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Onboarding whilst social distancing





Posted by Andrew Walker on 23 April 2020

Onboarding whilst social distancing

Reward Consultancy | Employee engagement | Employee communications | HR Technology | Employee Experience | Covid-19

One group of employees who might be feeling the current enforced self-isolation regime more keenly than others right now are your new recruits. Having gone through the process of landing a job with you and getting prepared for that ‘first day at a new school’ feeling we all have in any new job, they may suddenly find themselves cut-off from their new colleagues at a crucial time.

So to ease that burden, it’s important for employers to make it as easy as possible for new recruits to ‘gel’ both professionally and socially with their new colleagues and the best place to start with that is during the onboarding process.

Most employers recognise the importance of a good onboarding process in normal times and there’s no reason that should be any less true during this challenging time.

A lot of the existing onboarding processes an employer has in place might work really well for office based or on-site employees but not so well for remote workers. And if an employee has a bad experience early on in their new job that’s likely to affect their performance and their longer-term engagement with the business.

So here are a few simple tips to make the whole process more productive for them now and more successful for you in the long term.

Give them what they need as soon as practically possible

I heard a story yesterday of a company that had a couple of new recruits starting this week. Both were meant to be office based but in the current climate the office is closed so that wasn’t possible. It would have been easy for the employer to simply ask these new recruits to sit tight and wait for further update. Instead they organised for a local taxi firm to collect all the ‘kit’ needed to work remotely and delivered it (safely) to the new employees’ homes on day one of their employment.

Within a couple of hours both had been talked through how to set the kit up and were taking part in regular video comms sessions, meeting new colleagues remotely and starting to work on assigned tasks just as they would be in the office.

It seems basic – but for those new recruits they will feel like they have joined an employer that is both efficient and caring. And for the employer, they have new people contributing from day one. A great win/win.

Away from this specific example, it’s not just about the hardware of course; making sure your new people know who to go to in your organisation to get help on various topics, giving them access to an intranet or better yet setting them up on your company communications platform as soon as possible  are some examples of how to make the experience positive and productive.

And at a management level, make sure they have clear objectives for the first couple of weeks so that they can focus their time on doing things that add value both for them and for you. And remember to check in regularly yourself to make sure things are on track just as you might do if they were sitting next to you in an office.

Include them as soon and as much as possible

In an office setting, it’s likely that the first few days for a new recruit would normally be spent meeting colleagues, teams leads or departmental heads - whoever they are likely to interact with. The first day or couple of days would also include the crucial tour of the office which not only helps them find their way around but gives other colleagues a chance to put a name to a face.

Of course this has never worked as well for many remote employees and since so many of us find ourselves working at home at this time, now is a good opportunity to review this crucial part of the onboarding process.

So making use of technology – whether it’s a group chat, team video calls or other remote productivity tools – is a great way to make sure that there is some sense of ‘community’ for a new recruit. Seeing new colleagues, hearing how they interact and getting a feel for ‘how things are done round here’ is vital and can work well remotely. There are plenty of people setting up virtual coffee breaks, and remote team meetings so make sure you involve your new recruits in these without bombarding them.

And equally importantly, ask their other new team members to make an proactive effort to be contact, to check-in just as they might ask ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘are you settling in ok?’ as they pass a desk if everyone was in an office.

If the opportunity arises to mention new colleagues on a team call, especially if there’s a reason to give them praise, that will help them feel valued and included.

Basically, making them feel welcome, valued and part of the team, no matter how isolated they might be physically, will go a long way to building their trust and loyalty as well as creating a genuine sense of belonging.

Partner them up with an experienced colleague

This is not a formal activity - think of this more as a workplace friend or ‘buddy’ for your new recruits. Having someone who ‘knows the ropes’ to talk to can shorten any new recruit’s learning curve and again this can be done just as well remotely as it can face to face. And whether it’s helping them understand who else to ask about a specific topic, or how to navigate the time recording system, the purchasing procedure and any one of the other systems and processes that make your business tick, having access to an experienced head full of knowledge will really help.

It’s a moot point about whether that ‘buddy’ should also be a seasoned remote worker or someone who is well connected in the office setting; either way giving your new recruits the short version of how to get things done can really speed up their integration, engagement and productivity. And of course, it also reinforces the value of your more established colleagues at a time when they might also be feeling isolated.

Final thoughts

Actually, in these challenging times you might not want to wait for the new hires to start before giving them some attention. There are plenty of ways to use technology and communication tools to pre-board people so that they feel engaged even before they join your organisation. 

Onboarding is such a crucial part of any new hire’s impressions of their employer. Get it right and they’ll be engaged and productive; get it wrong and it’s hard to recover from for you and them. And if we do this well we can at least take comfort in knowing that despite the pain of this current crisis, we’ve never had so many ways to engage with remote workforces and we should use this time to review and improve wherever we can. We owe it to them and ourselves.

Innecto can help with any aspect of pay and reward. Email or call 020 3457 0894 to get started. 

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