The unprecedented global health crisis is already having far-reaching implications across the recruitment process – and one of these key areas is onboarding new staff. Over the coming weeks and months many employers will find themselves in the fairly unique position of onboarding a member of staff remotely rather than in person in an office or workspace. This will continue to be the case until the Government’s instructions on social distancing and working from home are lifted.
Clearly, this is a challenging scenario for both sides but also a situation that we can help you navigate. Here are five clear steps to onboarding a new employee remotely.
Step one – Conduct pre-boarding
This step can sometimes be missed, but is ever-more important when onboarding someone remotely. It all comes down to one key question: what do you want your new employee to do on their first day? A welcome email should be sent to your new starter a week or two before they begin their new role to tell them just this. It should set out the itinerary for the first few weeks. Break down the first week from Monday to Friday, for example in a diary format, with each day broken down and structured into morning and afternoon tasks. This will give the employee clarity about what to expect once they commence their employment.
The email should also provide details of a main point of contact, their line manager or HR, in case the new starter has any initial questions. Send your company handbook, or provide links to any videos and key areas of the business related to the post holder’s role. Also, guide them through your digital learning platform if you have one. And if possible, assign a work buddy or mentor to the new starter to help them through those early stages of their career. As well as providing a wealth of knowledge, mentors can play a key part in aiding a new starter’s personal and professional growth. While work buddies can play a crucial role in helping the new starters navigate their way around their new environment and are pretty much on hand to help with quick day-to-day questions. All of these tips will help them to become immersed within the business culture, vision, and values.
Step two – Set up tech
With the pre-boarding phase complete, make sure that your new employee is set up to work remotely. Are you going to provide them with a work laptop and phone or will they need to source this themselves? It’s important to be clear on details like this from the outset. You should also check that they have a suitable workspace and access to a reliable internet connection. If possible, let them have access to a team or an individual that can offer dedicated support during the early part of on-boarding process. This can be organised as a set of meetings or in the shape of a dedicated online portal. Lastly, company security is a necessity, so make sure the new starter is clear with the IT policies and logs on through a secured VPN network.
Step three – Set up clear lines of communication
Some new starters may be working in their environment alone and feel cut off without regular communication. This is especially pertinent given they are unlikely to have met many of their colleagues in person, other than perhaps during the hiring process. For this reason, it is essential to set up a series of video calls with key people in the business within their first few days, as face-to-face screen time decreases feelings of isolation and builds trust. There are a range of good tools to use from Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, to name a few. This will help the new starter get a better understanding of how their role fits in to the wider business strategy and help them build stronger relationships. Be inclusive and set up a virtual meeting which welcomes the new starter into the team within a group environment, and let them know that their mentor/work buddy is on hand to help whenever they need it.
Step four – Schedule regular check-ins
It is always good practice to check in with a new starter regularly, but this is even more pertinent when onboarding someone remotely. In fact, it may well be that these will need to be even more frequent than if you were inducting someone in a physical location with other team members present. It is important to strike a balance between creating clear lines of open communication and making someone feel like they are being micro-managed, even from a distance. For the first week or so, a check-in once a day is a must but this can be reduced over the following weeks, particularly as your new employee gets to know their colleagues and opens up further lines of communication over projects and priorities. Reinforce your video call or phone chats with clear actions over email – this will also give you something to refer back to in your next catch up. It is also important that induction training is varied. Endless days of compliance training, for example, will not be motivating! Ensure that your company’s employee value proposition, or EVP, is central to your training – and do your best to bring it to life and make it relevant to the individual.
Step five – Feed back on performance
Although this is a unique scenario, the probation process still performs the same function in terms of allowing both sides to decide whether the role is a good fit and that the new starter is meeting expectations. However, clearly you may need to temper some expectations or make allowances around certain elements of the role given the unusual remote set up and the fact that training or shadowing can be made more difficult through being remote. It is also a good idea to get feedback on the onboarding programme overall from your new recruit – you can then feed any learnings back into the process when you onboard your next new starter remotely.
It is important to offer continued coaching, personal support and guidance during these uncertain times of change. If you have a tried and tested online learning facility and training programme, don’t neglect the need for human engagement. Learning and Development (L&D) teams should conduct regular check-ins with the new starter, run sessions and check on progress. It is proven that new starters progress far quicker with a comprehensive L&D programme in place than those without and a supportive environment will help your new starter to thrive.
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