The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in so many ways, both personally and professionally. Remote work has become the norm for thousands of office employees over the past 7+ months and many of those employees not only want, but expect, to continue to work from home in some capacity on a permanent basis. This shift in workforce expectations will most likely carry on post COVID-19 at current employers and will also be expected as employees move into new roles.
As the economy starts to upswing, albeit slower than initially anticipated, it is critical for employers to prepare now for a new way of onboarding in a world where virtual work is often preferred. Just like the typical workday has transformed, so has the onboarding experience. Employers need to be diligent in their preparation and special attention must be given to new hires to guarantee a successful onboarding experience thereby helping to ensure in happy, productive, and loyal employees.
Strive Consulting was fortunate to be able make several key hires over the last few months, including a handful during strict lockdown periods. It takes attention to detail, a precise planning process, and a robust communication cycle to ensure you are prepared to make a great first impression when onboarding virtually.
Several key factors contribute in creating a positive virtual onboarding experience:
Now more than ever, well-working technology is critical to success. Be sure the employee’s devices are ready to go and received prior to their first day. Easy to follow instructions on how to log on, update passwords, and access email and other critical applications should also be included. Test the speakers and microphone on the device to ensure both are working without static, as video calls will be a standard part of their day-to-day. If you are in a position to offer a stipend for mobile phone or internet, that will go a long way for employees who are using their personal device and/or internet connection on a daily basis on the company’s behalf.
New employees will benefit greatly from meeting with co-workers at varying levels throughout the organization, from peers to managers to members of the executive team. Stagger meetings throughout the first few weeks versus scheduling daily back-to-back-to-back meetings. This will help avoid “Zoom fatigue” and allow the new hire to present their best self at each meeting. Ensure current employees understand their role in connecting with the new hire, whether it’s simply to get to know them on a personal level, help to illustrate company culture, or provide job-specific training. One thing to leave out are those ever popular ‘virtual lunches’ – no one feels comfortable eating in front of a computer screen with someone they just met!
Everyone knows that onboarding goes well beyond an employee’s first day or first week. This is especially true when onboarding virtually. Once the initial round of introduction meetings are over, it is critical that consistent, open lines of communication are established. The employee should never hesitate to reach out to someone with questions. The last thing an employer wants is a new employee sitting at home, by themselves, wondering what to do or how to do it, or even worse, wasting precious time completing a job incorrectly. Daily touch points are not too frequent, especially in the beginning. Remember, under “normal” circumstances, the employee would be surrounded by co-workers and their manager 8am – 5pm every single day! Employees don’t have the luxury of swiveling around in their chair to ask their neighbor a simple question, so make sure they feel comfortable pinging their manager on IM, emailing their co-worker, or conducting a quick virtual call to get a question answered. Provide the employee with a contact list of whom to reach out to for various questions. Buddy systems are a great way to establish connections and friendships outside of manager relationships and create a “safe-space” for new hires to ask questions they might not want to ask their supervisor.
Acclimating an employee to company culture, making them feel welcome, and introducing them to as many people as possible are all important, but you hired them to do a job and frankly they want to get to work. The biggest frustration I’ve heard from employees we have onboarded, virtually or in-person, is the delayed time it takes to start making a real, noticeable impact. Prepare and execute on a robust training plan. Set and communicate clear goals and expectations. Hold the employee accountable. Do not let the virtual working world be a crutch, for you as the manager or for the new hire. There are a lot of positives that come with working virtually – use them to your advantage!
If you did your due diligence during the interview process you should know a little bit about your new employee. Create a personalized welcome package for them and have it shipped to their house, complete with company-branded swag they can wear proudly on their Zoom meetings. Better yet, if they live close by, personally drop the package off, along with their company equipment, and say hi prior to their first day! It is this above and beyond effort that will stand out with employees long after their onboarding is complete.
Here at Strive Consulting, we foster an active, innovative culture, providing the coaching, mentoring, and support our employees need to work at the top of their game and succeed, personally and professionally. Understanding that COVID-19 has been challenging on all parties involved in the workplace, Strive is here to provide guidance and assist in any way we can. Strive Consulting is dedicated to being your partner, committed to success.