By: John Bonoff
At this point in the pandemic, companies that have the capability to go remote have done so.
Most employees have settled into routines, but the process of integrating new employees through a completely virtual process is still an ongoing experiment for most organizations. Listed below are strategies to effectively and efficiently onboard, train, and support new employees in feeling at home in a virtual landscape.
1. Start with the welcome package
You can’t sit down next to employees during their first days, but you can make sure they have the right set-up in front of them. Try to ship the necessities—like a computer—as soon as possible, so any software or network issues can be resolved ahead of time. Check in about other tools they might need to be efficient at home, like a mouse or an extra monitor. And, consider sending a welcome package with company merchandise, small gifts, and a personal note, to help promote company culture from afar.
2. Spotlight communication tools
Among all the elements to be covered during new hire onboarding, company communication tools earned their own slot long before the pandemic. Now, they should get an even bigger one. In addition to outlining each tool, and how to use them effectively, companies should also educate new hires on the cultural norms associated with each tool; which type of message or information is usually communicated through which platform, and some examples of appropriate uses.
3. Set check-ins: Goals and follow-ups
Extra communication is a central theme in this article, as it should be during virtual onboarding, but communication isn’t just delivering messages to new employees. Setting up opportunities for two-way connections helps new employees keep pace, discuss struggles, and ask the questions they would probably pose to the person sitting next to them. Setting up check-ins also creates accountability for goals, and extra pivot points to help keep them relevant. Re-evaluating employee expectations and goal setting throughout the first several weeks will lay a strong foundation for their future at the company.
4. Give it time
Keep in mind: A full day of in-person trainings can be exhausting. A full day of virtual trainings can be brutal. Space out trainings with activities or breaks in between, and consider extending the length of the usual onboarding cycle. Remember, employees won’t be efficient if they don’t retain trainings or lose track of interwoven processes. Stay tapped in to how they’re digesting the information, and whether or not the training schedule needs to be adjusted.
5. Employ interactivity
Incorporating interactivity into trainings may seem like overkill in some instances, but amidst an entirely remote work experience, it can become a lifeline for weary trainees. Games, exercises, quizzes, user-friendly interfaces, and demonstrations all serve to bring a two-dimensional onboarding cycle to life. Interactivity also provides a safe space for new hires to make some of the mistakes they’re likely to make in their first couple days on the job, giving them more confidence as a result.
6. Convey culture
Translating the essence of your company and what it stands for over a video call is no small feat. In fact, it’s impossible. As culture is the number one reason employees choose one company over the other, you’ll need to find a way to convey it properly while working remote. Consider forwarding internal resources, media, and presentations that you think are relevant. Send photos and videos of company activities. Assign existing employees to write a short bio for each new employee, and send them out to the team.
7. Empower work buddies
As was the case pre-COVID, a new hire’s buddy acts as a guide throughout the onboarding campaign. They are the sounding board, the virtual coffee partner, the advice-giver, and the foundation for the employee’s experience. In an all-virtual campaign, buddies deserve extra support, in the form of allotted time each day and additional resources that can help them educate and communicate with remote employees.
8. Get feedback
If your company is onboarding virtually for the first time, it is crucial that you get feedback from new employees, so that you can tweak the program as you go, keep employees happy and engaged, and be better prepared for the next wave. Let employees know you are looking for feedback up front, and act on feedback quickly if you can. This helps demonstrate a humble, responsive company culture, in addition to creating a better employee experience.
Communication during virtual onboarding
The demand on communication during virtual onboarding cannot be overestimated. Every employee will be different, but know that operations will be impacted by this heightened demand, and that the investment in hands-on communication, whether through one-on-one check-ins or a change communications solution, will be worth it. Without a chance to get secure footing in person before diving in, new employees will rely on buddies and hiring managers to keep them connected. Use the above tips to strengthen relationships with new hires, and provide structure in uncertain times.