Many employers put off hiring over the summer, hoping that the COVID-19 situation would improve, and office life would return to normal soon. Well, now that it's October and there still is no end in sight, more organizations are deciding to resume hiring even though everyone is still working remotely.
The transition to remote work has been tough enough on its own, but bringing on a new hire, getting them trained and acclimated to the culture without ever meeting them in person is a big ask. We've put together a few tips to help, if you find yourself in this situation. With a good plan and the right technology in place, it is entirely possible to welcome team members who will contribute to your organization's success even in these challenging times.
Make Culture Fit a Hiring Priority
Of course, you want to hire someone with the skills to do the job and the experience to prove it, but the candidate's fit with your culture is equally as important. Are they open to change? Will they be willing to speak up when they notice opportunities for improvement? Will they reach out if they need help? When everyone is in the same space, it is much easier for people to pick up on clues about what is "normal" within the organization. It is much more difficult in a remote-work situation, so it pays to find people who already have the attitude and approach to work you want to amplify.
Celebrate New Hires
Your new team member won't have the chance to bump into someone in the break room and introduce themselves, so it is essential to get the organization excited about new hires. Instead of just announcing the person and their job title, leaders should share the reasons they were selected for the role and the positive attributes they bring to the team. Help people get to know each other by asking the new employee to share something about their interests or experience. Human connections happen more quickly when the conversation is about more than just work.
Use the Buddy System
Brand new people working from home may be reluctant to reach out to their manager for every question, especially those that revolve around culture. That's why it is a good idea to assign a peer who exemplifies your culture to work closely with your new employee. The "buddy" should have regular check-ins with the new person, creating a safe way for them to ask questions that they might not be comfortable bringing up in a group.
Set Aside Time for Virtual Water Cooler Talk
Your new employee is probably very focused on learning the mechanics of their job, but it is also vital that they get to know co-workers who are outside of their primary function. A virtual water cooler meeting is a great way to bring together a diverse group of team members to chat about lighthearted subjects and get to know each other better. This would happen organically in an office, but for now, you can make it possible over Zoom.
Help New Employees Learn from Each Other
If you are onboarding more than one person in a given period, it helps them stay connected to each other. Some organizations find it helpful to have a Slack channel for first-year employees to connect and answer each other's questions. If the group meets regularly, you can provide prompts for discussion, or simply allow the conversation to flow naturally.
Ask for Employee Suggestions
It is essential to let your new hires know that your organization is dedicated to continuous improvement. The best way to do that is to make it easy for them to make suggestions on how to improve the onboarding and remote work process right from the very start. Make it clear that contributing to positive change is an essential job responsibility, but it also shows that the organization acts on these suggestions.
While it is absolutely possible to successfully onboard remote employees and get them productive, it is essential to be realistic. It's probably going to take longer to have new people fully trained in a remote work situation. The key is to ensure that you are making forward progress at a reasonable pace. Check-in with each person at 30-60-90 days to make sure they have what they need and that they are moving along as expected.
Have Twice as Many One-on-Ones
Everyone working remotely should have plenty of one-on-one conversations with their manager, but for new employees, it makes sense to have twice as many for at least the first three months. This extra time is necessary so that managers and employees can get a sense of each other's communication styles, work habits, and personalities.
Broadcast Each Success
We are big fans of broadcasting every employee's success, but it's even more crucial with newly hired remote-working employees. Celebrating their accomplishments will make your new hire feel more confident and valued.
Remote working under these conditions is definitely not ideal, but it shouldn't stop your organization from building its dream team. With careful planning and lots of interaction, you can provide an excellent experience for your new team members and get them productive in short order.