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Onboarding newstarters during COVID-19

You’ve been through extensive recruitment and found the perfect employee with the right skills and cultural fit. Your new starter begins next week but you’re facing a COVID-19 dilemma—you and your team are working from home.

As an employer, how do you onboard and induct a new team player efficiently and effectively in this type of environment? Virtual onboarding is a big part of the answer.

Here’s our 12-step guide on onboarding in a COVID-19 world.

  1. Review and plan

Review your internal onboarding processes to assess what can be executed virtually, what can be handled by phone and what can be handled by email.

List what must happen on Day 1, including any need to register, complete forms, and work through induction modules and procedures.

  1. Prep for the first day

 If working from home, make sure your new starter:

  • is connected technically with the equipment they need, which could include a laptop, mouse, keyboard and mobile phone
  • is set up with a company email
  • is connected online to work drives and systems
  • has support from IT to work out glitches and even training on file-sharing applications, security requirements, password management and so on
  • has access to essential manuals
  • receives by courier or mail any welcome pack your organisation may have.
  1. Make the first day memorable

 Contact the new starter early on their first day (typically when they’re scheduled to begin work). Call or videoconference to extend a warm welcome.

Take this opportunity to give an overview of your branding, discuss your vision, mission and culture and expectations about their tasks over the next three months. Leave time for questions.

  1. Assign a buddy

Assign a buddy to walk the new starter through basics, such as an introduction to the Intranet, company website and other corporate resources.

During the first week the buddy should connect 3 to 4 times a day, using Zoom, Skype or whatever meeting software you use.

  1. Map out the basics

Onboarding inevitably requires new starters to complete a series of human resource and other forms. Guide the new starter on requirements and get them moving. Never leave them waiting for you to let them know what to do next.

  1. Meet the team

Introducing the new starter to the team early, again using the software of your choice. Make this a lively, fun, energising and memorable experience.

  1. Ongoing communications and virtual meetings

Ongoing two-way communications is absolutely essential during onboarding. Never let your new starter feel they’re in ‘no man’s land.’

Set up other required virtual meetings. These could include a chat with a contact in the finance, human resources and IT, and specific colleagues outside the immediate work team.

Schedule catch-up calls so new starters can talk about their progress and challenges. In the first week, the supervisor should connect at least twice a day—says mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Depending on the circumstances, this could reduce to once a day from their second week on the job.

  1. Begin briefing

New starters typically have a lot of material to read in their early days. This is easy to do from home.

Make a list of reading essentials and set priorities. Reading could include policies on work, health and safety, human resources, privacy and confidentiality. It could also your employee assistance program and other work processes and procedures.

  1. Start training

Working from home is a good time for new starters to complete mandatory, self-paced training modules. List what new starters must tackle and in what order to establish momentum early.

  1. Make way for team building time

Make sure the new starter is aware of opportunities to become part of the family, such as virtual lunches or happy hour drinks on Fridays. Make sure the new starter joins these feel-good, relaxed bonding times.

  1. Seek feedback

Ensure the new starter knows all feedback is welcome.

  1. Think creatively and adapt

Remember that now more than ever you need to think outside the box with onboarding. Be creative, think laterally and remember that virtual onboarding might not be perfect but it’s a great start and will help ensure COVID-19 doesn’t get in the way.

Other expert articles of interest for employers

How to on board a new team member

Six reasons staff will stay or leave

Wonder what makes a great CEO?


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