We may be in the midst of a global pandemic, but this has only increased the need for a strong onboarding program to give a new employee a chance of success. This is a work climate like none before it which brings uncertainty and confusion.
New starters need an onboarding process to help them navigate a new job in uncertain times. Sure, they may be onboarding from their lounge room or in a half empty factory, but employers that take the time to do this well will no doubt find themselves with a well-adjusted and high performing employee when the crisis is over.
Tips to onboard a new employee remotely during COVID-19
Address the unique situation
Call the employee and talk about the pandemic and how it will impact the onboarding and initial employment period.
Where possible, talk about their role in future terms. E.g. “next year when our new software arrives, you will play an active role in it’s implementation”. This forward language provides comfort and security.
A remote employee still has an important role to understand their responsibility to comply with safety.
Provide the new employee with a Working From Home Self Assessment Checklist.
Work from Home policy (WFH)
New employees should be provided with the organisation’s Working From Home Policy.
The line manager is advised to discuss the key points such as what the employee needs to do when they are unwell, taking breaks and complying with safety and ICT standards.
As part of the safety assessment, it would have been identified what tools the new starter needs to have a safe and productive workstation in the home environment. For example, it needs to be determined if the worker needs a monitor or ergonomic chair. Do they need a laptop?
Confirm and test the new employee’s connectivity and access to all required programs.
Ensure that they have the software and hardware to complete their role.
Consider cyber protection, bandwidth and licenses required.
Demonstrate all of the technology such as messaging, social walls and video conferencing that will connect new employees in real time to the rest of the business.
Be clear about the communication plan
Starting a new role remotely during a pandemic is not ideal. It can be very isolating and confusing for a new starter. Consider how and when you will communicate prior to day one.
A daily video catch up at the beginning to answer questions may be appropriate. Consider the technology available and work out an onboarding communications plan.
Introduce peer support
New employees are grateful for access to their managers, but it is also a new job and they want to impress. Consider introducing a strong peer support program early.
Peer support can be spontaneous or structured – but it needs to be there.
Buddy up a more experienced employee with the new starter and encourage regular contact and even a joint project.
Feedback brings confidence
Be clear about support
A communication plan is essential, but it is also important to demonstrate to the new employee what the business is doing for the broader employee group (e.g. what employee support strategies are in place?)
Share details of the EAP program, talk about customer wins, how the business is supporting employees and what it is doing in the broader community.
Introduce virtual team building
Discuss with the new hire’s manager a plan to increase team building during COIVD-19. What creative ideas do they have to bring the team together (e.g. Friday afternoon online trivia? Guess the baby photo competition? Virtual health/workout sessions?)
It’s business as usual in an unusual time
It is extremely important in these uncertain times to operate as ‘normally’ as possible. Keep as many business rituals as possible – even if they are done via zoom.
Ask the CEO to prepare a welcome message that can be sent to the new starter – or even better schedule a zoom meet and greet.
Send the org structure and highlight the roles that the new starter will interface the most with. Organise virtual meetings with these employees as part of the onboarding strategy.
Share and discuss the business plans – and talk to how the new hire will be able to positively contribute.
Devise and collaborate on a 30-60-90 day plan for the new hire.
Prepare a toolkit of helpful resources and share information on key customers and competitors.
Drive meaningful conversations about the new employee’s engagement and career.
Establish a mentoring program and allocate meaningful work early.
Consider issuing an onboarding survey after the first two weeks to quickly learn what is going well and what is not meeting expectations.