Onboarding New Hires Remotely

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Make the employee experience count

When personal connection is one of our most important basic needs, this current pandemic definitely throws a wrench into how we, as human beings, are used to socializing. This is especially true when companies are hiring while working remotely during social distancing. Companies with multiple offices are already familiar with onboarding remotely, but other companies are approaching new territory. Many processes have already been automated and digitized but the need to rapidly evolve to a fully virtual onboarding workflow is here.

We’ve put together 6 tips to help you onboard remotely:

1. Revisit what processes and materials are now irrelevant

Some fundamentals or “housekeeping” items related to the physical work environment won’t apply in the immediate term, but other basics are even more important. These include:

  • Systems used, account set-up instructions and an overview of how they are used
  • Organizational chart and who to go to for what
  • Communication protocols regarding 1:1s and (virtual) attendance at team and company meetings
  • Clear outline about work hours and company etiquette – convey “how things are done around here” from a cultural perspective

2. Rally internal stakeholders

As the saying goes, “It takes a village” couldn’t be truer for onboarding new team members. It’s a shared responsibility and more so while everyone is working remotely.

  • IT teams will need to be extra diligent with system set-up
  • Ensure leadership teams are visible and send personal welcomes
  • Create ways for the immediate team to host virtual welcome parties

3. Assign an onboarding buddy

A great way to support a new hire, especially when joining a new company from a distance, is to assign a buddy or mentor for the first 60 days. It provides an opportunity for new employees to connect with a tenured employee who knows the ins and outs, a confidant other than a direct supervisor.

  • Brief the buddies on expectations around their role and frequency of check-ins
  • Offer an incentive, if you can, if even it’s a gift card for grocery or meal delivery
  • Facilitate the introduction and have the buddy set up an intro video call

4. Centralize a start day for all new hires, where possible

With so many processes changing at once, now might be a good time to have all new hires start on the same day, rather than scattered throughout the month. This will create efficiencies and provide a bonding opportunity for all new hires for years to come.

  • Break up the day 1 onboarding session into mini modules spread throughout the week – it will be hard to keep focus on a video call for a 7-hour day
  • Divide the sessions into group onboarding and 1:1s so there’s a mix of delivery formats
  • If possible, arrange for lunch delivery

5. Digital communication and collaboration tools

Ensure kinks have been worked out with any online tools. Adoption of these systems will skyrocket moving forward as everyone gets used to working remotely. Consider

  • IT infrastructure may need to be revisited to ensure bandwidth is capable of handling higher remote usage
  • Establish virtual meeting protocols
  • Support with home office set-up – laptops, printers and mobile phones, including helpful tips for working from home

6. Get creative and make it fun

There is so much fear and concern happening right now, so try to keep the tone light. Coming up with creative ways to work around a lack of in-person time will get your left and right brains working at the same time.

  • Send a physical welcome pack
  • Introduce virtual ice breakers or games to facilitate people getting to know each other
  • Set up a virtual weekly coffee or lunch where people connect via video to connect about life, not work

Remember, starting a new job with a new company can be stressful, let alone during a global health emergency. The goal is to make all new hires feel welcome and give them the people, tools and resources to make them successful. Realize that there may be onboarding glitches in the short-term over the next 2-3 weeks so communicate that upfront. There will be a lot of learning along the way, allowing for continuous improvement.

While virtual onboarding may be a minimum viable product to start with, you still want your new hires to feel like the MVP. The positive takeaway in this situation is that companies are forced into change and learning how to adapt quickly. Many of these new onboarding practices can be adopted long after we return to the new norm.