In their State of the American Workplace Report, Gallup reported that 88% of employees are not fully satisfied with their organization’s onboarding. A surprising revelation, given the crucial importance of onboarding for employee well-being, productivity, and retention. With the growing number of remote workplaces and their reliance on virtual onboarding, a better onboarding process is paramount. Let’s dive deeper into the potential issues and pitfalls of remote onboarding processes and recommendations on how to avoid them.
These Are Challenging Times for Employers
The pandemic and the Great Resignation turned the current job market into an employee’s market that’s very challenging for employers. Workers started rethinking their careers, work conditions, and their lifestyles altogether. 47.4 million Americans quit their jobs voluntarily in 2021, driven mainly by millennials and generation Z who request flexible schedules and… the ability to work remotely.
These requests are now being filled in by the ever-increasing number of companies that have adopted a remote/hybrid office model or a flexible workspace policy. On the employer side, however, the issue became two-fold. They have a shortage of talent to deal with and they face the added challenge of hiring and onboarding that talent remotely.
The State of Employee Onboarding, Today
You only get one chance to make a first impression. With close to 70% of employees saying they are likely to stay with a company for more than three years if they had a great onboarding experience, we can appreciate the importance of that first impression. The reality however is that 20% of new hires leave in the first 45 days of employment, raising questions about their onboarding experience. [HCI 2019]
The fact is that employee onboarding today still places the focus too much on paperwork and administrative processes, instead of a employee-centric strategy aimed at forging connections with people, the brand, and the company values, sprinkled with a good portion of “what’s-in-it-for-me” from the employee’s perspective.
Making onboarding a mainly administrative process is failing to understand the motivation of the employee to apply for a new position in the first place. Most people change jobs and companies hoping to fulfill a need that the previous company didn’t or couldn’t meet. It’s an emotional decision. During the onboarding period, the new hire will be especially attentive to the quality of interactions within the new organization and whether the new experience is a step up from the last one. A new hire’s main worries are about how they will contribute and how their manager and colleagues will receive them.
All these questions and feelings should be properly addressed in the onboarding strategy. A one-week event focused on paperwork would be a true antithesis to the excitement of the hiring stage and the start of a new chapter in life… and it will set an undesired tone for the rest of this employee’s career. Therefore, personal connection with the organization and its people should be the first pillar of an effective onboarding strategy.
The Case of Virtual Onboarding
Virtual or remote onboarding adds another layer to this challenge. Despite advances in video conferencing and cloud technology, the distance between the organization and the home office is still strongly felt. Remote work makes it harder to forge connections. Body language and other visual cues get lost. Watercooler conversations make room for purely transactional communication. Company values and culture are less easily expressed and experienced. And what does the new employee do in between conference calls?
For the organization, it’s the cultural connection that is most at risk. According to 70% of HR leaders, company culture is a competitive differentiator and an important driver for an organization’s financial success [Gartner 2020]. Safeguarding cultural connection within the company should therefore be the second pillar of any onboarding strategy.
The third issue with virtual onboarding relates to communication about expectations and access to resources, support, and equipment. Shrm.org wrote an article “6 Things About Virtual Onboarding That Worry New Hires” that reflects these points in the form of questions asked by new hires:
- Will I have access to all the tools and equipment I need to get started?
- Will my new co-workers accept me?
- Will I meet my employer’s expectations?
- Will I be stuck in conference calls all day?
- Will I get support if I experience any problems?
- What will happen when we return to the office after the crisis?
The article was written in mid-2020. We now know that question #6 is not that black-and-white anymore and is highly dependent on an organization’s strategy and vision in these uncertain times. But the first 5 questions are universal and answering your new hires’ questions is key to developing an employee-central virtual onboarding program.
So, What Is Good Virtual Onboarding?
We can summarize that the potential pitfalls of virtual onboarding are the loss of company culture, a sense of isolation, and poor communication. Luckily, these issues can be countered with an onboarding process that’s adapted to remote or hybrid workplaces.
Create a seamless remote experience in your physical office
The first new-hire question we mentioned, “Will I have access to all the tools and equipment I need to get started?” can be answered from the get-go. With a home-delivered onboarding kit, containing welcome swag, branded gifts and stationery, and a computer, the new hire will feel fully equipped and ready to start their first day. Have IT contact the new hire to complete the setup and installation process of all the company’s online tools and shared folders.
Make the first day a festive and welcoming experience
It’s a strange experience to start a new job while staying in the same home office space as your previous job and spending your first days by your lonesome self. Arrange a welcome meeting for the whole team to introduce themselves and get to know the new colleague. Make it fun and have coffee together. Maybe break the ice with a quiz or game. This meeting shouldn’t be about work. It should be about welcoming a new member to the family.
Later in the day, the new hire should meet with a few key people to discuss work at high-level and forge a deeper personal connection: the direct manager, the direct colleague(s), and the “buddy”. The latter is assigned to soften the new hire’s landing. They should be the new employee’s go-to from day one.
Integrate, familiarize, socialize
The next few days and weeks of the new hire’s onboarding should be all about forging the connections and acquiring the information needed to operate independently within the organization and be fully productive. This means the new hire should:
- Set meetings with all key colleagues and stakeholders to get acquainted and discuss collaboration and projects.
- Understand the organizational structure of the company and the “who does what” of people, departments, and functions.
- Get a thorough introduction to the products, services, and customers of the company
- Understand the full scope of the tasks, responsibilities, and expectations surrounding their job.
- Get familiar with the processes of the department, the company, and HR.
This means lots of meetings, lots of real-time and on-demand training sessions, and lots of room for questions. And that’s also why onboarding should take weeks, rather than days… to avoid information overload. Of course, a crucial point is that the new hire immediately integrates the company culture and values.
Demonstrate and communicate about company culture and values at regular intervals
This should be done from the first day so that the new employee can put company processes and angles in the right context. It will also help them feel connected and forge stronger relationships.
There are many ways to communicate about company culture. The manager or an HR contact person can dedicate a short meeting presenting the company culture and suggest the new hire to consult the company’s About page. Values can be printed on branded swag and stationery. Executives can remind the workforce about company culture and values in their internal communications and reports.
A very powerful way to celebrate company culture and values is through regular company-wide meetings or town halls.
Set up a remote work support system
Remote workers need a well-oiled support system that goes beyond the manager, buddy, and direct colleagues. They should have a dedicated phone line with IT support. HR should schedule regular check-ins to answer questions and gauge the new employee’s overall well-being. This can also be done through well-being surveys. Remote workplaces are increasingly hiring company psychologists or ombudsmen to support workers and help identify burnout and address feelings of isolation.
The Main Driver Behind Virtual Onboarding Is Technology
From video conferencing tools to virtual classrooms, and webcasting software for webinars and townhalls, it is technology that enables remote work and virtual onboarding.
It’s vital to implement an arsenal of cloud and video-based solutions that is robust, secure, scalable, and interoperable.
Kaltura is the most powerful video-based communication, collaboration, and productivity tool for your remote workplace. Find out today how Kaltura can help you set up a successful virtual onboarding program.
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