Whether your business was already embracing remote work or if you’ve been forced to adopt new practices due to Covid-19, onboarding new workers remotely can be a challenge for any company. It’s incredibly important for a new employee to have a positive introduction to the company. Their first few days can shape their opinions about their new employer and how the business functions.
It is not unusual, given current circumstances, for a business to have advertised a job online, completed the interview process and made the hire without ever even meeting the candidate in person. But when it comes to their first day, how do you make sure that they have all the resources they need and help them become part of their new team?
This is an easy place to start. Simple as it may sound, if you get the admin part right, it can send all the right messages about your efficiency while avoiding any unnecessary headaches and time wasting with incorrect forms or technology malfunctions.
It’s possible to do this part completely virtually via email, file sharing and digital signatures. Having agreed on an offer, make sure that the new starter’s contract is sorted out well in advance of their start date and that they are in contact with someone who can answer their questions promptly. This will set the right tone before they’ve even started and will help build trust.
There will be some inevitable admin for the new starter on the first day. Whether that’s getting them up to speed on the employee handbook and setting them up with their new accounts and logins. However, if you have prepared all of this in advance and ensure that it goes smoothly, you can avoid any unnecessary frustration.
Even if the new starter will be working entirely remotely, it can be good to arrange for them to join you at your HQ at some point during their first week. Gather the team together (as much as possible if other team members are also remote workers) and give them a warm welcome. Make sure they know that welcoming a new team member is a big event for everyone. This will help them feel like they’re really part of the team, offering a sense of inclusion from the get-go. This will help them build meaningful relationships with their coworkers, which can be difficult to do over email or Slack.
This step will not be appropriate if you’re operating in an area in lockdown, however, you should still make the effort to show the new starter that they are welcome and valued immediately. Arrange a video call with the team or, depending on the size of your company, the whole department and get everyone to introduce themselves. It’s very important that the new employee can visualise the team around them and even the simple process of putting a face to a name can help the new starter feel part of the team more quickly.
Once they’ve had the big intro and have an overview of how the team works and what everyone does, more focused meetings should be arranged. Put these in the diary ahead of time, giving the new starter some structure to their first few days and allowing them to come up with any questions they might have for each person.
Depending on the role and their seniority, you may even want to arrange for one of their peers to assume the role of ‘buddy’. This should be someone who isn’t their manager but someone they can go to with questions on an informal level and who can further introduce them to the company culture.
When welcoming a new member of staff to the ranks, there is always a lot of information to get through to ensure that they have a thorough introduction to the company, how each department operates and what tools and documentation are used. There may well be some preliminary training sessions to get through as well.
If these have been designed to be conducted face-to-face, think about how they can translate to effective digital sessions. You might find that simply sending over the slides you usually run through won’t be adequate at all. Make sure you’ve booked in some substantial chunks of time in the first week or so for you or a member of the team to run through this material with the new starter on a call. This gives them the opportunity to ask any questions, just as they would if you were presenting the material in person.
As we all know, starting a new role can sometimes be quite overwhelming and a bit of structure in those first few weeks can really help a new employee get off to a good start. Get those welcome meetings booked in as well as your introductory sessions and initial training so they know exactly what’s coming and can visualise how their first few weeks are going to pan out. Make sure you don’t overload them by packing everything into the first few days. They will need some space to process and get to grips with things so try and break it up as much as you can.
For the first couple of weeks at least, you would usually be giving a new starter a lot of attention and support in an office environment. This can be more difficult when working remotely so make sure you book in some regular calls and one-to-one meetings with their line manager to ensure they still feel supported and have a space to ask any questions. Use these meetings to ensure that they have everything they need, are making progress on any initial tasks and training and allow them to air any concerns that they might have.
This is also a great opportunity to ask for their feedback. How are they finding your onboarding process? Could certain things be made clearer? Have there been any technology mishaps that have hampered the process? Take all of this on board and you’ll be able to continuously refine your process and have it even better for next time.
As well as the new employee getting up to speed on how the company works and the processes that the team follows, it’s important to take the time to learn how they work. To avoid them feeling like they are being bombarded with information, give them the opportunity to speak about themselves and their experience in welcome calls and meetings. They could be bringing valuable expertise to the table that the rest of the team could learn from, so it’s really important that the communication goes both ways.
As well as learning about how they work, it’s also important that they get the chance to inject a little bit of their personality early on. This can really help them discover who on the team they have things in common with and can help them build meaningful relationships. You might want to kick things off in a welcome meeting with some quick team building games where you get the team and the new starter talking about themselves. If you want a more formal atmosphere, you could ask the new employee to put together a quick (no more than 5 minutes or so) presentation on themselves. While this might seem a little daunting, it can help them break the ice and speed up the process of helping them feel comfortable speaking in front of the team.
Don’t let the communication slip after those first few full-on days. Without the physical presence of team members in an office where you can quickly run through a task or nip off to the kitchen together for a cup of tea and a catch up, it’s much more difficult to forge strong relationships. Ensure that the team is set up on a platform that allows them to chat quickly and easily in a more informal way than email but is less intrusive than setting up a whole video call. There are plenty of solutions out there, from Google Hangouts to Slack, and it allows teams to stay in touch throughout the day and avoid the feeling of isolation that sometimes comes from remote working.
Ensure that there are regular sessions with the whole team, wherever they might be working from. This might be a team breakfast call on a Monday morning so you can scope out the week together. Or a weekly quiz on a Friday afternoon to help wind down into the weekend and catch up on the week’s events.
Organise a virtual Christmas party and put quarterly company meet-ups in the diary if geography allows, just to get everyone in the same space to have a meal together or go on some team building trips. Make sure you get everyone together for conferences and learning opportunities which can be much more fun when attended by the whole team.