Even the most seasoned employees with previous experience in working remotely are finding new challenges when entire business operations move online. And those challenges are only further amplified when onboarding a new employee.
Successfully onboarding a new hire in a period when everybody is working digitally may present a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one. It may, however, require some changes and tweaks to the usual onboarding process. In this article, we'll highlight some key ways you can spruce up your onboarding process for working in a virtual environment.
Give New Employees a Chance to Settle In
Whether they are an intern or CEO, even the most seasoned and experienced employees need time to adjust and settle into a new working environment. This settling in period, where efficiency will be down and employees may need more help, will likely be extended when working virtually due to the other complexities digital business adds.
Jessica Herrin, Founder of Stella & Dot, has this to say on the importance of company culture in helping new employees settling in - “Shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.”
Giving employees extra time to settle into their new role will help reduce the pressure and making the onboarding process as smooth and streamlined as possible.
Nail Down a Checklist for On-boarding
On-boarding a new employee can be a tough task in any company even under the best possible circumstances. Bringing a new employee up to speed on the way the business operates is a challenge; explaining the chain of command to how the photocopier works, there is a lot to teach a new employee in a very short space of time. It also often takes an unintentional backseat since employees have to balance their regular job and responsibilities with that of assisting and on-boarding the new hire.
Lauren Sommer, Director of Moi Moi Fine Jewellery, Australia’s leading Moissanite and Lab Grown Diamonds retailer has this to say on the importance of having processes in place - “Not only is it important for our productivity, but having virtual set processes will mean all new hires get consistent training and brand messaging even if team members cannot work together face-to-face. New team members become acquainted more quickly with the way we work and gel with our team much more quickly.
She goes on to explain “a virtual checklist allows us several managers to ensure all points of the onboarding process is covered and our new hire can focus on starting their actual responsibilities much sooner.”
These issues are only compounded when working remotely. When the new hire isn't physically in the office space it can be easy for things that may seem obvious face-to-face to be missed. A robust and detailed checklist will help you to ensure that the new hire is properly briefed and everything is set up to make the onboarding as smooth as possible. Think outside the box as well when it comes to what items go onto the checklist. While some things seem obvious to add, it can also be useful to add items like informing them of when everybody takes their coffee break (and is there available/unavailable) that wouldn't be part of the usual checklist when they are physically in the office.
Introduce the Personal Side of Each Employee
Almost every job in the world involves working in some way with a team of people with different skills, experiences, and personalities. Being able to effectively understand, communicate, and relate to colleagues in the workplace is an essential part of a smooth operating business. Part of developing the rapport necessary to communicate effectively is building relationships with those that we work with; making a connection to colleagues rather than seeing them as strangers assigned a task. That rapport develops naturally in the workplace as conversations take place in between tasks and at breaks, but will require more conscious effort when working in a virtual environment.
Aaron Babb, Director of Aevum Health has this to say on helping new employees settle in faster - “Whenever someone new joins our team, we have to ensure that we introduce them personally to our team, and ensure that their hobbies and interests are known. If you bring someone in and make them feel like just a cog in the system, they will just feel demotivated within the first day”.
When introducing the new hire to the rest of the team they will be working with, make an extra effort to introduce the personal human side of each employee that will help foster the rapport and relationship necessary for a good working environment.
Have Lunch Time Drinks over Zoom
Along the same vein as introducing the personal side of each employee, out of work activities are also a key component in developing good relationships with colleagues and helping new staff to mesh with the existing teams.
Adrian Tucci, CEO of MrPaint says, “Lunchtime or after-work drinks are a common way for staff to meet in a less formal setting, strengthening relationships, and easing any tensions from the day.” That’s why, arranging similar type events can further help to develop the bonds and reduce the stress and tension in the workplace for both existing employees and new hires. Just be careful not to make it compulsory as that has the potential to add extra aggravation and stress.
Post Out Awesome Swag
An often overlooked aspect when somebody is being brought on to a new company or team is their immersion in the work environment. Coming into the office and sitting alongside colleagues is an obvious immersive factor, but there is a much more subtle, but equally important, element that also has a big impact on the onboarding process.
Swag may sound like the type of things only seen at concerts and sporting events, but it also has a small, but valuable, presence in the workplace. Being a strong connection to the company is a good step in both ensuring a swift onboarding, and also building a long and lasting relationship with employees. When working remotely things tend to be much more casual than they would be in the office. Dress-code requirements are often non-existent; there is no need for ID cards to enter the building; staff have their own stationery and mugs. Posting out some 'swag' to new employees may seem like a small and wasteful expenditure, but it can be an excellent way to help build a stronger bond between the company and the new hire.
The migration to conducting work lives through video conference and digital solutions has been a challenge for everybody, but no more so than when starting a new job at a new company. Face-to-face communication is a key element in how we form new relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. While the change to the way we conduct business may be here to stay for the foreseeable future, that doesn't mean we can't find new and innovative ways to form the same connections and bonds as we would face-to-face. Forming the same connections will take work, and while the tips and advice in this guide aren't the definitive final answer, they will help set you on the right path.