Businesses have adapted and learned a lot in 2020, but one practice that is becoming increasingly relevant is how to onboard staff remotely.
Although it can be challenging to develop a virtual onboarding experience that is both engaging and equips new starters with everything they need to be successful and feel supported in their new role, it is well worth the effort. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
These are the top five tried and tested tips for onboarding remotely.
Tip 1 - Create your own virtual culture
Establish a virtual culture that makes working from home as fun and collaborative as possible, whilst maintaining the unique traditions and quirks that set your company culture apart. This is crucial for your organisation to maintain its identity, and for both new starters and longer-serving colleagues to feel settled and happy in their roles.
Tip 2 - Invest in getting employees up to speed quickly
Setting up proper inductions for your new starters in their first few weeks will help them to feel more at ease, welcome and excited about making an impact. Introducing your company values and discussing individual goals as part of the onboarding process will empower your employees to do their best work, and help to establish a trusted, respectful working relationship.
If you introduce new starters to your company values early on, it often takes away the need to micromanage, which can be an easy trap to fall into while working remotely. There’s no need to resort to monitoring tools or constantly checking in if you’ve properly embedded your ethos.
Tip 3 - Host spaces for team connection
During this remote period, it’s easy for employees to feel isolated, and for new joiners this can be especially difficult.
Setting up team hangouts over a virtual lunch is a good way to start, but taking a more structured approach can support those who haven’t had a chance to forge connections yet. Introducing organised collaboration with other departments, pushes employees to meet people outside of their usual teams and replaces the ‘water cooler’ moments where informal chats take place as someone tops up their water or coffee.
Encouraging colleagues to use tools such as Slack is also a method that can help people to create bonds. Think about offering activities that can help people unwind too, like virtual meditation sessions, and build some light-hearted fun into your team time. At SafetyCulture we created our own virtual pub, The Wolfpack Inn, to replace our usual happy hour at the local pub, and have hosted a talent show, trivia, bingo nights – even a DJ set from one of our team.
Tip 4 – Make the onboarding experience as smooth as possible
A new starter’s introduction into your organisation should feel seamless. The most effective way to do this is to carefully plan out the onboarding journey with key touch points along the way. Consider who they will meet on their first day, when they should receive background briefings and toolkits, what functional onboarding they’ll need during their first month, and when the ideal points are for feedback during their first quarter.
Don’t forget the social elements that can take place before an employee joins your business that can really help them to feel comfortable on their first day. Many can still be replicated online: setting up a virtual lunch or drinks with the team before their start date or assigning people with an onboarding buddy to check in with.
Tip 5 – Leverage technology to make the process easier
Using the right technology can help people to do their best work, and take away the stress of people not having the information they need. If you don’t have one in place already, consider developing a New Starter Hub, where new employees can find information like company policies, ways of working and benefits, and support networks.
Technology can help with team management too and create a space for honest conversations. We use Officevibe to run polls and ensure employees still get regular feedback scores while working from home.
For dispersed workforces, our own iAuditor empowers teams to perform checks, report issues, collect on-the-ground data and communicate fluidly.
Dan Joyce is general menager (EMEA) of SafetyCulture, which owns the world’s largest safety checklist app and has been supporting businesses on working safely and efficiently throughout the pandemic. It was recently named one of the UK’s Best Workplaces in Tech by Great Place to Work®.