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Alexis Phillips

The onboarding of new staff has always been hugely important in ensuring that employees transition smoothly into a new workplace. In the current climate, this has never been more true. Someone joining a company during the pandemic may not have met their colleagues before joining, making their welcome all the more significant. However, to allow for a successful remote onboarding, various changes must be made to the process. Below, we outline some key adaptations which we have observed over the past six months to pave the way for a seamless remote onboarding process.

Build personal relationships during the hiring process

It is important to ensure that the new hire meets with multiple members of the business before their start date. That said, there should be one hiring manager who takes charge of the recruitment process the entire way through, heading email correspondence with the new employee and letting them know what to expect.

This means that when the employee begins working, be it remotely or in the office, they have a specific person that they can report to if they have a question or feel disengaged. This hiring manager should regularly check in during the onboarding process.

Another way of making sure that the new joiner has someone looking out for them in their first few weeks is the implementation of a mentor programme. It can be useful for employees joining a business to have a “buddy” who can show them the ropes. Informal check-up meetings can be organised, giving the new hire an opportunity to raise issues that they may not feel comfortable bringing up to their boss or in a team meeting.

Introductions between a new starter and their colleagues can be made using social apps such as Houseparty and WhatsApp so that they can get to know each other in a less formal setting. Similarly, where businesses are working entirely remotely, socially-distanced, face-to-face coffee meetings could be organised to allow new colleagues to get to know each other.

Make use of video platforms

The use of video platforms such as Zoom and Odro throughout the hiring and onboarding processes is hugely beneficial to a new employee. When conversations and training sessions are held via video rather than over the phone, they are able to get to know their new colleagues as more than just names on a staff mailing list. This will make speaking up in office meetings, group chats and email chains less overwhelming.

If it is not possible to hold training sessions over the likes of Zoom due to time or resources, pre-filmed induction videos can be made. This way, the new hire can still get to know the faces of their colleagues. Visual graphs, lists and diagrams can be included to make information clearer and easier to digest.

Video platforms can also be used to introduce new hires to the social side of a business.  An occasional Friday lunchtime Zoom catch-up over a beer provides an opportunity for co-workers to catch up with one another, including any new employees in the cultural dynamics of the business.

Reduce the size of Zoom meetings and training sessions

Another benefit of using video platforms is the opportunity to use “breakout rooms” where smaller groups of people convene to talk among themselves.

Putting a new employee in a breakout room with a few colleagues allows them to begin building individual relationships with other members of the team. This will also benefit the employer, likely making the team’s work more efficient and maintaining a positive atmosphere if and when office-based work resumes. As many people are currently working at least partially from home, reducing opportunities for new hires to build relationships with their colleagues, these windows for team building are more important than ever.

Extend the onboarding process

Often, onboarding will consist of a few lengthy video calls or meetings. However, this is not the optimal format for the process, especially when it is being carried out remotely. If an online training session is three-hours long, it is likely that the new employee will not be able to absorb all of the information provided. Splitting training sessions into hour-long meetings is a more effective use of both parties’ time, ensuring that the trainee’s attention will not fade.

Secondly, if all training and welcome sessions are completed after just a few days, it is likely that the new joiner will feel slightly forgotten about in the few weeks after, as though they have been thrown in the deep end. So, companies should spread onboarding out over a couple of weeks for optimum results.

Ensure that your IT system can be set up remotely

It is commonplace to give a laptop to new hires but, when a new employee will be working remotely, this is arguably not enough. Not only will the laptop have to be delivered to them before their start date, but it should also have any necessary systems, software, bandwidth and VPN already installed onto it when it is. This will allow the new joiner to start work straight away, rather than spending time going back and forth with the IT team.

Where pre-downloading programmes is not possible, clear and comprehensive video instructions should be provided to the new employee, leaving less room for error. Specific contacts in the IT department should also be given to the new joiner, so that they know exactly who to report to if they encounter a problem.

When paperwork must be signed remotely, online tools such as DocuSign are helpful, allowing multiple parties to sign contracts digitally without constant scanning and exchanging of documents.

If you are currently looking to take on a new hire, please do not hesitate to contact the MERJE Recruitment Team to discuss your onboarding requirements in more detail: info@merje.com.