Things they didn't teach you

Onboarding employees for WFH employeesac

Is Your firm Ready? Onboarding employees in the WFH world

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The Traditional old school onboarding of employees

The process of onboarding a new employee is as old as the ark, whether it is an apprenticeship, graduate job, mature hire, consultant or Saturday job every new hire goes through some form of an onboarding process. For some companies that process will be smooth and short and for some companies that process could take months.

I have worked for some large blue chips where one would think the onboarding process is at least smooth, to be kind on these firms, they have evolved into a very complex global organisation, so let’s just describe it as going in the general direction of travel. Life incorporates revolve predominantly around the Computer which gives access to email, secondary is your contact phone number, and then tie it all together with your desk. In the last decade or so, the desk became an expensive commodity with hot-desking and partial working from home creeping into the lexicon of working life.

First day on the job the basic flow in a corporate, old school

On your first day of the job, what tends to happen is the desk is still in discussion, the PC is still on order especially if it’s a laptop, but your email account has been created. It’s times like these you spend your time meeting and greeting, and reading brochures, checking out the staff restaurant if there is one.

Applications and Drive Access

After the tools of your job have been provided, requesting access for the right application, file drive access, SharePoint access, etc comes next. Technically this is done by adding your new account to the same group accounts as a referenced current user. This area of setup goes back years, with some tweaks along the way. Go back far enough and you did indeed have to get someone to map the local printers, troubleshoot why you could not access a certain file share. Enter IT Support.

Onboarding employees in the WFH world

The pandemic has left and continues to leave its mark on the job world, with more interviews being conducted online, employee induction also taking place remotely, and more job assignments with a WFH from the start policy. How does this impact the new employee onboarding process? What changes are required?

The importance of Human Interaction and social engagement in a virtual world

If you are a Sci-Fi fan like me, have you ever noticed how few people there are on those spaceships traveling years or decades through space? A crew of 6 on a ship the size of the M25, a life of social isolation appearing to be the norm. The only thing for companionship appears to be the large multi-screen set of flat panels that light up the room like a Las Vegas casino strip. It used to be called ‘1 man and his dog’, in these new times it is ‘1 person and their computer’.

Using the same analogy, employees are dotted around the country like satellites to the mothership. Going through phases of being connected and disconnected via Zoom calls to central command

Without face-to-face time, and time spent in a physical office the Working From Home employee is indeed on that ship to Mars. This is something that needs specific adjustments in the onboarding process and beyond and companies need to start embracing it.

Virtual Meet and Greet in a Working From Home World

The typical Meet and Greet is a traditional process of walking the floor, guided by an allocated team member, showing the face of the new hire, starting that process of connecting the face to the team or management structure it belongs to. Collecting names and contacts for the new hire is usually a secondary requirement left for the movies. Unless that is your are a senior new hire, then those initial contacts are important and are usually staged.

So how do you replicate Meet and Greet in the virtual world? The meet and greet process becomes more formal by the nature that you can only meet someone by requesting their time to do so. The drive-by the desk of a busy person is the thing of the past. Scheduled introductions where the audience has allocated the time to listen comes into play, but it’s not that straightforward. In the real world of corporate life, it is unlikely people will commit to a Meet and Greet meeting if they are not part of your team and have little in the way of benefit for doing so.

Meet and Greet The Team Virtually

The hiring manager has the keys to the team here so the expectation a Meet and Greet takes place at the first team meeting is highly likely. No change here, this is the basic format from the beginning of time. The new hire just needs to be prepared to introduce themselves, being aware of the tone and pitch.

As a consultant, I remember one time I greeted a lifetime employee in the team I was joining, who asked me the question ‘where have you worked before. Thinking nothing off it I started to real off a list as long as your arm. Mistake here, I should have been more tactile and aware that not only was I losing the person who asked the question but I was also talking to someone who was on their first or second job at the age of 45. Get the pitch and tone right.

Meet and greet wider teams

With the current working culture of prioritising work delivery over human interaction, it is unlikely for a Meet and Greet meeting to be scheduled for introductions to the wider circle of teams around the one the new starter is being hired into. Unless they are being hired to run a team that is. That being said introduction will most likely be at the next cross team-meeting. A Tip for those who are being hired, be prepared for the elevator pitch and try and get the tone right. You already have the job, the task is to start building your company brand.

Another useful platform is the office email circular, which enables the new hire to write a very brief bio, again pitch and tone is crucial here.

meet and greet the client

Similiar to meeting the wider teams, your introduction will be at the next client interaction call and possibly a letter also if you are a key contact.

The Importance of an office Shadow Buddy in a virtual world

Time needs to be allocated to introduce the layout of the office in a virtual sense. Organisation charts, the team, main contacts. The team timetable. when team meetings are held etc. The chosen buddy could be anyone with sufficient knowledge of the process and even the last person who came through the virtual door would be acceptable up to a point but may lack internal contacts. There is no harm having multiple buddies for different aspects of the job.

The key requirement is to ensure there is some regular informal framework, regular touch-base meetings. The company should be conveying a very welcome and open culture that will act as a magnet to more quality new hires..

Your Action Plan Road Map for new hires in the WFH environment

  1. Front-load IT setup in the onboarding process to facilitate as quickly as possible connectivity and engagement via PC, Email, chat, and virtual meetings.
  2. Prepare virtual version of Meet and Greet, build email introduction for the wider audience, very brief, nonwork information as well as what they will be doing. make agenda items for a brief intro at cross-team meetings and facilitate wider team introductions at the next team meeting.
  3. Allocation a shadow buddy to set out the lay of the land, support setup, introduce to wider contacts, facilitate meeting shadowing. This person should be someone with the same role, experience of the role, or at least someone who has recently gone through the onboarding process. It may require the buddy is multiple people for different parts of the onboarding process.
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