The key to remote onboarding

06 April 2020

By Sarah Knight

The key to remote onboarding

It’s always an exciting time when you’ve got a new member of the team joining you. For some it also comes as a big relief to have found the ideal person with the right blend of skills, experience and that all important cultural fit!

Next up comes the process of navigating your new recruit through the onboarding phase, so they’re fully up to speed on your organisation, their new job and properly integrated with the rest of the team. Get it right and you’ve got an effective, engaged and motivated employee early on who’s more likely to stay and perform better in the longer term too.

Over the last few weeks, a couple of our clients have had to switch their usual onboarding process from face-to-face to remotely, or virtually, at short notice and have done a fantastic job of it while, frankly, having to ‘feel their way’ with it due to the unexpected shift. For others, their entire workforce is home-based anyway – so have had the luxury of time to perfect their approach.

Recently Sarah caught up with a Director of one of those organisations whose entire team have always worked remotely, so have had over a decade to get it right. Here are their tips:

Senior team do the training

The two Directors of this organisation do all of the initial onboarding and training to make sure there’s absolute consistency in how things are conveyed. It also removes the risk of messages being misinterpreted. They’ve found this is particularly important when it comes to the less tangible aspects they cover, like company culture, and means everyone’s on the same page.

That said, while everybody receives the same information, they’ve learned to tailor their communication style, or how long they spend with the onboarding process, to the individual or the role they’re doing.

Bringing the organisation to life

Before anything else, the onboarding focuses on the organisation itself – to bring its purpose, values and vision to life, so it’s embedded in everything the new team member does and how they represent the company, from the outset. The words they use to do this have been carefully crafted and perfected over the years, as has the way they’re delivered.

Setting the scene

As well as making sure that a new joiner has everything they need physically, time is spent from day one coaching them on the best way to approach working from home and what’s expected of them. They focus particularly on the importance of getting in to a good routine and having structure to the working day.

Feeling part of team

‘Meeting’ each member of their direct team early on is important and is done on a 121 basis to start with, before they get involved with team meetings. Because this organisation’s not huge, they make it a priority for new joiners to meet everyone individually too, in the first few weeks.

An important part of this team’s working day involves doing the same things at the same time. For example, they have Spotify playlists they listen to in sync. And other technology plays a big part too, to keep everyone on the same page information-wise and to feel connected to each other. They’re also passionate foodies, so at lunchtime, they’ll often prepare food (virtually) at the same time and make a point of shouting about their culinary successes!

And while they are a virtual team for the majority of the time, the company organises physical meet ups too. A Christmas work’s do wouldn’t quite be the same otherwise, would it (although who knows now we’re getting used to hanging out together on Zoom of an evening!)?

Reminders – you’re at work

Being surrounded by physical reminders that you’re at work, at your desk at home, can help – all provided by the organisation. They can also be used to reinforce the values or the culture of the company too. This organisation’s hot on wellbeing so amongst the many things they give their team is a branded water bottle, to encourage them to stay hydrated.

Check in regularly

Once the initial onboarding is complete, the senior team check in regularly – probably more so than if they were office-based. Creating a ‘safe’ environment for honest conversations is key, so any potential issues can be picked up and resolved early-on.

Have you had to take a new approach to onboarding recently? Or is this something that’s ‘business as usual’ for your organisation? Either way, we’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

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