Starting a new job is nerve-wracking even for the more experienced and confident among us.  You’re trying to understand the culture of the organisation, remember roles, key projects, names–was that Sally, or Susie. Throw in a lockdown, with a remote first day and the onboarding process can get a bit tricky. People sometimes think retention starts with pay and benefits, but really, it begins so much sooner.  Onboarding is an integral part of welcoming a newcomer into the organisation and in the current climate, with many starting their new roles remotely, conveying that important welcoming feeling of warmth and camaraderie can be difficult to communicate over a screen.

So where do you begin?

In a time when everyone is busy meeting their own deadlines, responding to clients and customers, and managing their personal lives with children, dog-children and partners at home, we must slow down, and take the time to onboard people effectively. Onboarding is not an overly complex process; here are some guiding principles:

  1. Remember that onboarding starts with the recruitment process and includes the lead up to the first day. It’s not enough for a new employee to move from being hired, to turning up on their first day. Share their details with your team, encourage them to reach out and welcome them on LinkedIn, give them a call to check-in, because; 

  2. The little details can make all the difference!  Yes, we’ve probably got pens at home, but a ‘Welcome’ stationery pack is meaningful in that no assumptions have been made about a home set up. Think about the small welcoming gestures your organisation can provide. 

  3. Structure your remote onboarding process so it includes plenty of time for a new hire to get a read on their colleagues and learn how they best communicate. Acknowledge that it’s challenging when we aren’t able to read the in-person social cues, without the freedom to tap someone on the shoulder to ask a question, chat between meetings, or grab a coffee. Instead, deliberately build in those contact points into the new employee’s day and week.

  4. Lead by example. Senior people in your business also need to be available for contact through whatever channels you have. They should take the lead in making introductions, attending meetings, and participating in more informal and fun conversations, so that everyone can see it’s worth taking the time to communicate.  

    Set up onboarding so that it runs beyond the first day and week. Ensure you have regular check-ins with the new employee that take you up to at least the three month point of their employment.  You can always give back the gift of time if these check-ins aren’t required, but they’re great to have in the diary as opportunities to connect. 

  5. Consider building tools and templates for new employees to refer to, that supplement the ‘how we do things around here’ conversations. Include elements like meeting cadences, which people to approach for which types of questions etc.

  6. Encourage questions! Making sure to include the phrase what questions do you have for me?” when providing information as this encourages new employees to ask, and sets an expectation that they will likely have things they are wondering about.
While remote working is sometimes essential, onboarding in person is proven to have a higher adoption rate.

Do onboarding right and you can expect numerous benefits for both the employee, and your organisation.

  • New employees feel welcome, valued, and a true part of the team and organisation.
  • New employees are more likely to be happier, produce better quality work and, be willing to get stuck in and take ownership.
  • They will be up-to-speed and ready to work faster, and able to support, manage or lead pieces of work.They will spend less time second-guessing or muddling through. They will have the clarity and purpose to do their role well.
  • Retention will be enhanced; you are far less likely to have to worry about early-stage attrition.

I’ve recently started a new job during lockdown, and as an HR professional, my standards are pretty high! I was welcomed into The People Place whānau with warmth, and a genuine sense of ‘team’ and camaraderie. From connections and hellos to first day welcome messages, to a thorough induction, the entire experience has been positive, and I feel like I’m finally getting my feet under the table.

Onboarding is hugely valuable process that will set up your people, and therefore your business, for ongoing success. If you haven’t done so already, adapting your onboarding process for remote working situations should be close to the top of your people-care to-do list, and in the current climate, it’s more important than ever.

Get in touch if you have any comments or questions, and of course, if you are looking to update your onboarding, we’re here to help.