Posted by Tasnim Ahmed
May 21, 2021 | 5-minute read (988 words)
Recruitment and onboarding during the COVID-19 pandemic have been described as a nightmare for HR and people managers. Swapping face-to-face interactions for online meetings has curtailed the vital sense of personal touch throughout the hiring process.
The screen as a communication medium can make people come across as forced and less friendly, which heightens the discomfort of getting acclimated at a new company.
However, several companies and businesses have come out ahead of the curve. They have found ways to hire well even remotely, spurring them to look at how they run their business overall and consider carrying forward some of the new practices that worked well during the pandemic period.
How the traditional onboarding method is evolving
Typically, firms hold numerous rounds of interviews after which they decide on a new hire. Then the new employee is introduced to the company, and efforts are undertaken to make them feel like a part of it.
Culture and company do’s and don’ts are absorbed over time and through various interactions with colleagues, and this ultimately boosts the new hire’s sense of belonging. The latter is where companies who have managed to have a good run with remote onboarding stand out. They still managed to instill company culture and a sense of belonging for new employees, despite a 100% online hiring and onboarding process.
Some of the best practices solidified while hiring and onboarding during the pandemic should be carried forward regardless of whether the process is remote or in-person.
This is as basic as it sounds, and it’s not premature to deem this an aspect of onboarding. Describe the job role in detail to the candidate before the interview, during the interview and after the interview. This ensures that the potential hire has no qualms about the job and clearly understands the responsibilities it entails.
Remove any grey area in explaining the position, and delineate even duties you think might be obvious – spell it all out. Not only will it clear up doubt, it will also ensure that your onboarding is smooth and has no surprises.
Start onboarding early
Don’t wait for the onboarding process to start until their official first day. Aim to have them provide any required ID or clearances in advance and check off paperwork that can be done early. See to it that their email account and password logins are created before they start. Send them company swag, like a T-shirt or mug with your business logo.
These things may sound minor, but at the end of the day they will save a chunk of your time and make onboarding more efficient. They also increase engagement with your new hire.
Do onboarding for the long haul
Whenever you onboard a new employee, stretch out the process over a few days rather than frontloading it into a compressed, stressful few hours or a single day. Most people will get overwhelmed if too much information is thrown at them early on, which is counterproductive. Make sure that the first few days are relatively easygoing, and save the more serious talk for a more opportune time.
Take your time
Don’t be in a hurry to get onboarding over with. Set aside enough time to let the new hire feel that you are present. Instead of throwing them into the deep end to swim alone, help acclimate them to the culture. If feasible, consider assigning them a mentor to work alongside some of the time.
Make sure that you keep interacting periodically instead of disappearing right after the initial onboarding period. Set some time lines. For example, 30-day, 90-day, 180-day and one-year anniversary check-ins will help make them feel comfortable and build trust. Make sure the process is organic and natural instead of haphazard and jerky.
Showcase your company culture
In an era when many people are minimizing interaction with others and cocooned in their own home, it is still important that someone engages new hires with the company culture. Below are some ideas that help instill a sense of belonging that in turn fosters your employee’s loyalty.
- A fun day: People tend to remember a day when they have had a lot of fun at work. Why can’t this day be their first day? Ensure new hires have a memorable first day, whether it’s virtual or in-person, and that it leaves a lasting impression. This is a great experience for the new hire and the employer alike in terms of building goodwill.
- The go-to guy: All new hires in a company get confused from time to time. After reaching out to HR a few times, they may be embarrassed to keep asking questions. Get around this by introducing them to a go-to person who can act as a mentor, offer advice and address anything the new hire finds difficult or needs help with.
- The handbook: The employee handbook has long been the stalwart of the onboarding process, and it’s just as relevant today as in the past. Make sure new hires at least know of its existence, and ideally that they skim through it with you. Images can help make it fun, relevant and informative as opposed to an intimidating tome of text.
- Stay upbeat: Especially in an era when face-to-face interaction is avoided, the onboarding process should introduce policies and need-to-know information while simultaneously being pleasant and efficient rather than somber and dry. Nobody likes to feel like they are participating in a mandatory dump of hours that can be better spent someplace else.
- Solicit feedback: Ensure you get feedback down the road about the onboarding process after the employee has settled in. A fresh set of eyes will bring something new to the table, and who better to get it from than employees who went through your onboarding routine. This will ensure you run a tight ship that doesn’t get complacent.