Onboarding during a pandemic

It has been an odd year for recruiting; trying to find amazing team members without  physically meeting them is a tall order.  So much of our communication, up to 93%, is non-verbal, so reading body language, checking for emotional intelligence, and working out potential culture fit, via zoom can be challenging!   Pre COVID I joined a business last year after 3 rounds of interviews, including a 5 hour chat in Heathrow Terminal 5 (a long story best told over a glass of wine!)   

In better news, the long-term working from home, and generally less obsession with “presenteeism” in offices, means that the net is cast wider on finding the best candidate for the position.  Previously there has been a concern to find someone who lives within a nearest commuting distance as possible.  Now, if someone is several hours away, and only needs to visit the office say once a week or fortnight we can focus on finding a truly excellent fit.   It cannot be underestimated, of course, the amount of amazing people who have been made redundant due to coronavirus, and such an abundance of high-quality candidates is a rare opportunity. 

Onboarding remotely can, of course, be challenging.  I think a solid look at what you are trying to achieve is important; over all the strategy should be to set your newbie up for success in every way.  Obvious goals include, communicating the company culture, establishing solid working relationships with co-workers, and providing all the necessary infrastructure.

In practise there are numerous ways this can be achieved.  Each onboarding plan should be individual and well thought out.  Starting early is probably good advice! It is good practise to introduce a new recruit to the team as a final round of the recruitment process.    Setting up IT resources in good time is helpful given issues with delivery logistics, and of course the peculiarities of working from home mean you may need to provide not just a laptop, but a phone, screen and even a comfortable desk and chair.  It is worth sending any crucial information in advance, such as employee handbook, or background on any live projects they will be working on.  It means they can have an opportunity to look through the information, raise any questions, and feel more prepared from their first day.   Also set up any introductory meetings well in advance, not only to prevent a feeling of isolation for your new recruit, but also to stop any other team mates feeling they are being put “on the spot”. 

Clearly an onboarding plan should not be short term; communication lines should continuously be open.  I was given some great advice a few years ago that onboarding is in fact a long term process, and that it should be upheld that every team member is always being onboarded until they are being off boarded!  Of course, the first days and weeks are inevitably intensive, but the first few months also require strong support, particularly to uphold what is expected of a new team member in terms of achieving their performance goals. 

Of course, take advantage of all the useful technologies available, particularly when they relate to communication.  There are so many channels now: email, video conference tools, slack, telegram, whatsapp.  Be clear about what online tools are used by each department and for what tasks, and, more importantly, manage expectations and provide training.  It’s also worth asking any new recruits what method they prefer for ad hoc communication. 

I also want to talk about trying to communicate the intangible!  The first obvious one being company culture – which incredibly difficult to absorb remotely.  A good induction should include a breakdown of the company values and way of working.  HR experts believe that the first 90 days is a crucial time to build rapport with a company, mangers and co-workers.  Sharing the company’s goals and values is key, as it providing some social interaction – whether it’s 5 minutes every morning on how everyone is getting on, or the more overt such as Friday virtual drinks or an online quiz. 

Communication is key; schedule frequent calls both individually and with teams to touch base.  It means problems can be aired and issues ironed out.  You’ll also be able to work out quicker what extra resources are needed for success.  Managers, and co-workers alike should be available and kind.

In conclusion, whilst remote recruitment and onboarding can have its challenges, personally I have seen lockdown and the arrival of ‘the new way of working’ as rife with promise; we can mine from an even deeper seam of talent.  I have been delighted by the hires we have made recently, all of whom provide great experience and personality fit to our team.  

 I cannot see the changes to our working structures revoking to their old model.  Frankly, for UK business, it is a bit embarrassing that we hadn’t worked the numerous benefits sooner! 

Adventures of a unicorn is a business blog documenting the daily life of tech startup in hypergrowth.  Dacxi is a unique crypto business in the crowd lending space.  

All views expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated.

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