While many of us are working from home at the moment, this doesn’t mean that hiring has stopped. In fact, for some sectors, it’s busier than ever which means the onboarding of new employees continues. Remote onboarding may be something which is a completely new concept for most of us, and therefore it will take some getting used to, for both organisations and new starters alike. Regular onboarding generally involves integrating new employees into the business and introducing them to new software, technologies and ways of doing things via in-house training. The main goal is to have them up and running in their new role as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, with the majority of social interaction and face-to-face contact prohibited in current times, how does one successfully onboard new starters from afar?
Take inspiration from things you already do remotely…
Yes, remote onboarding may be a strange concept for many businesses, but certain parts of the hiring process have often been carried out digitally. For example, job interviews via Skype and similar software have been around for years. Similarly, if an organisation has engaged with contractors and freelancers a lot, they may also have some experience in remote onboarding, so it is not a completely alien idea. The same key points are important when it comes to both remote interviewing and remote onboarding – ensure you have adequate technological resources to carry out the process effectively and do your best to put the candidate/new starter in question at ease. Bare in mind as you would when carrying out a virtual interview that certain things come across better in person, so it is important to practice clear and effective communication during the digital onboarding process.
Stick to the general phases of the onboarding process…
The onboarding process can vary from being very simple to highly intricate, depending on the role and the particular skill set required. However, the general steps involved are usually as follows;
- Pre-boarding (the initial steps taken to integrate a new member of the team such as communicating vital information around such things as working hours and dress code)
- Orientation (the first few weeks/days of a new starts journey, generally involves showing the individual around the office and meeting the other members of the team)
- Training and integration (This involves an induction to the business and then the following of a training plan to get new starters up to speed with the various technologies and systems relevant for their role)
While it may seem strange to carry out some of these steps virtually, a modified version actually can be done for most. Vital communication can be carried out over email, via instant messaging or over the phone. While the new team member may not get an actual tour of the office, they can meet the rest of the team via a video conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts. Online training is essential and may require the individual to watch more tutorials than usual, as they will not be able to learn first-hand from somebody else as they may have in the office.
Keep things organised…
Keeping your onboarding process and all documents in the one place is a good place to start.. Keep an onboarding To Do list and share this with the new starter so that you are both working through it and are on the same page. Break it down into sections so that your new employee knows exactly what they need to do before even commencing work such as filling out their bank details and tax file number, and signing their contract and other relevant documents. Following this, fill a sheet with all the relevant logins and passwords the employee will need to carry out their role successfully. You can also insert URL’s here to your brand’s websites and any other sites they may need to visit to get started. Finally, fill in their calendar with all introductory calls, regular catch ups and reviews so that they know their schedule for the upcoming weeks.
Encourage socialisation and integration…
With all the video conferencing tools available at the moment (as mentioned above), although personal contact is prohibited, personal communication most certainly isn’t. As well as having an introductory video call with your new starter, they should also have individual ones with anyone whom they will be working directly with, as well as a group one to meet the extended team. Why not make these as social as possible by organising a virtual team lunch, coffee date or even beers on a Friday afternoon? You are essentially bringing the office, and so the general office activities to the comfort of their own home.
Take into account possible challenges and setbacks…
While there is much that can be achieved when working from home, certain aspects of the onboarding process will naturally be more difficult than if you were present in the office. For example, there may be technical difficulties or glitches which will slow down the process. New starters may be less inclined to ask questions over the phone, which they may feel more comfortable about in person. They may feel they are irritating if consistently calling or messaging you or whoever is training them in, so ensure to communicate to them that you are eager and willing to help. They may also struggle to connect with the rest of the team as they have never met them in person, so assigning them a ‘’buddy’’ or mentor could be a way of making them feel more included.
Evaluate the process, review and ask for feedback…
As this process is somewhat relatively new, one should regularly gather feedback and evaluate what more could be done to tweak and streamline the process. This is especially important as onboarding remotely may have to be done for some time to come. Check in on new starters regularly and reach out to them to see if there’s anything more that could be done on the company’s behalf to help them settle in and to promote inclusivity. It is this first-hand feedback which should help you shape the process for new starters to come. Having regular reviews with employees will help them to keep on track of their workload and settle into the business successfully, so these should be carried out more regularly than the usual quarterly review. Basically, the amount of checking in must increase, as you aren’t seeing said new starters daily in the office as is the normal practice, and hence this makes it more difficult to see how they are adjusting to their new role.
Remote onboarding – the new normal?
While it remains to be seen just how long remote onboarding is going to be the main option, it is definitely something which will become more commonplace within our industries in times to come. At the moment, however, it is certainly the new normal. It means that new hires can start as planned at the start of their contract and that companies do not have to implement hiring freezes. Therefore it is essential to put some thought into how digital onboarding can be implemented into normal hiring processes, even as and when companies resume business as usual. Some companies are wholeheartedly adjusting to this ‘’new normal’’. For example, online calendar tool company Doodle are running social competitions such as guessing who’s who in employees baby photos to running 15-minute virtual coffee meetings with the company’s CEO for each and every employee, including new hires. This helps to create a social and engaged workforce and an atmosphere in which a new starter should thrive. Multinational technology powerhouse Dell is no stranger to remote onboarding and has been doing so for some time. It recommends having an array of digital materials available for new starters, such as websites, documentation and videos. As well as this, it also has a chat/IM support service available for new starters, which helps in delivering feedback and helping with FAQ’s.
Are you new to remote onboarding? Do you need some assistance in digitally onboarding your new employees? Please don’t hesitate to reach out – our expert consultants and sales team managers would be more than happy to help!