Onboarding is a new hire’s point of entry into your company.
A good orientation process can set an employee on the path to success, while one that’s poorly planned can result in a negative experience and low retention rates.
Nailing down an in-person onboarding process can be tricky enough, but with many companies moving to a remote or distributed workforce, the transition from a face-to-face to a virtual process can require another element of strategic planning. Here, four tips to help ensure a smooth and successful onboarding in the Age of Zoom.
First impressions are everything. Studies show that 64% of new hires leave a job within the first year if they have a negative onboarding experience. Companies that offer great onboarding experiences have higher retention rates. The takeaway? It helps to put your best foot forward from the very beginning.
“The last thing you want to do is to leave an employee to wilt … without any guidance or have the onboarding process be about filling out a million forms, which could translate into dissatisfaction and a lack of engagement,” says Julie Schweber, an HR Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. “Throughout the process, the message to the employee should be ‘You’re valuable.’”
That could mean sending a warm welcome (or even some company schwag) to the employee even before her or his first day. “It can be a month or more from the acceptance of an offer to the start of a job. That can be a long time for a new hire,” says Schweber. With employee ghosting on the rise — in one survey 72% of job seekers admitted to backing out of an offer — companies need to keep new hires focused on the job they’re about to start, not considering other opportunities.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Communication can be one of the biggest challenges when onboarding someone virtually. Some companies are putting together short video bios of each team member, so that new hires can put a face to each name and get an overview of different departments, notes Schweber. These bio videos can serve to break the ice between future collaborators and can be used again with other hires.
It also helps to establish a central hub for communication. “Having a static location to house resources so new hires know where to find information 24/7 is critical,” says Tracy Cote, the Chief People Officer at people operations platform Zenefits. “And you really can’t over-communicate … when people can’t be in-person to ask questions as they walk by coworkers at their desk or in the break room.”
Beware of video-call fatigue.
Zoom burnout is real. But there are ways to prevent it, starting with training sessions that are engaging and relatively short. “[Training] can be both done live and on-demand so it can be absorbed at the new hire’s convenience,” remarks Cote. “Additionally, in-person interactions can be stretched over a couple of weeks with shorter, more interactive calls. This allows the new hire to learn at their own pace and allows teams to adjust their method of delivering information, if needed.”
Get creative with sharing company culture.
“Company culture is such a broad topic — and such a critical one,” says Shweber. Often it’s employees who do the best job at answering questions like: What is an employer’s brand and philosophy? Who do you turn to for help from a peer or upper management standpoint? How do you incorporate the company’s values, attitudes, and goals into your daily work routine?
Cote recommends assigning an onboarding buddy to help new hires understand these nuances. “This person shouldn’t necessarily work directly with the new hire, but can serve as a third-party resource to answer any and all questions,” she says. “Pre-COVID, this might include bringing the new hire to lunch or giving them an office tour; now that it’s virtual, this part of the onboarding process requires a little more creativity and may include a virtual coffee or a prompt with questions that the buddy can answer proactively.”
She goes on to explain that maintaining company culture while being remote requires checking in more often than usual to make sure that new employees constantly feel involved and motivated. It’s not bad advice for your existing employees as well — hold virtual group activities regularly so that everyone can stay connected and engaged.