Online and remote work isn’t going anywhere. So if we know that our future lies at the intersection of digital and physical interactions, how can we best adapt our workplaces?
Let’s start at the beginning of an employee’s experience, the onboarding process.
Picture this. You’ve just landed an amazing opportunity with your dream team. After weeks of job searching from home, you’re excited to have some routine reintroduced to lockdown life.
You log on first thing on Monday, only to find your work account isn’t actually set up properly.
To make things worse, you don’t have the contacts of your team members and unlike face-to-face environments, you can’t just ask the person next to you for help, you’re now in it alone.
The first few days is a cloud of confusion, missed calls, long email chains and IT google searches. You’re not sure what work you’re supposed to be doing and who to ask to find out.
This is the unfortunate reality many are facing when doing online onboarding processes, yet onboarding when done well, can do wonders for your business and for new employees.
It allows you to articulate business culture and work in all its glory and helps set standards, build reputation, create employee engagement and plant the seeds of a great team rapport.
Forbes says a successful onboarding strategy will reduce attrition and increase employee engagement, both of which impact your customers’ satisfaction as well as your bottom line.
Onboarding has been done many times in an online environment in the last two years, and we’ve had to reimagine how we welcome a new team member and set them up for success.
With many businesses closing their offices permanently during the pandemic, and others adopting long-term hybrid models, one large challenge arises.
The challenge is trying to replicate what your business would do in face-to-face instances. So let’s look at how we can facilitate a great onboarding process in a virtual environment.
Three key factors need addressing in the onboarding process, be it virtual or face to face.
Know your culture and make it immersive
Culture creates the foundation for the employee experience and immersing a new employee in this is an integral part of creating a successful onboarding process.
The ability to articulate what your culture is and make it tangible becomes pivotal in an online space, where you can no longer rely on just the ‘energy’ or the ‘vibe’ of the workplace itself.
Many businesses are often stumped when asked ‘what is their culture’?
What we take for granted in the day to day interactions is key to attracting new employees and ensuring who you bring on aligns with your desired community.
A new employee wants to be a part of your work culture, and the best way to do this is to know your culture and intentionally cultivate it. Think about how you can replicate what you experience face-to-face in an online environment. Do you usually do a welcome lunch?
Why not do it online, or introduce a welcome zoom drinks? Be intentional and clear.
Get the logistics out of the way
Some serious pain points can arise when we introduce digital barriers to onboarding.
For example, if a new employee’s start date is pushed back due to IT issues, or an inability to carry out training online, you could lose this employee to a better offer.
To streamline the onboarding process, ensure all technological requirements are set up beforehand. Have laptops and other equipment available before their start date.
Ensure all work systems are accessible with emails and other platforms set up in advance. It becomes exponentially harder to introduce the meaningful experiences without the basics.
It is extremely important to show your new employees that you’re here to be supportive and set them up as best as you can to foster a positive and lasting impression.
Prioritise creating connections
What is forgotten when we leave face-to-face behind is that onboarding is often centred around informal meetings, getting to know one another and forming relationships with workmates.
Relationships are at the heart of how we work and these are created in the informal moments. We forget that face-to-face environments make it easier to instigate these connections.
It happens when you turn up early to a meeting and get to introduce yourself to a manager.
It also happens when you ask someone to catch up for a coffee and talk over a project and it happens when you stay back for 5 minutes and chat about how your day went.
Without creating space for relationships and connection, new employees can often feel invisible and become less likely to reach out or initiate these conversations.
To ensure this isn’t the case, you need to ask the question, How can we facilitate opportunities for creating connections through intentional informal moments online?
The best way to do this is to provide lots of times to meet team members, have meetings and chats without the pressure of completing a task, inflating relationships through team bonding sessions, having down time together and casual conversation on phone for a chat.
When you interconnect these three factors and create an immersive experience that doesn’t fade away, you’ve got an onboarding process that you can introduce at any time, anywhere.
Katriina Tahka, CEO at A Human Agency – AHA is a HR guru with a special interest in business’ success through empowering teams and is passionate about building inclusive workplaces where all people thrive and realise their full potential.