Guardian editor

FORT POLK, La.—Due to COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions, the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center for the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk evaluated and adjusted its standard operation procedures to fit a remote-work environment. Rising to the occasion wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle for the CPAC team.

Christan Higgs, CPAC human resource specialist, highlighted the integral evaluative and planning processes that continually ensure success for the new, virtual on-boarding endeavor.

Civilian Department of the Army employees complete and sign an abundance of forms and declarations, constituting their new-hire packets. Some forms require proof of identification and others need witness signatures. The packet is large and involved. Human resource specialists, like Higgs, help customers navigate the process of building their packets, prior to their start dates.

At the dawn of their virtual process, Higgs explained that CPACs used their regional network to share best practices and new ideas. This wider net collected shared experiences, concerns and resolutions dealing with the transition to telework. The greatest benefactor was the civilian applicant.

Initial considerations included the protection of personally identifiable information, technical and connectivity issues and best practices to accommodate the new hire without face-to-face interactions.

Based on the collaboration, CPACs recognized how vital the online new-hire record would be to protecting PII, “as emailing documents with PII is not recommended,” said Higgs.

The digital record is maintained through the USA Staffing system, which offers a protected, virtual environment to upload documents. Due to social-distancing restrictions, the USA Staffing system is being utilized for additional documents, which would normally be submitted at in-person meetings.

Technology provides a streamlined, paper-free process; but it also brings a range of glitches.

“There are always obstacles, such as technical difficulties,” Higgs said, but this is where the human resource specialist steps in and overcomes.

With technological limitations, Higgs stressed applicants not to “hesitate to reach out and ask any questions…there is always a workaround.”

Higgs explained that CPAC human resource specialists keep themselves available to their customers; they follow up with questions or concerns or after any entrant’s connection drops during a phone call or Google duo conference.

Gabriel Walker, a recent new hire at Fort Polk, stated that “technology has its limits,” as teleconference calls dropped within the less-than-ideal rural networks of the area.

“Christan is receptive and responsive,” Walker said, and she quickly called back, answered questions and remained available to him throughout the on-boarding process.

The virtual process is one that is continually being revised, Higgs explained. Each issue is resolved and used to inform the upcoming, virtual on-boarding interactions. The process is always being refined.