Amidst the pandemic, we are all facing unique challenges. One of the most difficult for any business will be onboarding new employees and trainees in a digital and remote world.
Everyone is spread out, working remotely and virtually to remain safe and healthy and continue operating. Without remote access, many businesses would have to shut down, or worse.
Of course, the distance also puts a significant damper on traditional onboarding practices. How do you prepare new hires for the new world of work with such distance between you? What are some ways to get them excited about their prospects and further engaged with their colleagues? This guide will give you some ideas.
Ways to Welcome Your New Hires
While every business leader will have a unique strategy, here are some things every leader should consider in preparation for a new hire’s start date:
1. Issue Their Gear
Most new employees will be working from home, and even if they’re not, they will need equipment. As some organizations return to the office, there’s still a hybrid setup where some workers are in-office, but others are working from home or remotely.
This means you’ll need to assess your new hires, deciding where they will be spending most of their time and then issuing the proper equipment. They may need access to hardware like a laptop or business terminal. They may also need access to software tools, or office supplies.
Everything should be ready before their start date. That includes hardware, software and any systems IT needs to prepare for individual use.
If you are requiring the employee to supply their own gear, make sure they understand what they need and what responsibilities they must undertake.
2. Walk Them Through Your Culture
Whether remote or in-office, an internal culture persists, as does a certain way of conducting activities and events. You will need to walk your new hires through this experience, so they understand what their responsibilities are and how the organization works.
Set clearly defined boundaries for what you expect of them. What will they be doing every day? How often will they need to check in with a team leader, managers or you? How will appraisals and promotions work? How often should they expect a review of their performance?
These are all discussions that should be had between team leaders and their new hires, but you may participate as well. In any case, it’s something your company should do regardless of location.
3. Get the Training Right
Even traditional training is tricky to get right, so trying to handle the process using remote tools and resources is infinitely more difficult. Training should be as interactive as possible, making frequent use of videos, online training programs, the equipment workers will employ during day-to-day operations and much more.
It might be a good idea to incorporate virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) technologies to allow new hires to see what operations are like in the real world, as opposed to being cramped in a home office.
Remember, while work is currently remote, we will return to the office someday. Your training program should incorporate this idea by allowing workers to experience a more traditional work environment, whenever possible.
4. Arrange Frequent and Scheduled Meetings
Even with people working remotely, you’ll need to assess their performance and progress regularly — some would argue more often than usual. This can be done in several ways, whether as a group or individually. This can also be handled by administrators, managers and team leaders, so delegate where appropriate.
Before new hires come on board, they should know what to expect during these meetings. What should they be sharing? Should they highlight difficulties and come up with potential solutions? Are they only to report to their supervisor and remain respectfully quiet during meetings?
5. Introduce Everyone
A brief introduction is necessary for new hires, and everyone should be introduced at this point. That includes co-workers, managers, supervisors, partners and various contacts the new employees will be interacting with.
There’s no need for team-building exercises or anything substantial, especially if the introductions happen on a video or conference call. However, newbies should have the opportunity to meet everyone face-to-face to eliminate some of the awkwardness of that first contact. It also helps them get to know who’s who, such as who they can go to for help, who they will be working closely with and who will be in charge of their projects.
6. Send Out a Care Package
Many companies will give new hires a tour of facilities, providing them with a brief introduction to the property, amenities and critical areas. At this time, they will also dole out brand swag or provide some kind of starter package to help employees feel welcome.
This is still an excellent way to bring newbies into the family, but instead of providing random swag, opt for a care package to help them with onboarding and training. Maybe you can send them a box of snacks, coffees, and drinks they can enjoy while doing training exercises. Or, maybe brand-related swag would be a better idea, allowing them to show off their love of a new opportunity.
7. Assign a Mentor
Everyone who’s fortunate will have a mentor at some point in their life. Mentors help cultivate ideas, experience and much-needed advice, and a mentorship program is an organic way to guide new hires down the right path.
If possible, you should pair new hires with a more experienced colleague to be their mentor. Be sure to consider reliability, their performance and success, their emotional intelligence and, most importantly, whether they want to be a mentor. Unwilling participants are never a good match for someone excited to begin work.
Mentorship creates bonds early and gives new hires someone they can rely on and turn to whenever they have a problem. This alleviates some of the pressure managers and supervisors might have. It also makes the newbies more accountable for their performance and success, which is necessary in a remote world.
8. Encourage Communication
Isolation can cause many issues, not the least of which are depression, anxiety and poor productivity. Therefore, make it clear early on that employees have direct access to digital communication tools, which should be used often.
Allow teams to communicate with one another freely. Establish tools or software that foster such a thing, whether through services like Slack, Asana, Discord or another chat service. Everyone should be encouraged to communicate openly, albeit professionally.
Team members should be able to answer questions posed in a group chat. They should be allowed to communicate about work, their families and their lives outside the business. Moreover, they should be encouraged to strengthen relationships with one another, digitally or otherwise.
Treat the Process Conventionally
Hiring new workers in this landscape may be anything but conventional, yet you should still treat it as you would normally. Employees need to learn and understand their place within the company, and that means clearly defining what will be expected of them. They must also learn who their colleagues and leaders are and other important contacts. Moreover, they must be provided all the necessary resources to achieve success in their new position, whether that be hardware, software or other supplies.
All of these things are part of the traditional onboarding process. Now, the difference is that we are forced to interact with one another through virtual platforms, as opposed to in person. With the right planning, you can make it work, and your team will be all the better for it.
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About the Author
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.
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