Onboarding a new employee remotely amid the COVID pandemic has unleashed a fresh set of challenges. However, the end goal is the same – ensuring seamless integration into the organisation on every front. Here’s what we learnt firsthand at BankBazaar.
As COVID unceremoniously darkened our doorways in March 2020 and we moved to working from home, little did we think that it would be a good two years (and counting) before we’d see our colleagues in person again. Since the team was quite close-knit and accustomed to working together for a few years, the transition to working remotely did not immediately present any challenges or raise concerns around productivity.
However, in due course, we were also faced with the task of onboarding new employees remotely. While remote onboarding brings with it fresh challenges, the end goal remains the same as an in-person onboarding – ensuring an employee’s seamless integration into the organisation. The focus remains on:
- Ensuring that the employee is quick off the block
- Equipping them adequately with the required resources and knowledge
- Enabling them to build strong relationships across the organisation
- Making them feel welcome, comfortable and boosting their confidence
- Helping them understand and inculcate the organisation’s work culture
- Ensuring expectations (on both sides) are clearly understood
- Aligning them with the organisation’s objectives, mission and vision
With the above in mind, here’s how to ensure remote onboarding is as smooth as possible.
Execute The Perfect Takeoff
First-day nerves are common for all new joiners, regardless of whether they’re joining in person or remotely. The first two weeks or so can be an anxious time as they meet new colleagues, learn the ropes and settle in. It’s quite possible that the person has never experienced a remote onboarding before, which could make it even more overwhelming than a regular onboarding.
Therefore, it’s important to have a clear plan in place to ensure the employee feels welcome and a part of the team from the very beginning. Welcoming an employee in person is easier with team lunches or casual ice-breaker conversations over a cup of coffee. While working remotely, this can be a different kettle of fish. Help alleviate stress in the initial days in the following ways:
- Build a connection before the person’s official joining date. Keep in touch and check in on them occasionally as you would with a friend during the pandemic. Work together with HR to keep them engaged in small, non-time-consuming ways; may be send a little welcome note or package.
- The buddy system works well to ensure that the new employee has a go-to person within the organisation to help them navigate these new waters and address any questions or concerns they have in an informal manner. This also helps the employee align with the company culture.
- Ensure that your new joiner is set up with all the required technology and security protocol – laptops, headphones, access to necessary tools, etc. so they can hit the ground running without logistical delays.
Facilitate Team Dynamics & Broader Networking
Building a 1:1 rapport is always easier in person. Since remote working robs one of spontaneous opportunities to informally meet and chat with people in the hallway or bond over a shared lunch break, it’s important to encourage other ways to foster a good working rapport, including daily discussions with teammates, regular informal meetings and so on.
Ensure that the new employee is aware of who’s who in the organisation and who they need to reach out to for various aspects of their work. Without this clarity and clear direction, a new employee may feel lost, alienated and like they’re blundering around in the dark. Announce their joining over email and introduce them to everyone they would likely cross paths with while working so they feel included and confident. Check in regularly on how they’re feeling as they find their feet in the new place.
With the remote setup, it becomes easy to fall into the habit of working in silos. Getting the new person to feel like they “fit in” right away is a large part of the battle won. Regular formal and informal communication and involving them with a broader network of people, not just their immediate teammates, will help foster a sense of community.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The need for clear and regular communication cannot be emphasised enough. With remote working, a lot may get lost in translation and more explicit guidance is necessary even if this sometimes feels a bit inapt. What you intend to say may not necessarily be understood and could be misinterpreted.
Ensure that verbal communication or feedback is then communicated in writing and vice versa. Often, even aspects that are taken for granted in person may need to be explicitly outlined – for e.g., virtual etiquette, working hours and expectations, style/tone of daily virtual interactions – so there’s no ambiguity or misunderstanding over unspoken assumptions.
Chart the Path Ahead
As with a regular onboarding, an employee should be clear about the expectations of them, their role in the organisation, their career progression ladder within the company, their individual goals and objectives and how they tie into the company’s overall goals and vision. This clarity will help establish a solid springboard for a successful stint at the organisation.
While efficient onboarding will give the employee a strong and solid start, to maintain the momentum, it should continue seamlessly into an ongoing practice of healthy feedback, mentoring, and opportunity creation. This builds a rock-solid foundation for professional growth and learning within the organisation, ensuring that the new remote employee is all set for success.