How to on-board new team members while working from home

woman remote working on video conference callEnergy PR helps many organisations with their internal communications.  Here Louise Findlay-Wilson, Managing Director at Energy PR outlines how to onboard new team members working from home.

The aim of onboarding is to move new recruits quickly up the learning curve so that they feel inspired, part of the company, and rapidly become productive.  It’s well worth getting it right.  According to a study by Careerbuilder, organisations that focus on onboarding retain 50% more new employees than companies that don’t, and good onboarding results in a 50% increase in productivity.

Yet, with staff working from home policy, delivering a quality onboarding experience is much harder.  So many of the key elements – the tour of the office, team meetings, banter with colleagues and one-to-one meetings with bosses where the goals and vision are shared – just cannot be delivered in the same way.

In such circumstances, how do you ensure your new team members get the best possible start?

Preparation: The first step is great preparation.  If someone new is working remotely there is far more chance of them feeling lost and confused or getting bored and this not being noticed. You need to carefully map out their early weeks – and ensure they’re filled.

Make sure all equipment they’re going to need is sent to their home well ahead of time, email accounts are set up and the tech team gets them up and running immediately with all the logins they need.  Don’t assume their mobile signal at home is strong. Be prepared to provide boosters.

Communications: With remote working you will be using other communications channels more than ever – Microsoft Teams, Slack, FaceTime, Zoom, Google Groups etc.  Don’t assume everyone is tech savvy and familiar with these. A new hire will feel alienated and inept if they don’t know how to use your ‘everyday’ tools.

Assign a Buddy: In an office setting it’s easy to spot a new employee looking lost, or alone, bored waiting for people to come back to them, or struggling with a task that’s been set.  If they’re working from home, it will be easily missed. To prevent this, assign someone to buddy the new recruit and regularly check in with them. Ideally this should be a colleague outside of their team who can talk about the company, culture and answer any practical questions. This person also needs to know the new recruit’s senior manager, so that if the onboarding process is breaking down, swift action will be taken.

Be Available: No new recruit wants to feel they are disturbing their manager or a burden, as a result they may be reluctant to call/email them when they need to.  To avoid this, line managers need to be prepared to be much more available than they usually are with an onboarding process.  Diarise regular catch up calls.

Meet & Greet: Just because they aren’t in the office, doesn’t mean the normally fun things done on a first day should be abandoned. Create that first day lunchtime drink and catch up remotely. Host a welcome to the team meeting.

Then schedule 1:1 meetings for them with all key colleagues – but spread them out over the first week or so, giving the new recruit time to take everything onboard.

Put all of these into a calendar which is part of their itinerary for the first few weeks and monitor it to ensure all meetings take place.

Set a Task: Even with lots of preparation, there may be moments when the new person is stuck for something to do. Give them a residual task to complete in such moments.  This could be creating their bio for the company website, updating their LinkedIn profiles, some form of desk research – whatever is relevant for the role.  They need to feel it’s a worthwhile task – but it should not be mission critical.  That way, if they are fully occupied during their first few weeks and don’t get round to it, it’s not the end of the world.

Create the Connection: A new recruit has none of the shared history of being with the business. They don’t know the personalities, the ‘in jokes’ or have a true feel for the culture.  All sorts of things which are picked up in a real-world environment during onboarding, are not easily communicated through a computer screen.  You need to compensate for this.  Send new recruits a pack of practical branded items – a company mug, notebooks etc. so that they feel – and look – part of the team on meetings and calls.  Before they join ask what their beverage of choice is and send this as a gift together with an ‘office plant’.  Perhaps add to this a branded t-shirt which everyone wears on Friday afternoons.  You want to create a sense of belonging.

Build in Banter: Workplace chat is the essential way in which relationships and the office culture are established. For new recruits, these moments to chat are therefore doubly critical. Build them into your organisation. Within my company we have a ‘tea break’ every day at 3pm on Zoom. Open to everyone who’s available, this is a time where work-related talk is off limits, it’s all chat.  We also run a quiz every Friday – again a fun time for team chat and bonding.

As this list shows, this stuff isn’t rocket science. It’s just thinking through the possible sources of confusion, boredom or isolation so that someone feels valuable and able to contribute as quickly as possible.

For more information or support with your internal communications contact Energy PR on 01993 823011 or email [email protected]

louise findlay-wilsonAbout the author

Louise Findlay-Wilson is the founder and Managing Director of the communications agency, Energy PR. Louise set up her first agency at the age of 26, grew it and sold it before establishing Energy in 1995.


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