Does online onboarding need to be limited to work from home?

August 25, 2020 Anna Wojciechowska-Kusz

All large organisations need to have an onboarding plan. The impressions from the first day are very important in the recruit’s induction to the new company. We all remember our first days at work, the uncertainly, the helplessness, the fear of the unknown. This is not an easy experience, not even for open people who have no problems establishing relations. The pandemic makes things even harder for both onsite and remote recruits. A properly designed and developed onboarding plan will save the organisation both money (successive recruitments, continuous onboarding of quickly rotating employees) and time (HR department has a plan in place for all new recruits, the individual in charge of onboarding knows what to do, everyone is following the established plan) and ensure that new recruits are onboarded efficiently and quickly integrated with the staff.

The role of dedicated onboarding plan specialists

One factor determining who should take charge of developing an efficient onboarding plan in the company is the size of the business itself. Onboarding of new employees is usually handled by an HR representative or – in a smaller company – the direct superior. In every case, this process is a crucial element of the organisation’s strategy because poor onboarding can have a negative impact on the company’s reputation and profitability. No employer wants to see a high employee turnover and negative reviews online. The recruiters, HR representatives, managers, and other specialists acting on behalf of the company in order to develop the model for onboarding new employees should not and do not have to be left to fend for themselves. They should have the support of external experts who design dedicated onboarding plans. Such plans include online training courses and learning aids (presentations, interactive PDFs, video, animations, etc.). The individual micro and macro learning elements can be combined in various ways to meet specific requirements.

Remote onboarding stages: pre-onboarding

Pre-onboarding is the stage before proper onboarding. Establishing relations with the recruit before the start of work for the company – i.e. when the person in question approves the terms of the job contract – is very important. During this stage, you can send some welcoming e-mails (which can include videos or animations presenting various members of the staff and their functions) or more sophisticated newsletters to the recruits to make them feel welcome by the whole team.

During the period of transition between companies, you should make sure that the new recruits feel well and have a sense of having made the right choice in changing jobs. A positive approach and elimination of the fear of something new is half of success. This does not mean that we should share the gossip from the company’s life (at least not yet). What we should share are general materials like the link to the company’s blog or other events in the industry. We can also invite the new recruit to e.g. go bowling. This stage also includes formalities: exchange of the documents required by the labour law such as a medical certificate and activity in scope of organising the equipment required to perform the given job.

Remote onboarding stages: onboarding

During the second stage, you need to prepare the company onboarding agenda, which establishes assignments for not just the employee, but also for the manager or coordinator of the new hire. Thanks to a detailed plan of the first and successive days, the new recruit will be able to focus on implementation objectives, feel mobilised, and have a sense of security. When the coordinator acts according to the plan established in advance, there is less room for typical mistakes in scope of overburdening the subordinate with excess information or producing a sense of chaos. A well-prepared and balanced onboarding activity plan with an appropriate dosage of information and variety in the forms of its presentation benefits all sides – an employee learning about the company, assignments, and colleagues in peace is more likely to remain with the organisation for a longer time because he or she feels taken care of from the start. This is not about promoting the attitudes of children hiding behind their mothers’ skirts. This is about showing respect to a new team member.

You should keep checking up on the employee’s mental comfort and level of command of the new skills and information. This is especially important when the onboarding process concerns working from home, because new recruits will usually have a harder time: they will not experience the so-called office atmosphere, have coffee with colleagues, or obtain immediate assistance in form of e.g. technical instructions. Contemporary remote onboarding must meet such challenges as well. The office atmosphere can be recreated with videos, animations, and photos from the workplace. We can also get together for coffee and conversation with other members of the team through the applications already available on the market and watch instructions on the intranet or “live” through a messenger. We must remember that onboarding is a time when the employee is entitled to answers to all pressing questions.

Remote onboarding stages: post-onboarding

The final stage covers evaluation of the company’s whole onboarding system. Just like in other areas of the organisation’s operations, it is recommended to conduct new employee satisfaction surveys in scope of being introduced to their new responsibilities, the staff, and the company’s values. The obtained feedback should help introduce modifications and improve the proposed onboarding plan.

Remote onboarding plans are the future of business

Does implementation of remote onboarding or some of its elements in your company raise any concerns? According to the experience of the biggest organisations, which employ hundreds or more people, the development of efficient employee onboarding is not just possible, but absolutely necessary in the current reality and unpredictable future. The outbreak of the pandemic surprised us, but we were able to move many areas of our lives online: not just shipping, but also doctor’s appointments and official matters. Compared to this, onboarding does not seem like that much of a problem. On the contrary, it gives us hope for the future and shows that companies can grow and hire new employees to onsite or remote positions by taking advantage of well-prepared, partially automated, and prospectively more beneficial online onboarding plans.

Conclusion

A well-prepared and efficient onboarding plan designed together with HR specialists and e-learning product experts is a solution tailored to the current times. According to the surveys by O.C. Tanner, properly conducted onboarding will keep approx. 91% of employees from leaving the company for at least three years. You need to develop a modern organisation with an onboarding plan customised to your needs.

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