Most companies have been remote for a year, and many have brought on new employees during that time.
While onboarding is always tricky, it can be even harder via Skype, Zoom and Slack, and can leave new hires feeling disconnected and lost in the critical first days.
What follows is a Q&A with Aleksandra Sulimko, HR Director at The Soul Publishing, the digital publishing powerhouse behind viral YouTube channels like 5-Minute Crafts and Bright Side – on the topic of remote onboarding.
Q. How have most companies’ onboarding processes changed most significantly over the past 12 – 18 months?
The shift to fully remote work took a lot of companies by surprise last year, so many companies were not ready to take their in-person processes and move them online.
With this in mind, the biggest change has been in how companies are approaching onboarding; rather than simply adjusting the medium, many companies have revamped these processes altogether.
Organizations are taking a more creative approach to designing their onboard activities. Instead of just meet-and-greets, HR/compliance training and downloads on relevant information, companies are taking it upon themselves to make sure their corporate culture shines through during the onboarding process.
This is especially important now as culture remains a top priority for employees, and can be more challenging for companies to foster virtually when their workforce was previously office-based.
Q. What are the key challenges that modern organizations come across for new employee onboarding in today’s world of work?
The key challenges that companies are facing with onboarding now can be broken into two categories: first, making sure paperwork and IT needs are well managed, and second, bringing an employee into the culture.
Handling paperwork, payroll, and other IT protocols can easily be done with the right digital tools in place. Gone are the days of sitting in an office with an HR representative, but this shift to virtual onboarding can still be seamless and likely, more time efficient when done online.
Tackling these details early on will allow HR teams to prioritize the second and larger shift – remote culture introductions.
Bringing a new joiner into a company culture is where most challenges come about. After onboarding, new employees should feel as though they are familiar with the team dynamics, get a sense of every team member’s personality and understand the elements that make a company and its culture special.
At TheSoul Publishing, for example, we have our creative team develop onboarding videos for all new hires. Employees have said that they find these extremely valuable and that it helped them understand our DNA and who we are.
This element of onboarding feels natural – even in a remote world – and gives new hires a great understanding of what makes a culture special and is more effective than an office tour.
By creating unique content, companies can implement this easily and make the onboarding experience positive and engaging.
Q. If you had to give advice to a company onboarding a large number of new hires virtually for the first time, what would it be?
If I had to give advice to a company onboarding virtually for the first time, the first recommendation I would make is to establish processes for daily communication early on. Let new employees know which tools you have and if there are situations when you do or do not use them. Just because your company has Slack doesn’t mean you’ll use it every day, so make sure that new hires understand these nuances.
Organize “meet and greet” moments with as many other team members as you can, but don’t only focus on people in their immediate work circle. It’s important that employees recognize people outside their core team so they don’t feel out of place in wider company meetings or at in-person events if and when those occur.
Q. How can HR teams and small businesses make onboarding engaging?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that can work for everyone, but there are several considerations that I recommend HR teams and managers keep in mind:
- Create content and experiences that are unique to your company. We have found that sharing video content works really well at TheSoul Publishing, and is something other HR teams can execute as well – even without a big creative team. Companies can do this in many fun ways – even through Zoom or phone recordings – and make it authentic to them.
- Set up attainable goals and a timeline for the new hire. Outline projects and guidelines from the start; this gives new hires a plan to follow and can help managers review performance in a structured way. Within this, make sure employees are not only given individual projects, but also creative opportunities to work with their teammates and department stakeholders on bigger initiatives.
- Establish a new hire buddy system. Introducing a new employee to a point person on their first day will help them feel comfortable asking basic questions until they get the lay of the land. It can also help create the groundwork for a mentor relationship or friendship later on.
- Try to not overwhelm them with an information dump on day one. Spread out the training over a few days if possible to help them digest the information and get settled in.
- Create an environment where they can easily meet other people. A virtual event or team meeting can be used to do an ice breaker so that the new hire can get to know everyone they will work with most closely at the organization.
Q. Are there any “watch-outs” that HR teams should keep in mind for remote hiring and onboarding?
Make sure that your onboarding process doesn’t feel too stilted or unnatural. It’s not only important to have a new joiner understand the processes and workload on day one, but also to understand how your teams work and collaborate.
The workplace culture is incredibly important, and setting the stage for a strong experience early on is key.