How to onboard new starters when working remotely

new starters
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Luis Navarro, CEO and Co-Founder at Totality Services, discusses how you can make sure that new starters hit the ground running when working remotely during lockdown

It can be challenging to find new employees to join a business, but in the midst of a pandemic, when you do, making them feel at home can be really hard. How do you extol the virtues of your company culture and explain your values whilst making them feel like a fully-fledged employee? How can you welcome them to their new co-workers, train them and make them feel like they’re part of the team from the outset?

Having the right technology in place has been the saviour of interacting with a home-based workforce during a pandemic. It has provided organisations with a way to keep working collaboratively whilst also maintaining a virtual way of speaking face-to-face – which is so important when you have never met the person you’re talking to. When it comes to onboarding employees, technology helps to connect and develop a rapport with new co-workers. Here we consider what you can do to make it easier for new starters.

It’s never too early to start

Start straight away! In today’s fast-paced environment where employees are expected to hit the ground running, it’s useful if your HR department can help employees to get ‘up and running’ with a level of technology access to company induction processes – and more if required – before they start. Onboarding is no longer about simple, post-hiring orientation, it can be as flexible, personalised or interactive as your organisation wants it to be. At one level, a means to deliver documentation to read before a start-date, at another, joining team meetings in the run-up to starting the job. This ‘pre-boarding’ phase delivers new employees a way to get online and to access the basic information they need, as well as helping them interact with their line managers or HR and helping them feel like part of a team before they’ve even joined. Payroll formalities, documentation, background verifications and more can be administered whilst making the new employee feel part of the team. A good onboarding experience will undoubtedly aid engagement levels and set them up for the road ahead, whilst providing HR with an efficient way to deliver necessary documents and resources and line managers a way to begin welcoming them to the team.

Connect them with co-workers

The biggest advantage of solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Workshop, Webex, Slack or even WhatsApp is that connecting, and collaborating is easier than ever before. Getting connected with co-workers helps to initiate new employees into an organisation and provides a virtual security blanket when working remotely. But it’s important that these connections are proactively managed by the organisation taking the needs of the employee into account. Whereas much is left to an employee to make relationships in an office, there should be more emphasis on the organisation making the first move to bring people together – on every level.

Providing your new starters with a way to connect to other new employees will build long-lasting relationships that can be formed across the organisation regardless of job role, department, responsibilities or even seniority. Providing a buddy system is also very effective in remote times – giving new employees someone to question that isn’t their line manager. Taking the time to ‘have lunch’ on Zoom calls with a buddy to exchange information informally and chat will help new employees get to grips with company culture when it’s impossible to immerse themselves in office life. Assigning a buddy can not only help new employees feel comfortable but also increase their efficiency. More formally, mentors are also a valuable connection for a new employee – delivering more formal professional leadership, information and on-the-job training.

Connecting people with their new line managers for regular one-to-one catch-ups is yet another benefit of video-based networking. It’s important for a new employee to feel part of the team, and for management to make themselves available in this way. One-to-one’s, answering questions, virtual coffee chats, team meetings, departmental meetings – all work to foster open discussions during questions and answer sessions that can still be conducted via the plethora of online video conferencing technologies and collaboration tools.

Last but not least, online and virtual meetups provide some extra-curricular networking during lockdown. Zoom quizzes, drinks with friends or even business lunches have been proactively organised to keep spirits up and to ensure that friendships are fostered and maintained.

Share information and experience – both ways

Having the correct resources to do the job sounds like a basic requirement in any new role, but technology is a make or break when it comes to modern-day mobile collaboration. Having access to the right people, up to date information and the tools to do the work are essential. Laptops, software, access to data required based upon the job role are all critical to a new employee’s effectiveness and is also an indication to them of their value or worth to the company. It shows the organisation is committed to their success.

Similarly, investing in training, providing a mentor and learning goals to achieve are also indicators that an organisation is investing in them. As well as providing lots of information about clubs, affinity groups or professional networks they can get involved with.

Some organisations have also moved quarterly meetings to monthlies, and monthly pow-wows to weekly coffee meetings to deliver information more regularly and help to put it into context – this is especially important for new starters. The more frequent the updates the more in tune an employee will be. There isn’t the opportunity to overhear things in the office – and that’s often the way new employees especially find out things that seem run-of-the-mill or non-extraordinary to others.

Finally, organisations should listen to their new employees. Teams have things to learn too, and information flows in both directions.


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