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6 Steps For Onboarding During a Crisis

September 1, 2020
7 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged


Paperless employee onboarding is now a necessity as many organizations are dealing with work from home requirements, an uneasy workforce and candidate pool, and frequent interruptions. Onboarding is the key stepping stone from the hiring process to employee development, and now more than ever, we need this transition to go smoothly.

Even in normal times, a good onboarding process helps to reduce turnover, increase productivity, improve retention, and boost employee engagement. Since COVID has impacted the economy, employers are facing new challenges. How do they ensure their effective onboarding process also keeps employees safe? Virtual onboarding allows hiring managers to maintain their airtight onboarding processes while making the process paperless, digital, and safe for everyone.

Are you prepared to safely onboard your new employees in a remote work environment? @ClearCompany has 6 tips for #VirtualOnboarding in a crisis.

Here are steps you can take to ensure your onboarding process remains effective and efficient in a virtual capacity:

1. Start With Empathy

The uncertainty of the employment landscape creates stress for job seekers. Even after landing a job, their first days may still contain some level of anxiety. Onboarding to a new team remotely can heighten the nerves — where do they turn when they have questions? How will they get to know their team? Hiring managers need to understand just how different the virtual process is compared to the way employees are used to being onboarded.

  • Have a firm grasp on what the process is really like: Do a test run to anticipate any questions, snags, confusion, and generally what the process will entail so you can best support your new hires.
  • Foster community from Day 1: Create a welcome packet to help new hires get acquainted with their teams, the process, and what they can expect during their onboarding — help create the feeling of the office while they’re working virtually.
  • Follow up frequently: Making your new hire feel like part of the team has to be priority number one. Schedule regular check-ins to ensure they’re getting what they need, they don’t feel left to their own devices, and they have the opportunity to provide feedback.

2. Audit Your Existing Process

Right now is the best time to audit your strategy. Find out what you're doing, what you're missing, and how you can improve. When people make lightning-quick decisions during difficult periods, they can end up with bad-fit technology, dirty data, and disparate processes that dilute the employer brand. To avoid falling into this trap, examine these aspects of your onboarding process:

  • What are you doing between the offer letter and Day 1?
  • What is your current drop off rate within the first 90 days?
  • What ideas have you collected that you want to implement?

Focusing on these three keys will help you sketch out a plan that will then inform your tech and process decisions. Instead of making the decision on a hunch, you’ll be fully aware of your baseline and able to build a plan that rises above the waterline.

If you’re brand new to paperless onboarding: Set up a weekly cadence of information to go out to your new hires. They need to feel included, and emails, videos, and phone check-ins are the best way to do this.

If you’re altering your paperless onboarding for the remote experience: Select a mentor from inside the organization to assist you in getting the new team member settled and comfortable. Even if you have video conferencing fatigue, try to keep all new employee calls and meetings face-to-face.

Bottom Line: Identify your virtual onboarding holes and fill them, either with new processes or new technology. Eventually, your team will struggle with new demands and needs, and you'll be ahead of the curve if you audit and fix now.

3. Revisit the Fundamentals

Creating a virtual onboarding process while also going virtual for in-person training, planning, conferences, meetups, employee retreats, and business as usual can seem like a daunting task. So how do you ensure your virtual onboarding is just as strong as other aspects of your remote business strategy? Start by identifying the fundamental objectives of your onboarding process.

What needs to happen by the end of Day 1? Week 1? Month 1? 90 Days?

This should include what you need from the employee and what they need from you. What can their teams, hiring managers, and leaders commit to in order to make the new hire journey complete?

  • Find the right software: Get a virtual onboarding platform that manages the everyday details and deadlines, including new hire I-9 management and compliance. Once implemented, focus on ending each stage of the new hire schedule with a personal connection — a quick call, check-in, shout-out, or delivered gift.
  • Solicit Feedback: Survey your employees to find out what types of virtual learning and social events work best for them. While this may not hit every note your new hires will have, it will ensure your events are fun and comfortable for your current employees, setting a great example for newcomers!
  • Make it work for everyone: Make a list of learning styles and events you can select from. It’s difficult to find things that work for everyone, and there may be a few bumps along the way. However, having multiple learning and social environments from which to choose allows for greater retention and engagement.

4. Invest in Tech

Virtual onboarding will take reliable technology. Remote work, as we know, will also take significant technology to support many employees going remotely at the same time. While you're likely not managing your company's tech purchases overall, you can help everyone enjoy the benefits that come with working from home, even during the onboarding process.

You can help your employees make creative Zoom backgrounds, set alarms and automation to keep everyone on task, implement a project management system, and direct colleagues to shortcuts that will make Google Meet, Skype, and other remote platforms a blast!

  • If you’re brand new to virtual onboarding: Work with marketing to create name and title slides for each employee, including your new hires. Eliminate worry for your new hires (and your current employees trying to get to know their new colleagues).
  • If you’re altering your virtual onboarding experience for remote workers: Look to make your training more robust. There are so many games, quizzes, LMS upgrades, and more you can use to help train your new employees. Work with other managers and leadership to determine how to replace IRL training.
  • Bottom Line: Being a master of technology doesn’t have to be hard. Sign up for product updates, offer tutorial opportunities to your team, and create a digest of ways your company can use tech to make the remote experience easier.

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5. Look for Opportunities

Training is a pretty big part of onboarding. But even when training happens in the office, it needs to be engaging. While employees onboard at home, it's even more imperative to keep them actively engaged in the process. It may be easier to send a series of videos and training modules, but that training method doesn't always create the best training experience. Instead, use technology to your advantage and make training an event.

  • What do you do today? Assess your training program. Is it well-rounded? If not, work with your hiring manager and teams to create supplemental materials like quizzes, trivia games, and interactive learning events.
  • Review and refine. Make sure you don’t overwhelm new employees with too much. Ensure every offering in your virtual onboarding playbook is clearly laid out and easy to access. Communicate even more than usual.
  • Evaluate the efficacy: Make sure your training program is informative, strategic, and effective — without being boring. When your workforce is separated by space and time, a boring onboarding process can have a detrimental effect on your new hire retention rate.

6. Equip, Connect, and Involve

Your virtual onboarding plan must include these three crucial elements.

Equip: You must equip your new employees with everything they need well before their first day. Ensure they have a computer, mobile phone, manuals, logins, passwords, paperwork, and all necessary documentation online. Include a checklist so they can remain focused, organized, and know they’re hitting every stage.

Connect: Informal connections are as important as the formal intro in front of the whole team. Many employees continue to juggle childcare, remote schooling, and new work demands — providing an opportunity for casual interactions helps foster and maintain the organizational culture from afar. To help new employees from feeling burnt out, give as much clarity on their duties and calendar appointments as possible, and who they can reach out to when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Involve: Make an effort to ensure new hires feel included anytime there’s a relevant meeting, virtual event, company happy hour, and other invites they may not know about without being informed. Solicit feedback on their experience, and make sure they feel seen and heard throughout their orientation to the company and team.

Managing virtual onboarding with the right solution automates the tedious work, freeing up hiring and team managers to focus on the critical engagement aspects of making new employees feel at home in their new role. To learn more about ClearCompany’s Onboarding solution, reach out to our experts today, and schedule a free demo.


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