For companies still struggling with the transition to home offices, “remote onboarding” raises many questions. Unfortunately, there is often little time to answer them.
Onboarding is different in COVID times
The first day on the new job: which used to involve filling out HR forms, orientation meetings, handshakes, and lunch with the supervisor and team, now happens differently. Many new hires start their jobs without meeting their colleagues in person or even setting foot in their offices. The home office has become permanent and may remain so in parts.
Even though there has been a trend towards the virtual in HR processes in recent years, a large proportion of companies with a traditional working model have had to change their processes on an ad hoc basis. This is because COVID forced HR departments to reinvent their onboarding processes and train their employees remotely. This situation presents a whole new set of challenges for you as an HR manager. With no change in sight, for the time being, you must learn to adapt to the current circumstances. But this situation also presents opportunities for integrative, individualized, and future-oriented onboarding. Find out here how you can make remote onboarding successful from day one even for completely inexperienced employees:
1. Assess the personality type of new employees.
Proven onboarding processes cannot be changed overnight. Sure, many things go smoothly, but there are also obstacles and initial difficulties. As is so often the case in this instance, early, regular communication is helpful in identifying problems and getting them out of the way.
A virtual work environment is not for everyone. Much depends on different types of people. Extroverts often miss the opportunity to interact with their colleagues. Introverts, on the other hand (who, according to surveys, still make up 48 percent of the workforce), may be intimidated by video calls in larger groups. The same applies to the differences according to occupational groups, some of which are very differently versed in digital onboarding.
If you get to know your employees quickly, you can adjust to their preferences in terms of learning, communication, and social behavior early on. But even if the newcomers will certainly benefit from the many virtual meetings that are scheduled especially for them, everyone needs a screen break now and then. That’s why some downtime should be factored in when planning virtual training sessions to prevent video conference fatigue. It is equally important to ensure that the new employees are well connected. For this purpose, 1:1 meetings spread over the first few weeks are a good way of doing this, which would otherwise have taken place in the coffee kitchen.
2. Accept a longer training period and learning curve.
Since new employees do not meet colleagues in the office, they can hardly get to know them spontaneously. This means they need more organized help and a longer familiarization period. This includes letting them look over their shoulder virtually. It’s important to accept this longer learning curve and to explicitly generate such opportunities to help newcomers get up to speed.
There is also a sense of isolation and loneliness in the COVID pandemic. Even if the new job is exciting, many employees struggle with additional personal challenges during the inherently intense onboarding period. Supervisors and HR departments should show understanding during these times.
3. Communicating corporate culture
Shared goals, values and perceptions all this shapes the corporate culture. It influences how decisions are made, how actions are prioritized, and how results are achieved. It also determines the work environment, even if the workplace is not physically located in the company.
That’s why you should not only provide your new teammates with the usual guides and company presentations in advance, but also make this culture as directly tangible as possible, for example through small virtual events at which experienced employees inspire the new ones. This not only helps them understand their employer’s corporate culture. It also gives them a sense of where their place is in this fabric and how they can contribute.
4. Build team affiliation
Building a relationship with colleagues is important for job performance and satisfaction, but also for the overall employee experience. To make the new hire feel welcome in the home office, hold one-on-one or group calls with teammates and other key employees.
There’s more to acclimating to the job than just working through the daily tasks and duties. Therefore, make an effort to give new employees an authentic impression of their new work environment. You have several ways to do this: Each team member can impart important tips for everyday work, which doesn’t happen in formal training sessions. One helps with accessing important data sources, the other simulates a real situation. A virtual tour of the future office can also help make a first impression.
Then there’s conveying warmth: Whether it’s a welcome card with the signatures of all colleagues, a voucher or a coffee mug with the company logo, a small gift makes you feel like you belong, even at a distance.
5. Making employees “IT fit”
Technology is particularly important at the moment. Therefore, provide your freshly added colleagues in the home office with suitable tools from the very beginning. Show them that they are a priority: Get them all the devices they need to start their jobs: Cell phone, laptop or basic accessories such as mouse, keyboard or monitor and good headphones.
It’s also crucial to provide access to all the relevant systems, portals and programs employees need to work effectively: for example, a company email account, group messaging platforms and video conferencing software. Put them in touch with the IT department in case questions arise or training is needed. That way, your new employees will feel supported and valued.
6. Continuously solicit feedback
It’s never too early to lend an ear to your employees. Share with them about onboarding and get to know if they have everything they need. Actively ask them at specific times how they’re doing. Did the latest training answer all their questions? Did they meet all of their key colleagues at their round of introductions and know who to contact for what concerns? Periodically look at how your new colleagues’ opinions are evolving on various aspects of the initial phase. All of this will provide you with important information about what works in the onboarding process, what has the greatest impact, and where the biggest “experience gaps” exist. In other words, where employees have had a completely different experience than the one you wanted to provide them. Through continuous feedback, HR can understand how new employees are doing in the home office and develop concrete levers for improvement.