources requirements.

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