How to onboard staff when everyone is working from home

- August 5, 2021 3 MIN READ

If you worked in an office prior to the pandemic, chances are that around a year ago today, you would have already transitioned to a remote working environment. For many, remote working was a seamless transition, which provided greater flexibility and challenged workers to create a better work-life balance. Despite the benefits, some challenges still remain, writes Julia Poloai, Head of Culture and Talent at Clipchamp.

Many businesses that had not been equipped for distributed work, were not prepared to onboard new talent and, with remote work now well and truly here to stay, the question remains: how do we best deliver the onboarding experience for remote and hybrid teams to create a lasting first impression? 

The onboarding process can be an overwhelming and daunting time for new hires. The lack of face-to-face interaction brought about by remote work adds to the challenge of settling into a new workplace. In order to mitigate these challenges, businesses need to dedicate extra planning and effort into the onboarding process.

Tips to onboard remote team members

Keep communication consistent when onboarding

Clear communication is the key for any relationship, and in our socially distanced world, with our mouths covered by masks, never has communication been so important. In the office, when new hires arrived for their first day, they would meet new faces, have a dedicated workspace and paperwork to greet them, and colleagues existed nearby to direct their questions to. In prep for day one, new hire questions commonly included work attire, options for lunch, what to bring, and where to park.

When onboarding remotely, there are so many more opportunities for new hires to be left guessing alone, unless guidance is clearly communicated in advance and often. Equipment needs to be delivered and set-up, virtual-meetings need to be scheduled with team members that wouldn’t otherwise be seen, and information that helps new hires get connected to others quickly needs to be easily accessible. Scheduling frequent and deliberate check-ins and providing an open line of consistent feedback can help ease new hires into their new routine, acting as an early driver of employee engagement. I suggest leaning into overcommunication as new hires settle in remotely, even going as far as providing remote checklists and agendas to help team members feel confident in their first day achievements, virtual tools, and onboarding progress as week one ends.

Nurture your company culture

Studies have shown that we like those who like us. I truly believe that when you love your employees, they will love you back. Spotlighting a unique, authentic and inclusive culture where staff feel welcomed and appreciated is a great asset, particularly in the initial stages of onboarding.

At Clipchamp, I encourage connection to culture in the early phases of onboarding by pre-scheduling meetings with employees throughout the organisation, empowering teams to introduce new hires to the parts of Clipchamp culture they love most, and ensuring there is a notable ice-breaking moment for new hires. It is important we provide an opportunity for new hires to introduce themselves in the way they see fit while also providing them a personal introduction to our values and product. Diversity, inclusivity, humour, and learning are culture priorities for us, so intentionally weaving opportunities to experience these during the onboarding process is especially important in getting new hires aligned and allowing our culture to scale as we grow.

Empower with expectations 

Starting with clear expectations for new hires as well as thoughtful goals, are valuable and critical onboarding tasks. It is important that both parties know what they want from each other, and are provided time to be open and honest toward building trust without fear, early in the employment relationship. Establishing and managing these expectations can be different when working from home and working in an office. Alongside assuring an understanding of new hire role expectations, understanding how success will be measured, how to communicate issues that arise, and what should and shouldn’t be expected of their manager are also helpful in guiding new hires toward successful outcomes. HR can help facilitate empowering these relationships by providing additional guidance to managers unsure about what questions might be helpful to discuss and answer for new hires before onboarding comes to an end.

The onboarding process is only the beginning of, what’s hopefully, a long and fruitful journey for both a new hire and a company. By creating a lasting first impression, the relationship between an employer and employee has the best chance to flourish. Our employees feel empowered and positive about coming to work every day because they are able to communicate openly, know what their tasks are and feel a part of an authentic and inclusive culture that they’re able to freely contribute to and it always starts with great onboarding.

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