As many (and we mean many) media outlets have posited, it seems as though the Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed how we work, shifting the modern workplace into one that marries both the physical with the virtual. As we work to hire for several new roles here at Spektrix, we have been thinking a lot about the remote working environment and how we can best prepare new hires for the workplace through our remote onboarding practices. Based on the lessons we’ve learned so far, we’ve put together some key areas of focus for successful remote onboarding.
Establish camaraderie amongst your new hires
“Everybody is learning things at the same time, so no one feels isolated or left behind.” - Sideman Wu, Spektrix Support Specialist
As we all know, one of the main problems with remote work is the risk of isolation. To combat this, it is important to establish a feeling of camaraderie amongst your new hires from the day that they are hired. If you are hiring more than one person at a time, try to have them all start on the same day or in the same week. Doing this helps your new team members to feel as though they are part of a cohort who can rely on one another as they go through the onboarding process together.
When our Project Manager David Sanchez was going through his remote onboarding process, he found it really comforting to know that someone else was experiencing the exact same thing at the exact same time as him. As soon as he was offered the position, his line manager suggested that he start on the same day as another new employee, which immediately put him in the mindset that he wasn’t alone - a thought that was suddenly more important than ever in the uncertainty wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic. He was able to ask his fellow new starter questions that he would have been nervous to ask more experienced members of the team, which helped him progress through the onboarding process more effectively while helping to assuage any worries that he had about the material.
Ensure that your new hires are connected to the wider team
“The weekly check-ins with our line supervisor have been really helpful - it's great having an open line of communication where we can ask any clarifying questions about onboarding.” - Alicia Moeller, Spektrix Support Specialist
Once you’ve established a feeling of camaraderie amongst your new hires, work to help them feel connected to the wider teams at your company. If you are their line manager, it is especially important to make sure that you’re putting in face time with each new hire so that they can ask questions and clear up any confusion that they may have on the subject matter. Where possible, make yourself available to them for ad hoc queries as well - in a normal office environment, it would be easy for a new hire to walk over to their line manager’s desk to ask a question, so do your best to recreate this level of communication in your virtual work environment too.
Because of the challenges posed by a remote work environment, you will likely also need to invest more time and energy than usual in forging connections between your new hires and other, more experienced members of your team. For our newest Client Success Managers, we found it helpful to have different members of the wider support team lead their training sessions so that they could get to know their new colleagues. Where possible, we have also had our new hires shadow different members of the team, so that they can get a sense of how different people go about the same work to help them figure out their own working styles within the roles.
“Even though we’ve been remote this whole time, we feel like we’re being exposed to the culture of Spektrix, which is exciting.” - Juan Inga, Spektrix Support Specialist
And of course it’s important to throw some social events for your new team members so that they can get to know your unique workplace culture and meet people that they may not work with directly. Try adding some company-wide social events to the calendar when they start, and encourage existing team members to put time in their calendars for introductions. Keep in mind that social events do not always have to involve parties and happy hours! Try to add in some wellness events like fitness challenges, meditation sessions, or mental health catch-ups. It’s important to be deliberate about these events in the first few weeks of the new starters’ time, as they may be feeling overwhelmed by the onboarding process or intimidated by the thought of putting time on people’s calendars themselves.
Don’t spend every waking moment in Zoom meetings!
“It was extremely important to schedule in breaks, especially because we were in the position of having to absorb so much information. It was much easier to learn when we were conscious to break up the monotony of video calls.” - David Sanchez, Spektrix Project Manager
This is a common challenge when it comes to remote onboarding - endless Zoom meetings! While some long video calls are likely unavoidable, it is important to break this up with some takeaway assignments or activities that your new team members can do “offline.” Where possible, boost the interactivity of your training sessions with quizzes and problems for your new starter to solve together. Group work is key to adding some variety to your onboarding programming and will help to reinforce the idea that your new starters should lean upon each other when necessary.
Depending on the kind of work your new starters will be doing, try to get them interacting with customers or clients in small ways; this will break up the training sessions and will help your new team members gain an understanding of your customer base. Then, when the time comes for them to begin their first solo interactions with customers, they will have more confidence and experience behind them.
Feedback is key!
“I was very surprised that Spektrix encouraged us to be so communicative with our managers. Within the first couple of weeks, we were speaking with members of leadership.” - Jess Browder, Spektrix Support Specialist
Ultimately, the thing that is going to make your onboarding process better is frequently collecting feedback from your new hires on the process. Try to establish an ongoing conversation with your new team members around the challenges that they’re facing through their onboarding process and how the company can more effectively support them. Make your management team accessible to your new team members by including them in training sessions; in remote working environments it is particularly difficult for employees to get facetime with members of leadership, so try to combat this wherever possible.
In addition to making members of management appropriately visible to your new hires, you should also make sure that they are regularly checking in with someone who isn’t their manager so that they can feel more comfortable discussing points of confusion or potential problems that they’ve been having in their onboarding process so far. Setting up a “mentor” system like this helps to boost your new hires’ confidence in expressing their thoughts on how the onboarding process can improve. If you have team members who went through a remote onboarding process themselves, try to involve them in future remote onboardings so that they can speak from experience and make your new team members more comfortable. This can take any form, from more formalized training sessions to a casual video chat.
Becca Smith is the People and Talent Generalist for Spektrix's NYC office.