On-boarding Remotely: Making New Recruits Feel Welcome During COVID-19

Starting a new job is an overwhelming time for any employee, with so much to get your head around from new faces to processes and procedures. Now imagine all of this with the added pressure of a global pandemic, and not being able to meet your co-workers face-to-face. It sounds like a lot to deal with, right?

As an employer, you have a duty to care to employees whether they’ve been there for years or it’s their very first day. You need to make them feel comfortable, ensure they have the right guidance and managers as well as ensuring they feel like part of the team. The on-boarding process is crucial in making a new hire feel welcome and cared for. How new hires are treated in the first few days, weeks, and even months can influence their perception of you as an employer. It’s reported that 86% of new hires decide on their future in a company within the first six months of employment. If you want to retain talent, it’s important to perfect this.

In the wake of a global pandemic, when we’re all staying home to keep safe and the office is empty, changes must be made to an on-boarding process. Remote working makes this incredibly challenging for obvious reasons. However, it’s these challenges that also make on-boarding properly even more vital. Employers must go the extra mile to ensure that new hires during the COVID-19 crisis get the same amount of care and attention as those that were hired before remote working became the norm.

So how do you adapt to on-boarding remotely? It’s going to be one of the biggest challenges employers who are lucky enough to be hiring right now will face. Here are our tips.

Evaluate your current on-boarding plan

The first stage in adjusting your on-boarding plan to work remotely should be to evaluate your existing strategy. If there are glaring errors and things that were overlooked when your employees were in the office, can you imagine they’ll work remotely? The on-boarding process is something that many business leaders push back in favour of other priorities; it’s often a very neglected element of the recruitment process. Now we’re in the middle of a crisis, and ways of working have changed completely, there’s no excuse. Ask your current team for advice and evaluate what worked well when they started working for you; this will ensure you’re ready to welcome new hires while working remotely.

Train and empower your managers

On-boarding affects managers just as much as it affects new hires. You need to provide practical training for your managers, so they’re up to the challenge of welcoming a new team member remotely. Make sure you address any concerns they may have and ensure they’re confident in communication methods, any on-boarding processes or assessments and know what’s expected of them. Run training sessions so they can embrace video chats and be comfortable managing from afar but most of all show you have confidence in them. If you have a strong management team ready to make new employees feel welcome, the candidate experience and on-boarding process will be smooth and straightforward.

Prepare all documents and software

While it may seem obvious, having all documents readily available is something that could be easily overlooked until they’re needed. Whether it’s documents you need a new employee to sign or guides and handbooks to ensure they have all the information they need; it’s time to make your on-boarding materials virtual. This means that they can be easily accessed whenever required and your new hire isn’t overwhelmed by a delivery of paperwork on their first day.

Ensure email accounts and other vital programmes that you use are set up well in advance, as there’ll be no IT technicians to help at home. You’ll also need to ensure that all logins are in an accessible but secure place for your new hire to access easily.

Send a gift

It’s likely that while we’re already working from home, you’ll have to send a new hire an on-boarding package of some description. This could be their company laptop, documents that can’t be sent digitally or other vital equipment so they can do their job. If you have to do this anyway, why not make it a bit more personal? Send something that will make a new hire smile and feel welcome: even if it’s just a company water bottle, pen and branded merchandise. It shows you’re thinking about them and are trying to include them. They may even share it on social media or with friends, which will enhance your employer brand. It’s adding an extra touch to welcome them to the business while office drinks are out of the question.

Consider Mentors

Your management team probably have a lot on their plate, particularly in this crisis. While a new hire must build a strong relationship with their manager, it’s also understandable that a senior member of staff won’t be able to make them their sole priority in these times. Consider asking another member of staff to act as a mentor. This helps a new hire to build a relationship with another team member which will help for when things return to normal as well as take the pressure off your management team. Mentors can offer advice, assist with the day-to-day tasks and provide another point of contact for any issues. Plus, this is excellent training if you have identified the mentor as a future leader in your business during talent mapping.

Face-to-Face Connections

One of the main things a new member of staff will miss out on is face to face connection. They’ll be overwhelmed with names by working remotely but won’t necessarily be able to put faces to them. Video calls are vital to introduce new hires to your team. However, make sure you don’t only introduce them to people they work with directly. Gradually enable them to meet the whole team, even if it’s more informally like through a quiz or catch up. This will make things easier for everyone when we eventually return to office life and reduce chances of them feeling like ‘the new person’ all over again.

Offer learning strategies

While a new hire is getting to grips with the business, they won’t always be busy and trying to find jobs for them to do while working remotely will not always be an easy task. Providing learning opportunities during this time will help ease a new hire into their role and provide them with skills that could become vital later down the line. With many online learning tools available for all industries, and even soft skills, there’s plenty to keep a recruit busy. However, ensure they know why you’re asking them to do these courses and emphasise how they will be useful. You could even ask managers to provide tests and tasks based on the learning to show they’re interested in these new skills. Otherwise, it may look like a lazy excuse to keep them occupied while not in the office and reduce employee satisfaction.

Ask for Feedback

Remote on-boarding, while in this strange time, is going to provide a learning experience for all of us. Managers, mentors, business owners and everyone in between can learn something from how they approach making new hires feel welcome during this time. Be sure to ask your new member of staff for feedback on how you can improve. They’ll understand that this isn’t an easy time to be recruiting and asking for feedback shows compassion and a desire to improve. Respond to any suggestions and adapt your on-boarding strategy accordingly to help with future hires. After the COVID-19 crisis, remote working may become the norm, and you need to be ready to step up to the challenge after the pandemic passes; plus, any feedback can be transferred to your normal on-boarding process helping all future hires.

If you’re fortunate enough to be recruiting during this time, make sure you follow these steps to make a new hire feel welcome. Plus, remember that as remote working becomes more and more popular with the best talent, having an on-boarding strategy which is adaptable will open up recruitment possibilities for you.