Just as everything was going along swimmingly with your employee onboarding program, March 2020 happened. For the first time in decades, the pandemic blindsided everyone, chaotically overturning our lives right in front of our eyes … and all in a matter of weeks.
But humans are a resilient breed. Our collective countenance propelled us forward and continues to propel us forward – albeit slowly and awkwardly – into what everyone’s calling the “new normal.” OK, so it’s not the most reassuring designation, but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.
During this period of acclimating to the “new normal,” there’s been a genuine, undeniable sense of understanding, empathy and compassion when managing situations in everyday life. Human capital and employment are also experiencing this shift. As of September 2020, 4.7 million people – roughly 3.4% of the population – work remotely. That’s up from 3.9 million workers in 2015.
Preparing for the new reality of remote work
The sharp 3.4% uptick in remote work did not go without impact in the world of HR and employee onboarding! Organizations and their HR departments scrambled to integrate a new remote work model and adjust their existing WFH policies. But what about the new hires onboarding at a new company? They needed to be onboarded like the predecessors before them. That’s when the “new normal” concept of remote onboarding was born.
Remote onboarding presented its own set of hurdles, obstacles and barriers. Ultimately, though, HR’s goal centered on delivering an exceptional remote onboarding experience for all new hires. Pragmatically, HR practitioners realized they were in for tackling a sizable challenge with remote onboarding.
According to a SHRM article, “hiring and onboarding new employees completely virtually is a new concept for most employers. A lot of companies are trying to figure it out.” The article also underscores the importance of building a solid foundation for remote new hires, ensuring they have a voice within the workplace to help them forge new remote relationships.
Going above and beyond on Day 1
Onboarding – whether it’s in-person or remote – is the critical time for every new hire. Above and beyond a great remote onboarding experience, you want new employees to feel comfortable, welcome and part of the team from the get-go on Day 1.
I sat down with Michelle Graham, Click’s Digital Marketing Manager to get her perspective on remote onboarding as well as ways to make a new hire’s first day awesome, in spite of COVID-19.
Michelle, what was your biggest challenge with remote onboarding new hires?
It was overwhelming. I felt like I had the enormous responsibility of giving the new hires a great first day…minus all the standard luxuries I’ve relied upon in the past within a physical environment, like:
- face-to-face introductions
- meeting the team
- offsite team welcome lunch
- touring the facility
Almost instantly, my goal became to deliver my best when portraying our company, our people and our culture. With a little creativity – coupled with leaning into the tools and resources that were available to me at the time – I was able to reinvent the new employee experience for my new hires.
What was your biggest win in remote onboarding?
My biggest win was the technology and seamless process of the Click Boarding platform that provided an engaging, guided experience for our remote new hires, right out of the gate. In addition, I complemented these with new creative tactics given the virtual reality that we were all experiencing.
Since the automated onboarding process already tackled all the important things (I-9, W-4s, direct deposit and other forms), we had significantly more time to:
- engage with one another frequently and regularly
- establish and build the relationship
- make a strong, lasting impression
- get new hires excited about their new roles
How did you make the remote onboarding experience special for your new hires?
It did take a little creativity and some planning to make the whole remote onboarding process come together. But the investment of time pays out dividends in the long run. It’s a process that’s worked well for us so far. Here are a few of my recommendations for elevating the new hires’ experience:
1. Delight them.
Deliver a “welcome” swag bag of branded merchandise. This not only supports your onboarding efforts, but it reinforces the company brand.
2. Treat them.
Send a restaurant gift card to treat them to lunch. On a grander scale, send gift cards to the whole team and coordinate a virtual staff lunch on Zoom.
3. Communicate thoughtfully.
Send new hires a video message before Day 1 to let them know how excited you are they’ve decided to join the organization. You could also create a video that features each team member. They can introduce themselves, share a short story or anecdote and provide their own personal welcome message to the new hires.
4. Share the org chart.
New hires will be able to put names to faces and understand the roles other team members play.
5. Executive introductions.
Schedule calls with C-suite executives to welcome new hires to the company. Leaders can speak about the company’s culture, vision, mission, core values, etc.
6. Be prepared.
The Click platform allows you to create predetermined tasks and assign them to the respective team members. This makes getting ready for the new hires’ big day simple and convenient. Is the software ready to go? Check! Has the equipment been ordered? Check! What about applications and shared folder access? Check!
7. Check in regularly.
Whether it’s in-person or remote, checking in with your new hires a few times during the first day can make a huge difference. Send them a text or email, hop on a video call or go the old-fashioned route and call them on the phone. Video chats work well, because you can see their reactions and gauge how they might feel.
8. Be enthusiastic!
Regardless of the pandemic, it’s vital to engage with your new hires by showing genuine enthusiasm, especially on Day 1. It can set the tone for the rest of the week. Get them jazzed about their new role and how it impacts the company.
The pandemic and remote onboarding will quite possibly be around for some time. The sooner you engage with your new hires and make them feel valued and appreciated, the quicker you’ll see results.
For help with your remote onboarding needs, trust the employee journey experts at Click Boarding. We’ve got your back!