by: Pauline Rampersaud
The onboarding process is a defining step in the employee-employer relationship because first impressions are paramount. How you welcome a new hire and incorporate them into your company impacts engagement and productivity, measures if the role is a good fit, and determines if the employee envisions a future with the organization.
Get it right, and valuable employees will likely stay to become major contributors, but get it wrong, and these same great employees exit quickly resulting in lost time and talent. As such, onboarding – whether virtual or in person - should be given more thought than a simple video call on the first day or a series of generic training modules and technology set up. Although virtual onboarding can be tricky, careful planning can maximize success by taking the steps necessary to integrate new employees successfully within their first few weeks and help hiring managers maximize the benefits of new talent.
Here are 8 Tips to Get You on the Right Track:
- Pre-Board Employees
There is nothing more boring than spending the first few hours of an exciting new job filling out paperwork. This is not going to spark enthusiasm about joining the team nor does it provide awareness of what their role entails. Instead, consider having new employees complete payroll forms, emergency contact information, and other important documents prior to their first day. There are several e-signature tools that can make it easy and confidential for both parties to use via email. Do be mindful that you do not ask new hires to devote too much time to these processes outside of work hours, and ensure that all job training is treated as work time. If providing onboarding documentation prior to the first day is not an option, then consider interspersing time for paperwork with more dynamic onboarding activities. Another proactive tip is to email new hires before their first day answering frequently asked questions such as what to wear, hours of work, expected equipment delivery, who to contact for assistance and the agenda for their first week. This step aids communication, enthusiasm and most importantly, creates a sense of confidence by eliminating uncertainty.
- Create a Training Plan
Establishing a checklist helps ensure that new employees complete necessary training, obtain required tools, and helps both the employee and manager prioritize key areas of learning. This can include the annual business and team strategy, client groups, links to important websites, acronyms specific to your organization, user accounts, and a list of teams to connect with. The faster employees are acclimated, the quicker they can learn and begin contributing. If you are onboarding several new hires within a short time frame, you may want to consider creating a series of short videos covering general topics about the company, which can then be sent to new employees to complement tailored, job specific training.
Think about what you want new hires to know about your company, team, and culture and develop a new hire orientation course or PowerPoint deck that includes key company information such as:
- Company history
- What differentiates you from competitors
- Overview of products and / or services
- Organizational structure
- Mission and values
- HR policies and procedures
- Details of work perks, payroll and benefits
- How performance is evaluated and when
- Train With Patience
Virtual onboarding can take many forms. It is recommended to provide information using a variety of formats such as video calls, webinars, pre-recorded videos, text resources, instant messenger, and interactive online training modules so employees can switch between learning styles to prevent fatigue. Remind employees to pace themselves when learning new information and remind managers to practice patience when evaluating expectations. New hires generally experience information overload during their first few weeks; to help them better understand and retain what they are learning, spread out onboarding tasks over the course of a week or more to provide new employees with adequate time to absorb and reflect on important material.
- Schedule Introductions
After sending out an announcement welcoming a new employee to the team, plan a virtual meet and greet to introduce new hires to key colleagues and partners relevant to their role. This will allow new employees to understand how their role interacts with others within the organization and helps them build a roster of people to contact as a resource.
It is also a good idea to schedule ongoing meetings or small group chats between the new hire and their immediate coworkers to help foster team building, especially if they are interacting with employees in different cities or countries. In a successful onboarding, new hires not only get to know the company, they get to know each other, which boosts socialization to aid an employee's sense of belonging.
- Focus on Culture
Onboarding sets the tone for employee retention and when employees are asked why they exit an organization - culture generally takes the crown. Several surveys indicate that employees would leave a leading company if it had a bad work culture while others are willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that shares common values and has a mission they believe in.
To incorporate culture into an onboarding strategy, showing is better than telling, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Have the CEO record a brief introduction that can be shared with new hires so they have more than just a face to a name of the person steering the ship.
Involve employees in the video by asking that they introduce themselves and share why they love working for the company.
Keep up momentum by creating a group chat that includes all new employees to provide a platform where they can interact, train together and share experiences, resources, and advice.
- Utilize the Buddy System
Navigating a new work environment can be challenging when physically present let alone remotely. Assigning an existing employee as a designated "work buddy" can ease the transition and help new employees feel welcomed, confident and informed. Document this as part of the training plan and review the plan with the assigned buddy to ensure all key items are captured for review over the course of the training period. This a great opportunity for learning between both employees, as the new hire can offer feedback regarding the onboarding process to facilitate improvements in addition to sharing knowledge, tools and techniques learned from previous work experiences.
- Check in Regularly
Schedule one-on-one meetings between the employee and their manager more frequently during the first few weeks until they are completely settled in and comfortable with their responsibilities. It is important to spend time learning about each other's working style, preferences, strengths, weaknesses and quirks to successfully navigate working relationships. This is also a great time to provide feedback on their first few work assignments to ensure they are on the right track. Online engagement tools like StandOut can help successfully facilitate frequent, light touch connections with employees digitally which transition to real life engagement.
- Ask for Feedback
Send a survey to all new employees after having completed their first few weeks to collect feedback about their onboarding experience. Keep it short to maximize completion rates and leave room for open-ended comments to allow for responses that may not be covered in the questions. This will help identify what works well, where improvements can be made, and whether additional resources need to be developed.
Keep in mind that the single most important mistake made when assessing the employee experience is asking for feedback and failing to take action. It is best to acknowledge feedback and provide a response or estimated timeframe for resolution.
Creating or revamping an onboarding program can be a lengthy and overwhelming process. A great tip to create focus and ensure all elements of the onboarding program work together is to ask these 4 questions:
- Does it make employees feel excited and confident about joining the organization?
- Does it provide employees with the tools, knowledge and resources needed for success?
- Does it create engagement with the company’s mission and vision and provide alignment with the employee’s job?
- Does it create opportunities for employees to build relationships and foster ongoing communication and a sense of belonging?
Finally, don’t try to change everything all at once. Think about what can be accomplished as a short-term goal to provide quick wins and establish a plan to address aspects that require more work and research. The onboarding process may require modification over time as the organization changes and grows so remember to review the onboarding program annually to ensure it aligns with the company’s mission, values and goals.
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