Onboarding new employees is, in any business setting, is a vital process.
It is a sensitive time in which the mental health of your new employee must be foreground: if someone does not feel supported, they may quickly look around the job market for an alternative. In fact, 22% of employee turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment, which can most commonly be put down to substandard onboarding.
Over the past 18 months, the onboarding process has changed drastically, as most companies have had to move to remote and virtual working in some capacity. Now, companies have to hire creatives and hire salespeople from their home desk. This complicates a procedure that was already complex, meaning that prior research into virtual onboarding is paramount.
So, make sure your new employees feel well-adjusted, comfortable, and confident on their video calls with our deep dive into the best practice for remote onboarding.
What is employee onboarding?
Generally, employee onboarding is the means through which a new hire is integrated into a business, and appropriately trained to suit their new role and surroundings.
This can involve many things — both professionally and culturally — but should involve some degree of practical training, personal support, social integration, structured introductions, and a high degree of communication.
It is too often not given the time nor attention that such a process deserves. A successful onboarding benefits both the company and the new individual, and therefore should logically be an absolute priority!
How has it changed in the past 18 months?
Although the fundamental values behind onboarding have remained the same, the sudden transition to remote working quite drastically changed how businesses see these values carried out.
Ultimately, the end goal must be the same: to make sure that expectations and understandings of business culture and success align. However, face-to-face communication has been replaced by webcam-to-webcam discussions, and businesses must adapt.
This means that the onboarding process now requires an even more careful and cautious approach, as the lack of physical proximity can make it harder to track the employee’s development. So, companies have to go that extra distance to assure the adjustment process is smooth and painless for their new hire.
In the last 18 months, businesses have employed a whole range of new methods to adapt to the rapidly changing world of work. Whether they are trying to recruit finance talent or hire hospitality staff, for example, every industry has had to adjust to the new process of onboarding.
One of Give A Grad A Go’s top Consultants, Nick Roe, has noted that companies now put “an increased focus on mental health in onboarding”. He adds that “Working from home at a current employer can be tough on its own, but with a new employer it can be very anxiety-inducing.” It’s crucial to be aware of this huge mental demand, and to make sure – like many businesses have already – that the steps are in place to make sure the health of the individual is prioritised at every stage of your remote onboarding.
This has been reflected in the increasingly structured approach that companies have taken to onboarding. Nick has observed this attention to detail himself: “prior to starting and within the first 3 months, regular meetings are arranged with the HR team to discuss how they are finding the role and working from home.”
This degree of care, attention, and structure can make a huge difference when an employee is onboarding virtually. When the individual cannot be in the office where help is readily available, it is crucial that companies find inventive ways to make sure that they don’t feel lost or overwhelmed.
It is very easy for an employee to bottle those feelings up when sitting at their own desk, miles from their closest colleague – so it’s vital that these sorts of schedules and meetings are implemented.
Our People and Operations Director, Claire Donaldson, has commented on similar trends within the job market. She specified “companies introducing more interview rounds to really ensure they got to know the candidate before making an offer,” which would “allow the candidate to meet with as many people as possible, and get a solid understanding of the company and the role.” These extra steps are vital for virtual onboarding, as it compensates for the lack of physical interaction the candidate would have been afforded with the office and the role.
The effect on graduates and young people
When hiring a new graduate, companies should take a particularly considered approach towards their onboarding. It is often their first full-time graduate job, and it is quite likely they’ll feel overwhelmed, no matter what the role is. This can be exasperated by their lack of time in the office.
Our team agrees that the remote onboarding process is received differently by different graduates, and that we cannot make generalisations about how young people respond to these new methods. In Nick’s experience, “some are very comfortable working from home and being onboarded remotely – but for graduates who require more support, it can be a challenge to feel engaged during the onboarding process.” Claire echoes this latter sentiment, noting how some graduates feel like they are “missing the social element of team collaboration which comes with being physically in the office.” Indeed, a large part of the onboarding process is social integration. This can be compensated for with virtual social parties, but physical socialising is impossible to replicate.
Another of our Recruiters, Lottie Longfellow, has instead experienced graduates coping far better with remote onboarding. “‘Most grads seem to be leaning towards wanting fully remote (…) The majority I have spoken with are struggling more with the need to go into the office/relocate back to London for work”.
So, it is fair to say that young people hold a range of feelings on remote onboarding. But it also seems that most companies are doing enough to make sure that young people are coping with this novel situation, and are doing their best to embrace these new integrating methods.
How to master remote onboarding – our expert tips
So, with all of these aspects considered, here are our top practical tips on virtual onboarding. If you’re wondering how to hire developers and hire account executives, for example, while making the process as smooth as possible for them and your business, then read ahead!
The process begins once the offer is accepted
Onboarding is a process that begins as soon as an individual accepts an offer at your company. No later! Accepting an offer can be a nerve-wracking moment for a new employee, especially a graduate, so make sure they feel supported, included, and energised from before their first day. This pre-boarding can be initiated by sporadic calls prior to their start date. With these, you can check practicalities, like whether they’ve received company technology, but you can also check their mental well-being, and provide them with details of your mental health officer, for example.
All of our Recruiters agree that a structured approach goes a long way, and is appreciated greatly by new employees, particularly graduates. For the first few weeks, it is a great idea to give your new hire a spreadsheet to work from. This way, it is easy for them to track what they’ve done, what they’ve got to come, and work out whether they’ve got any questions about any of the process.
As a part of this schedule, you should be considering regular one-on-one meetings. The importance of this is outlined in this employee onboarding checklist, and there are a few different forms these meetings can take. At the early stage, it can be nice to arrange daily check-ins, just to assure they’re getting to grips with everything. These can progress to end of month reviews, where you can both learn from each other and find ways to mutually improve the onboarding.
Honesty and willingness to listen – prioritise their mental wellbeing
It is important to be clear, accurate, and honest in how you present the role and the company. This has been discussed before in this article about the onboarding process, as companies often fall into the trap of overselling their roles. In response, it’s important to be constantly open to communication, and to give your new employee ample opportunity to have their voice heard. You’re bound to get things wrong, so it’s invaluable to hear from your employee and to learn how you can improve the process for them and future employees.
Learning who everybody is in an office is a great way to feel settled in, but it is also something that is far easier to navigate in person. This does not mean it should be neglected virtually, however. A simple way of doing this is looping other team members into emails and certain meetings. A more subtle and potentially effective way of managing this is via a buddy system!
Buddy and mentor system
Our Recruiter Claire thinks that “assigning a buddy/mentor is a great idea to assure that, alongside a direct manager, new employees have other people within the business who they speak to”. Peer-to-peer engagement can naturally smooth the professional training process, but it will also help with more informal social integration, which is equally important for onboarding.
Every candidate is different. This is something every business knows, but so many fail to implement this understanding into their onboarding process. As Nick has reflected, virtual onboarding “does require a careful and considered approach”. Take feedback onboard, listen to your new employee, and work out a development and integration path that will work for them.
Adapting to remote work is not easy, so when you’re looking to hire IT staff or hire a salesperson, it’s pivotal research is done to make sure you’re treating all of your employees the right way. These past 18 months have given businesses the opportunity to push forward in ways that would have previously never been considered, and has forced companies to consider wellbeing in the workplace more than ever before.
Onboarding will never be the same again, but this may just be a good thing.
Ben Faulkner, Give A Grad A Go