This article, written by Joanna Milne of Totum Partners, our UK based alliance partner, provides guidance for employers and employees in the art of virtual on-boarding. Her insights and advice reflect our experience of remote on-boarding in Australia and Asia. We have been impressed by how quickly businesses and new joiners have adapted to ensure smooth on-boarding processes, and, remote relationship and team building.
Whether you’re a business with new joiners or you’re starting a new job – the current pandemic throws a curveball in terms of how the first days, weeks and possibly months of that relationship develop. We’re all learning as we go but there are things that we can put in place to ensure the process is as smooth as possible. Here we cover some of the key issues that are raised and our suggestions for dealing with them.
Contact is key
1. If I’m social distancing how, logistically, do I start my new role?
Laptops and any other tech needed for the role will usually be couriered to you. Passwords should be sent via email.
Prior to joining, make sure that the correct contact details are exchanged, including address, email and phone number. Touch base the week before to ensure everything’s set and also to ask who to speak to with any initial set-up queries – is it IT, a Line Manager, or someone else?
Line Managers – consider sending some very easy log-in details, plus information on how you’re presently working – no detail is too small. For example, we use Microsoft teams, Outlook – we all share calendars. Ensure invitations are sent for any meetings they need to attend as soon as you can.
Have you considered a welcome package? Think of including merchandise or basic stationery that may help them feel part of the team.
2. How do I get to know the business?
Communication is the key part of joining any new business. This can be two-fold, via readymade content and person-to-person contact.
On-boarding materials, PDFs, web content and videos can be read/watched in the first few days of getting to know the business. This could be anything from information related to the firm’s values and culture, to more specific details on the team. Consider, though, that working from home can be a lonely experience, so try and make it as interactive as possible. Schedule in video calls for all the team – ask each of them to cover what they do, projects, workflow, priorities and expectations. Schedule in video calls with senior team members to talk about the overarching goals and structure.
A recent starter told us:
‘It’s been a strange and unexpected way to start a new job. But it hasn’t been bad. It’s been made a lot easier by having morning and afternoon calls with my whole team every day, even though I’ve only met two of them in real life. I’m lucky that my new manager is very available so any questions I’ve had I have felt comfortable asking her.’
Feeling part of the team
3. How can I integrate new joiners into the business?
One new joiner, who started in a new position in a firm last week, said: ‘I think what’s difficult is not being able to converse freely/casually with my team as much as you would if you were all sitting in an office together, and being able to build that rapport that I think is a really important part of getting used to a new job. But we are all making do with video calls as best we can.’
Consider asking for, or assigning, mentors or buddies both for new hires but also for those who have recently joined. Try and ensure this is a peer and therefore someone they will feel comfortable going to.
A pre-joining / pre-boarding questionnaire can be especially useful – one that asks about learning styles, levels of comfort with technology, if they know anyone in the business already and also a little about their current situation so that you can pair them up with someone similar.
Operate a system to give regular feedback – using tech when useful, such as the praise button on Microsoft team or using Gifs or emojis and encouraging similar behaviour (which may only work in small group settings but can reflect engagement and mood).
Holding virtual town halls for feedback within the first three months can be a great option to share learnings and encourage further communication.
4. How do I ensure expectations are set and met?
Ensure that there is a plan in place from week one: what is expected, what good will look like this month, in the coming months and, ideally, at the end of probation.
Schedule regular one-to-ones with the Line Manager so there is consistency – just as you would if you were in the office.
5. How can I make a difference / impact in those early days?
This will depend largely on the business you’re joining. Visibility is such a key thing so video conferencing is probably your best channel for this as people are scientifically much more responsive to seeing someone’s face!
Be organised – proactivity will be recognised so schedule your own calls and set up your own channels on whatever system you’re using to communicate. Ensure you’ve ‘met’ every one of your stakeholders, know their challenges – short term (for the duration we’re out of the office) and long term.
In these first days/weeks, it may feel tricky. But there are positives – you won’t feel so much like the newbie when everyone is adjusting to this period of change!