“Starting a new job is exciting,” Florian says. “It goes without saying that I was curious before my first day – what was awaiting me? How do the internal processes work? Who are my co-workers and what are they currently working on?”
Florian was one of our first “newbies” to join us at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, the lack of in-person contact meant we couldn’t conduct our onboarding processes as usual. As a consequence, there were no official introductions in conference rooms, no chatting at the coffee machine, no new co-workers looking over your shoulder, and no shared lunch to get to know each other. Nonetheless, Florian Fix now feels he is part of the team.
How did that work so successfully?
Eight tips for making onboarding work remotely
1. If you don’t have one already, develop an onboarding process
Who does what? When a new team member is starting, what exactly needs to be done when? Who requires what information? This may sound simple, but it is anything but a given. When new staff members start remotely, it is easy to forget them – that makes it all the more important to establish a defined process.
2. Have your experienced team members get in touch with the newbies at the earliest possible opportunity
People feel welcome when they know their arrival is hotly anticipated. Ideally, team members should contact new staff members via XING, LinkedIn or other social networks even before they take up their new position. A quick “great that you’re joining us” increases the sense of anticipation ahead of starting a new job with a new team.
3. Assign an experienced team member to support each newbie
Personal contact is important. If it can’t be done live and in person, then it has to be online. You should therefore assign a team member to each of your new staff members – however much experience they may bring with them – who will be in touch with them every day.
4. Put together an induction plan
People feel more confident when they know what to expect – and this is particularly important in the induction phase. Put together a detailed plan and to-do lists for your newbies so they always know what’s ahead of them during their initial days and weeks. Particularly in their early days with the company, the new team members will be grateful for more detailed information or online courses that will bring them up to speed.
5. Offer online training
The faster your newbies get to know the processes and specialist details of your company, the better. You should therefore invest a little time beforehand in developing online training courses where your new (and experienced) team members can learn all about your company’s processes, customers and challenges.
6. Organize regular check-in chats
During the first few weeks, it’s a good idea to have regular virtual chats – a daily five-minute check-in at the start of the day, weekly rounds of feedback and meetings at which the new employee can get to know the team.
7. Online coffee breaks or after-work sessions
Whether in the break room or over the foosball table in the evening, most personal interaction between staff members happens away from the desk. That’s not so easy when everyone is working from home – but it’s still possible. Organize an online pub quiz or set up five-minute coffee breaks during working hours. This will help your team grow together faster and the newbie won’t feel alone. The daily five-minute chats before starting work helped our new staff members integrate into the team.
8. Install onboarding tools
Apart from the coffee break, an onboarding tool can be a real help with most of the points mentioned above. The standard processes already cover the most important functions you will need for successful, system-aided onboarding. Your team, your managers and your HR staff will have an overview of their onboarding tasks and receive automatic reminders.
The new team members receive all the information they need for their first few days at work ahead of time, so they know what their induction will be like. You can also use the integrated learning management system to create training measures, meaning your newbies can learn everything they need to know about your company right from the outset.
Onboarding – what really matters
Whether or not you are using solid software, a structured onboarding process will help your newbies settle into your company and quickly start working productively. It also supports your experienced staff members during the induction of their new colleagues, meaning they have more time for their core tasks. When you’re in the office, it is possible to improvise when the occasional process doesn’t run smoothly. This is much more difficult when the entire team is working from home. It’s hard without personal contact. It is therefore all the more important to have a precise plan so that the induction is successful.
Ultimately, there are many details that make the difference between success and failure. In the words of our second work-from-home newcomer, Daniel: “The most important factors in my onboarding process were a continuous flow of information, regular discussions in video calls, interesting tasks and incredibly friendly colleagues who were there for me – even remotely – and were always ready to listen.”