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How to onboard new employees when you’re all working from home

Not every company can afford to completely halt their hiring plans, and for some industries, hiring is absolutely essential right now. Virtual recruiting and onboarding is a new way forward.

How to onboard new employees when you’re all working from home
[Photo: bogdandreava/iStock]
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The exponential growth of the coronavirus outbreak is terrifying, wreaking havoc on the health and safety of millions of people around the world. Job growth is feeling the pain too, with a growing number of American companies clamping down on their hiring, budgets, and growth plans overall. Moody’s Analytics estimates nearly 80 million jobs in the U.S. economy are at high or moderate risk right now.

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Not every company can afford to completely halt their hiring plans, as certain roles may be essential to sustaining and growing the business amidst these uncertain times. And for some industries, hiring is absolutely essential right now. Amazon, for example, plans to hire an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers to keep up with the surge in online orders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

For Amazon and others, virtual recruiting will be a new way forward.

Onboarding is different because it’s the first official impression of a company and typically conducted over a series of face-to-face meetings. This can include one-to-one meetings with HR, direct managers, and members of the leadership team, as well as group meetings with various teams in the organization. This begs the question: Is HR prepared to pivot and adopt virtual onboarding for globally distributed and remote teams?

If you’re continuing with hiring plans right now and will be heavily reliant on technology for the onboarding process, here are some key steps to take to develop and implement a successful virtual onboarding process.

Streamline the number of activities

According to Sapling, the average new hire has 54 activities to complete during their onboarding experience. The sheer number of activities could slow down an employee’s ramp-up period, which could make it tough for them to learn necessary skills and tasks related to their jobs. Remember, if an onboarding program hampers the employee’s ability to perform their job, it will likely cause stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. That’s a surefire recipe for early turnover.

While information sharing and engagement are certainly important, it’s important to balance it against the employee’s personal motivations, learning behaviors, and professional development goals. Be realistic and streamline the number of activities so that the onboarding process puts them on the path to long-term satisfaction and engagement. Use online tools, including scheduling software, internal communications platforms, and videoconferencing tools to make sure the important onboarding meetings happen virtually. But more importantly, keep the meetings as focused, engaged, and productive as possible.

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Educate managers on the importance of one-to-one time with direct reports

Studies have found that up to 20% of all new hires actually resign within the first 45 days of their role. And when the onboarding process is conducted virtually, it’s even more critical to get the experience right.

One way to do this is to educate managers on the importance of carving out time for one-to-one meetings with their direct reports. It could make a huge difference in the success of onboarding programs. In fact, 72% of employees surveyed by Enboarder said one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important aspect of any pre-boarding or onboarding process.

Unfortunately, this often gets overlooked because HR assumes that managers/leaders already know this. But leadership is an iterative process. HR needs to involve and educate team managers and the broader leadership team into the essential components of successful onboarding. Education and knowledge sharing needs to flow openly and effectively between both sides.

It doesn’t even matter that these one-to-one meetings now have to occur virtually. Eighty percent of business professionals already rely on video for one-to-one meetings. Plus, 78% rely on video for team meetings/standups. The key is to use the right technology solutions to automate and optimize the process so one-to-one meetings can be set up quickly, the right people can participate, the right knowledge is shared, and necessary action items come out as a result.

Lean into digital tools to forge shared communities (and engagement)

When employees are physically distanced from their team members, direct managers, colleagues, and leadership, it can be easy to isolate and disengage with others. This is especially true for newly hired employees who haven’t had the chance to experience the company’s culture.

But this is where digital tools and social networks carry tremendous power in their abilities to bring communities of globally dispersed and remote employees together.

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I’m seeing it firsthand in our own company right now. We’ve created multiple new channels in our dedicated internal communications platform (Slack) to engage our globally dispersed workforce. The purpose of these channels has very little to do with providing corporate-approved messages. But yes, we’re also being responsible for our corporate communications.

What’s equally important is that our employees can break through the confines of isolation to forge a shared community that’s all about embracing their true selves and helping each other out (regardless of teams, roles, and seniority levels). Currently, team members are engaged in a fun competition to guess who matches the baby photos being posted by an employee (the designated collector of baby photos). I’ve also personally invited every single employee in our company for a 15-minute virtual coffee meeting with me (twice daily to cover all time zones) over the next few weeks.

These examples are further proof that companies should lean into the socially collaborative nature of digital tools at a time when employee engagement and retention could dip significantly. Digital can be vital to the success of onboarding programs for fully remote workers.


Renato Profico is the CEO of Doodle.