By | January 13, 2021

After many months of hunkering down for pandemic work life, many employees and organizations are settling into this new normal of remote work. And that doesn’t just mean Zoom happy hours and endless calls where people think they’re on mute, but aren’t. It means that when new employees start their first days look different than ever before. Whereas before new employee onboarding might have meant meet-and-greets to introduce everyone and getting settled at a new desk, now it’s a virtual experience.
According to a survey by Glassdoor, onboarding impressions are key. Organizations that do onboarding well see employee retention of more than 82%, and high productivity. Companies that provide poor employee onboarding often lose those employees within the first year. So how should your organization bring on new people in a pandemic, and do it well?
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1. Don’t assume your old onboarding plan fits the new world

“Status quo, but remote” doesn’t really fit here. Organizations need to go beyond to make sure that new hires feel welcomed and included in their new role. Change is hard, and it’s even harder when you feel isolated in your home office instead of being able to integrate yourself in the same space as your new team.
It’s time to rethink your entire onboarding process and implement one specifically for remote workers. Work with your HR team to document the entire onboarding process from offer to first day, and think about how it can be adjusted for someone who will be on the other end of the phone call or video meeting at every step.
Provide detailed checklists and itineraries for the new employee so that they don’t feel like they’re at loose ends during their first weeks. If possible, get a list of goals from the new hire’s manager, helping set expectations for the first few months, and encourage the manager to set up regular calls or meetings with the new hire to check in.

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2. Dial up the enthusiasm

When you can’t introduce someone around the office and show them all the “good” spots for coffee and coworker chats, it’s crucial to make extra effort when it comes to enthusiasm. To make your new team member feel welcome, set up a specific channel where people can get to know the person, and vice versa. (Slack works great for this—you can have a channel dedicated to having people stop by and greet the newbie.)

3. Send some welcome swag

Chances are you’ll be sending your new hire some kind of welcome packet that includes necessary paperwork and documentation. Don’t stop there—have a “welcome!” gift that goes out to new employees a few days before they start working with you. Maybe it’s some company-branded swag or some fun snacks for their home office—it just has to be something that says you’re looking forward to having this person on your team and aren’t just focused on filling out forms and handing out company policies.
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4. Enlist “buddies” to help make the transition easier

At some point, the onboarding process has to go beyond HR and a welcoming committee. Having a buddy program (where existing employees mentor a new employee) can help make that social transition better and more fulfilling. No matter how old we get it’s always tough to be the new kid in school—and the sooner one can make friends and feel settled, the better. It’s not about matchmaking BFFs, but rather finding sociable, approachable team members who are knowledgeable about the company and happy to share some of their insider intel.
The best part of the buddy system is that it’s free. All it takes is the time investment of recruiting potential buddies and setting up video chats or virtual hangouts for the new colleagues.
Working remotely has changed the work world this year, but it doesn’t have to upset your onboarding game. Putting thoughtful effort into revamping your current onboarding, and going a few steps beyond to make your new team members feel welcomed, valued, and integrated will help all of you make it a positive experience.

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