New Employee Onboarding and Integration During COVID-19: Part 3


As organizations continue to navigate the “new normal,” COVID-19 will have both temporary and enduring effects on the workplace. With many organizations still maintaining a fully or partially remote workforce, one of the large challenges they continue to face is how to effectively hire and onboard new employees virtually. For more information on other talent acquisition strategies during COVID-19, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Starting a new job is an exciting time for employees; and many individuals, including ones hired several years ago, still vividly remember their first few days on the job. Without handshakes, face-to-face introductions, or lunches with new colleagues, how do you foster a positive onboarding experience that demonstrates your company practices, policies, and culture? As remote onboarding becomes the new norm for many, we have identified key best practices to keep in mind.

Create a Roadmap for Success

Most organizations already have an onboarding program, but how does that program apply to remote or virtual onboarding? While some companies have put a hold on bringing on new staff, many are still moving forward with hiring and are required to develop new, virtual onboarding procedures.

For virtual onboarding, it is critical to create or modify a process that is consistent and can be replicated for all new hires that first join the organization from a remote environment. This process should include everything required to prepare for the new hire‘s first day, including getting the individual set up in your organization’s systems, communicating their arrival with appropriate colleagues and teammates in advance and ensuring their technology is ready for use without IT being right next door to assist.

Beyond the new hire paperwork and an employee’s first day, create an outline for their first one to two weeks on the job that consists of meetings with key team members they will work with, comprehensive training on where to find resources within your company’s intranet or document management system, and invitations to calls or status update meetings for projects they will soon join, even if just to listen at first. Make sure to share that outline with the rest of the team and gather input or suggestions regarding additional calls, meetings, or training sessions that could be helpful.

In addition to a clear one to two-week outline, schedule regular check-ins with the new hire for their first 30 to 60 days on the job. This can be a simple video call in which you address their questions and concerns, discuss ongoing tasks, and ensure they have access to the tools they need. Regular check-ins also let the new hire know you are thinking about them and care about their success.

Utilize Technology

Technology has never been a higher priority than it is now as more teams work remotely. For new hires, it’s critical to ensure that the technology they need is set up prior to their first day and that they have the necessary resources to use the technology. Make sure that new employees have access to everything they need and that you provide a list of where to find guides, training resources, and contact information for your IT support desk. IT can assist with easing the transition as well by recording videos or creating instruction guides for new hires, if they do not already have this type of training resource. The guides from IT should include how to set up accounts, training on best utilization practices, and a frequently asked questions section.

Beyond the setup of necessary programs and equipment, point out the tools that are most used by other team members to communicate, like Skype Messenger, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. Make sure to note if different individuals or teams that the new hire will work with prefer a method of communication outside of the norm. Lastly, try to utilize video conferencing as much as possible to give the new hire social interaction they would typically get in an office environment face-to-face.

Introduce Team Members

When working in a virtual environment, it’s more challenging for a new employee to gain familiarity with a company’s culture and to get to know team members without face-to-face interactions. To make new hires feel more welcome, send an email to the existing team prior to the new employee’s first day and encourage people to reach out and welcome them via a personal message. Further, employees can schedule get-to-know-you video meetings, during which they can share their experiences from their time at the company, why they enjoy working for the organization, and any quick tips they have for the new hire. This will not only give the new employee more insight into the company’s culture and helpful insight their manager may not have shared, but it will provide them with what they can look forward to on their journey with the company.

Demonstrate Company Culture

While company culture can be difficult to learn while remote, setting up a buddy or mentor system can be beneficial in several ways. A mentor or buddy can be a good resource for the new hire to utilize when they can’t pop over to another team member’s desk to ask basic questions, and it can also remove some of the burden from their manager. Additionally, a buddy or mentor will naturally help a new employee adjust to the team’s work style, learn company goals, and better understand overall company expectations.

Assigning a high-performing team member as a buddy or mentor to a new hire also offers that existing team member the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, take on additional responsibility, and helps to develop their coaching and interpersonal skills.

Another initiative to consider implementing, which many companies have found beneficial during this time, are virtual coffee meetings, lunches, or happy hours. These settings enhance the socialization and integration of new hires and provide the new employee a chance to get to know coworkers in a more informal setting – something that naturally happens when working side-by-side in an office every day. Lastly, book clubs and fitness challenges are other ways to not only get the new hire involved, but to provide team building opportunities for everyone in the workplace.

Implement an Integration Plan

When employees begin returning to the workplace, whether it be gradually in phases or all at once on a rotating schedule, make sure that you’ve devised an integration plan to assimilate new employees into the physical workplace.

With all employees coming back to work and experiencing “the new norm,” returning to the office will be an adjustment for everyone. However, it is key to provide additional guidance and added support to new hires, as they have never worked from your office before. They will essentially learn everything for the first time, unlike other employees, who will only need to refamiliarize themselves with various aspects. Provide regular and consistent communication to your entire team but be sure to send additional instructions to new hires. Also remember to have another employee meet them at the front door of the building on their first day in office to take them to their workspace. You should schedule an office tour within that first week, so the new employee can get acclimated to the building and learn where everything is located. This will help them get an understanding of the environment and feel more comfortable working in the office.

Although navigating the new workplace can be stressful for everyone and committing the extra time and attention to onboarding will be a challenge, your new hires will thank you for setting them up on the path to success, and your organization will be on its way to turning those new hires into dedicated, seasoned employees. For more information, please contact our human capital team.


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