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Welcome aboard...from a safe distance

26/03/20 Adam Walker Director

In these challenging times, we are all trying to maintain a business-as-usual attitude where possible, although most businesses have been turned on their heads and had to, very quickly, adapt to the new normal of an increased remote working environment.

Should I even think about hiring right now?

Recent events have understandably created additional unease and confusion over the hiring process. Is now the right time to be hiring? Should I pause current vacancies or close them altogether until this blows over?

However, if you were in the hiring process before Covid-19 took over the world then chances are you still need those resources, perhaps even more so now. Consider your long-term business goals, and how new starters could positively contribute to them.

What then?

You may have already adapted your interview process to have been more video and telephone-based to avoid physical contact, but what about once you’ve made an offer?

Taking on new employees during these unprecedented times will no doubt be different than usual, however, with a few tweaks to your onboarding process, there’s no reason why you can’t still make meaningful additions to your teams.

The query most people have is how do you welcome, set up and train a new member of the team who you never actually see in person? Of all the challenges posed by remote work, starting on the right foot is arguably the most important.

We’ve pulled together a few ways to smooth the process of welcoming new talent onboard – from a safe distance.

#1 Consider their position

As much as your business may be considering if now is the best time to be hiring, take a moment to step into job-seekers' shoes.

A few weeks ago, taking on new opportunities may have seemed like a great idea – perhaps they were dying to get away from a nightmare boss, wanted to take the next step, or it was just time for a change of scenery? Fast-forward to country-wide isolation with many businesses closing their doors and sending staff home or even cutting staff altogether, and somehow that nightmare boss may not seem that bad after all – at least you’re in a job right?

Understandably, individuals may now be reconsidering a change of roles. However, if you have already been in contact with them or perhaps even started the interview process, then reassure them of your support.

Use this as an opportunity to showcase you and your business at its best. Ensure any candidates you’re communicating with understand that you are still hiring and are confident in the long-term vision of the business and the security it can offer. If they aren’t accustomed to working from home, then make sure they know that the business will support them during set-up and into the role.

#2 Show yourself at your best

The first few weeks of a role is always crucial to the long-term retention of a new team member with over 80% deciding whether to stay with a company or not within the first 6 months*. However, challenging times like these can bring out the very best and worst in people, so it’s vital that you project yourself and the business at its best (even when overcoming adversity).

The way you manage a new recruit and guide them through the coming weeks is a great way to earn loyalty early if you can reflect the very best of you as an employer and showcase the businesses’ capability to adjust and adapt while protecting their employees.

#3 Review your standard ‘first-day’ process

Taking on new recruits whilst working in an almost complete remote environment will no doubt be a little different to the usual process and will need to be adjusted accordingly. It may be business-as-usual but when you can’t just send a new-starter over to HR to get set-up you will NEED to have an organised process in place.

Sort out the paperwork quickly and smoothly – be prompt to provide the offer and contract and utilise DocuSign to ensure that any contracts and standard forms can be completed virtually.

IT and remote set-up – understand their technical capabilities and IT know-how and ensure they have everything they need to get started. This includes:

  • Email address
  • IT logins for any remote servers
  • Do they need VPN access or anything else approving by your IT department?
  • What video calling or task-management tool are you using (Teams, Slack, Trello ,etc.)?
  • Organise delivery of hardware in advance of them starting or consider if they will need to expense back any equipment purchased?

Be patient – even under the best circumstances IT issues arise. Allow for snags in the beginning and make sure you are supporting employees through any frustrations rather than adding to them.

Consider a remote buddy – Perhaps assign a member of their team to act as additional support as well as their direct manager. Having someone to speak to (even through phone and video calls) that isn’t your boss can be a great help.

#4 Be creative in getting them involved

Remote working can feel disconnected and impersonal, so it can be a real challenge and require a little ingenuity to make someone new feel welcomed and part of the family from a distance.

  • Using video calls is a great way to introduce the team. 
  • Consider getting everyone to record short bio videos of themselves. People are more likely to let their guard down if they are filming themselves which could provide a more fun and personal introduction before an actual call can be set up.
  • Don’t forget senior management and other key stakeholders. If a new employee is unable to wander around the office and put faces to names naturally, it’s important to make sure they are still familiar with the wider business. 
  • Try a ‘welcome’ lunch over video with the team or a virtual coffee morning
  • Provide projects which will keep them motivated and encourage plenty of contact with the wider team.
  • Consider slowing down the ramp-up process to allow them to settle in, but don’t let them get bored. Keep new starters motivated with interesting and engaging projects. 

#5 Stay Connected

Communication is vital to providing a productive remote-working environment, especially with new employees but for the entire business.

Check-in, don’t check-up. No one wants to feel like they’re being micro-managed or that you’re trying to catch them out so make sure that you keep in contact without chasing or nagging. Set up regular 1-1's to limit how often you need to check the status of activities.

Ask real questions. How are they getting on? Do they have any concerns or struggles. It’s important that employees know they can talk to you if they are finding working from home challenging, especially with the additional restrictions the country is facing right now. A quick note to ask how they’re doing could go a long way!

Keep the entire company in the loop – consider regular business or cross-department updates.

Keep things light – It's very easy for emails and chats to come across as being abrupt or for the sentiment to be misunderstood. Ensure that you keep a light-hearted tone in messages while being clear and concise but avoid short, sharp sentences that could be misread.

Say thank you – it can be all too easy to get caught up in the pure facts and forget the niceties such as your P’s and Q’s. Make sure teams know they are valued and that you appreciate the work they’re doing under challenging conditions.

#6 Think about the future.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re all back to our usual routines and able to get back to normality. When that does happen how will your business manage that? Will it be a case of working from home one day and then everyone picking-up from where they were before the next as though nothing had happened?

Why not consider celebrating the re-opening of your business and offices? Take some time to allow the team to settle back in and catch-up – after all, there may be employees who have never met in person!

  • Hold a Town Hall meeting to welcome everyone back and provide updates from around the business including perhaps how the business had been impacted by Covid-19 and what the future plans are.
  • Have a social morning or team lunch for colleagues to catch up. 

Then what about home working? You may have found that it has worked for your business and that some individuals may have adjusted well to that style of working – perhaps maintaining an aspect of remote working may benefit the business. Embracing a more flexible working environment may even open up wider talent pools for you going forward.

For almost every team, the growing concern around COVID-19 and the shift of daily routine into remote work poses unique and unanticipated challenges.

Keep communicating with your new starters in every way you can. By giving people the tools they need to communicate, learn and support each other, you’ll help them integrate and adapt quickly to this difference work environment.

For more information on successful Onboarding, Competency interviewing and more why not visit the hub.