The first few weeks in a new job can be difficult anyway, but imagine not being able to meet your new colleagues in person and having all your onboarding and company introductions done virtually. For a small handful of people working in permanent remote roles this is the norm, but for the vast majority of individuals, starting a new job is all about meeting new people, working closely with your peers and learning from your new colleagues. That was until the coronavirus.
In reality, onboarding is the first official impression of a company the new employee gets and is typically conducted over a series of face-to-face meetings. Portraying your company’s identity, brand, motivation and goals without physical contact is not easy.
The onboarding process is very important
"We place a lot of importance on the onboarding process,” says Franklin Fitch Founder David Annable. “When employees are physically distanced from their team members and managers it can be easy to feel isolated and disengaged. This is especially true for new employees who haven’t had chance to experience the company’s culture. Ensuring the onboarding process and training has the same impact when done remotely is not easy.”
Video calls and screen sharing are a lifesaver
Isra Suet joined Franklin Fitch as a recruiter in mid-February. Just four weeks into her new position, she has found herself working from home, conducting all her business and training remotely after the UK government ordered employees to work from home where possible. Video calls and screen sharing have been her lifesaver.
“The group chats at the beginning and end of every day are a great support,” she says, adding that she particularly likes the fact it isn’t all work and that people discuss their feelings, along with general chats about the current situation. “I’m new to the company so am missing out on all the opportunities to socialise, so this aspect is very important.”
Despite knowing she is missing out on some of the support and camaraderie of the office environment, Isra is finding the positives in home working. “There are very few distractions and minimal noise, which makes it much easier to focus on calls,” she says.
Vincent Mertens, who managed just two weeks in the Franklin Fitch office before having to work from home, agrees. “Being onboarded remotely is not ideal, but it has been quite positive given the circumstances.” He too believes making calls has been easier without so many people around him, though admits that it will be harder to rectify mistakes as there is no one to hear them.
Maintain as much contact as possible
Charlotte Drury, who heads up Franklin Fitch’s Academy and is responsible for a lot of the training and onboarding, says the key is to keep up as much contact as possible with the new starters and recent joiners. For her, technology such as CloudCall, which makes it easy to listen into calls and provide remote coaching, and Microsoft Teams, which facilitates instant messaging and group video calls, are essential.
“It is definitely more difficult than doing it face-to-face,” says Charlotte. “But we’ve been doing a lot of screen sharing and peer learning. The raft of technology available gives many more possibilities.”
Better onboading increases retention
The key, according to Charlotte is to use the expertise of different people within the business, such as letting a colleague who is particularly familiar with Linkedin host a webinar on how best to use it for recruitment. “In the office, the onboarding process would involve introductions to, and learning from, many different people, so we need to try and replicate this as much as possible remotely,” she says.
According to figures from onboarding specialists, Click Boarding, new employees who go through a structured onboarding programme are more likely to still be with the organisation after three years. In addition, organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater productivity from new hires.
First impressions count
So with the old saying ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ still holding true, it is essential you make sure you decide what sort of impression you want new hires to have of your organisation and how best to portray it, whether in person or remotely. With all of today’s technology, there is no reason it should be very different.
Key tips for remote onboarding:
Make sure internally you know what message you want to share with your new employees and have a plan of how to disseminate it, particularly who is responsible for each part
Ensure new employees have all the required equipment to do their job and know how to communicate with key contacts and who to go to if they have a problem
Organise video introductions to team leaders and members, HR personnel and admin contacts
Arrange all necessary training, including IT, HR, team and role-specific
Set times for future meetings to ensure the new employee doesn’t feel isolated and make sure the goals and targets are clear
by Claire Shoesmith
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