All Aboard: Onboarding Risk Management for Engineers
September 7, 2022
As demand for Engineers grows across industries, firms have no choice but to bring on more staff to keep up with the mounting workload. Between new proposals, projects, and reviews, you’ll need to expand your team—and fast.
But when you’re scrambling to fill roles, things tend to fall through the cracks in the onboarding process, especially in smaller practices where resources are scarce to begin with. Unfortunately, employees that aren’t properly trained or fully aware of your firm’s procedures might be less diligent on the job, which could lead to an increase in mistakes and accidents. Then what? Missed deadlines, elongated timelines, poor work, and unhappy clients. And ultimately, more lawsuits for you.
How can you protect your business and avoid the liability risks of a bad hire? How do you ensure that you’re not just hiring the right people, but that you’re also onboarding them adequately? To help you out, we’ve outlined some of the main challenges of onboarding Engineers, and the best practices to help you minimize your risks.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided herein is presented from a liability-based perspective to help you avoid insurance claims. It is not exhaustive and does not constitute legal, employment, or insurance advice, nor will it apply to all workplaces, situations, or circumstances. For more guidance, please consult a talent acquisition, employment, or human resources specialist.
What are the challenges of onboarding?
Engineering firms are busy and growing, and as a result, they’re regularly bringing on new employees. But with more growth and more staff comes the potential for added risk. In fact, many engineering claims are due to insufficient time spent onboarding new hires, who are either unaware of their firm’s protocols or haven’t had any follow-ups after their initial training.
When a smaller firm begins to expand, it’s critical to formalize all internal procedures in anticipation of future hires. Unfortunately, most firms don’t prioritize documentation until after a project goes off the rails. Additionally, hybrid work environments have made onboarding and monitoring of new employees more challenging, with fewer opportunities for mentorship, skills transfer, and in-person interaction.
Here’s an example: your engineering firm has grown from five employees to twenty over the last two years. But with some major projects on-hand, you haven’t had time to put together a formal training program or check in with your new hires. Soon, you’re hit with a lawsuit from one of your biggest clients. After some investigation, it’s revealed that the project proposal was missing key assumptions and disclaimers—an error that should’ve been caught in your firm’s internal peer reviews. Unfortunately, the lead Engineer, one of your new hires, had no idea about this step, leading to the lawsuit.
PRO Tips for Onboarding Risk Management:
To minimize the risk of a suit, here are our top tips to optimize the onboarding process.
1. Set things up early on.
When your engineering practice is only a few trusted team members and you need all hands on deck at all times, you might not feel the need—or have the energy—to formalize procedures. But it’s best to establish set onboarding practices when your firm is still small so that they become embedded in the culture of the firm. Plus, modifying your practices as the firm grows is much easier than trying to implement them for the first time later on.
2. Stay updated.
As your firm expands and you take on more projects, the way you work will evolve; what you did five years or five projects ago won’t necessarily be what you do now. Each project is different, and you’ll need to tailor your best practices and evolve procedures based on your cumulative experience.
3. Document everything.
Once established, record all of your best practices so that they’re clear to all employees, new and old. All firms should have clearly documented procedures regarding:
- New clients, screening, and retainers;
- How a project file is set up and maintained;
- What documentation and correspondence should be put into the project file;
- Contract management guidelines;
- What information should be included in a proposal;
- Standard disclaimers on proposals and drawings;
- The proper use of change request forms;
- Internal peer review and quality control procedures;
- Project dispute procedures;
- Field visit documentation;
- And more.
4. Take your time.
Don’t assume your new hires are ready to begin at full speed; they might have come to you from an even smaller firm with no structure or a larger corporation where they had plenty of people to catch errors. Either way, there’s plenty of room for things to get lost in translation.
Instead, spend time going through your best practices in depth and encourage them to share questions and concerns. Give them tools that will help them integrate smoothly and let them shadow you on the job before they set off on their own. We know you have a lot on your plate, but it’s important to set the time aside to properly train new staff. This way, you can get a better sense of their understanding and identify any areas for improvement.
5. Audit your employees.
Auditing is a critical tool for measuring compliance and your employees’ overall progress. After all, it takes time to create new habits. New hires with experience working at other firms tend to default to how they did things previously, regardless of what you’ve shown them.
Project files will need to be periodically audited against the firm’s best practices to determine who is following them, who isn’t, and what additional training is needed. This will also create accountability with respect to employees’ individual performance.
6. Supplement with insurance.
Following standard procedures won’t just help significantly reduce the risk of claims; it’ll help resolve them with minimal time and cost. But no matter how strong your onboarding processes are, and no matter how much you trust your staff—mistakes still happen, and it’s important to protect yourself in case anything goes wrong.
That’s why all engineering firms should have a Professional Liability Insurance policy. Whether or not it’s mandated by your regulatory body, Professional Liability Insurance can protect you (and your business) from allegations of errors, omissions, or negligence committed within the scope of your profession. It’ll cover your damages, including legal expenses, administrative costs, and court settlements—even if the claims made against you are groundless.
7. Work with a broker.
For more guidance on onboarding, new hires, and how you can control your liability, consult with a risk advisor that specializes in the engineering sector. With over 40 years of experience, a licensed broker like PROLINK can help you navigate industry trends and adopt a proactive approach to risk management to control your costs long-term. Our dedicated team of risk advisors will:
- Identify exposures based on your business operations and engineering discipline;
- Share what steps others in your industry are taking and advise you accordingly;
- Conduct a robust assessment of your existing insurance policies to detect any coverage gaps;
- Align you with a comprehensive solution that meets your unique needs and strategic objectives.
Connect with PROLINK today to learn more!
PROLINK’s blog posts are general in nature. They do not take into account your personal objectives or financial situation and are not a substitute for professional advice. The specific terms of your policy will always apply. We bear no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or timeliness of any external content.