Keeping New Hires Engaged in a Virtual World
Even in these uncertain times, hiring continues, especially for mission-critical roles. Lucas Group surveyed top finance and HR leaders to learn more about how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses, especially as it pertains to hiring, onboarding, and new employee engagement.
The majority of survey respondents are continuing to hire, which means companies are facing a new challenge: how to onboard effectively in a virtual world. An effective and productive onboarding lays the groundwork for strong employee engagement and long-term business success. Organizations with a robust onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%, according to Glassdoor.
Our survey found that 2 in 3 companies currently hiring have taken steps to adjust their onboarding process to match the times. Of the companies that are hiring, nearly half (45.6%) are concerned about employee engagement in the first 90 days, and only 33.3% have implemented new employee engagement best practices.
As your company considers the best virtual onboarding and engagement options, this is an unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate your broader approach. In an office setting, there can be a false sense that new hires are getting everything they need for successful onboarding simply because they “look okay” or “seem busy.” Our new remote work reality is an opportunity to rethink this assumption.
A Division President at a manufacturing company shared, “This has forced us to get much better at onboarding and has highlighted where we were falling short. We’re rebuilding our training materials to be more purposeful and efficient with our time– whether we’re together in the office or working from home.”
Companies that succeed with virtual onboarding are proactive and intentional. Their teams bring a thoughtful approach to a new hire’s first day, first week, first 90 days and beyond. Here’s how to elevate your current onboarding strategy for the remote workplace:
1. Set expectations during the interview process.
Successful onboarding and strong employee engagement begin with setting the right expectations. Discuss how your teams have shifted their communication and collaboration approach to adjust to these work-from-home realities and long-term goals once teams start returning to the workplace. Walk candidates through what to expect during onboarding. Be candid about how company culture has adapted to the new realities, and then make sure your onboarding program aligns with these expectations. Meeting the expectations you have put in place throughout the interview process is key to retaining top talent.
2. Introduce the team, then introduce them again (and again). The first days can be overwhelming– new faces, new names, new routines, and new communication expectations. This experience is intensified in a virtual world that lacks the opportunities for informal introductions that happen organically in the workplace. Imagine a conference call where you’re trying to match different voices up with speakers, names, and roles– and you’ve never met anyone on the call before. The key is to introduce the team and introduce them again and again. One company we spoke with invites their new hires to the company’s virtual happy hours before their official start date. It’s a casual setting to begin matching names with faces and roles and to start building relationships over small talk.
3. Plan the first day and first week. To ensure new hires are up and running from day one, consider which logistical onboarding tasks to handle in advance. An HR Director shared that their IT team is reaching out to new hires before orientation to ensure connectivity and address any glitches before they become issues.
Part of the planning process should include setting an itinerary for your new hire and sharing it in advance. Set them up for success by letting them know who will be on each call and the topics that will be covered. This clarity will help keep the new hire from feeling overwhelmed or as if he or she is simply dropping into random meetings. It will also help your new hire plan home life accordingly. Starting a new job is always nerve-wracking. Doing it from home, coupled with the potential need to balance schedules with working spouses and children, can add stress to this transition. Be sure you are providing your new hires the tools needed to feel comfortable in this new environment.
4. Formalize new hire mentor and buddy programs. Many companies have an informal approach to mentorship, assigning a coworker as a new hire’s “buddy” to answer workday questions. A Chief Accounting Officer shared, “We have a buddy program and pair new hires up with a current employee in a related role for two to four weeks.” Buddy systems are great for helping new hires learn the ropes and get up to speed on institutional knowledge. In the office, it’s easy for a new hire and buddy to connect casually throughout the workday. But in this remote world, proactivity is key. It is important that the buddy frequently reach out, or that HR helps support this relationship by coordinating regular check-ins, like weekly virtual lunches.
5. Get creative with welcome packages. While teams may be connecting virtually now, there’s no need to limit the welcome to a Zoom team happy hour. At Lucas Group, for example, we greet new hires by decorating their desk on the first day, sharing a welcome package of company goodies, and treating the team to lunch. We’ve adapted this approach for a virtual world, and your team can, too. Ship a version of your company’s swag bag to your new hire’s home, or send other first-day welcome goodies. One company we work with had dinner delivered from a popular local restaurant on the new hire’s first day, a thoughtful welcome for the entire family.
In this unprecedented moment, it can be tempting to default to an ad hoc onbaording approach, especially as work-from-home protocols continue to evolve. Taking the time to establish consistent virtual onboarding processes is essential. Doing so sets your new hire up for success and an exceptional employee experience.
Which virtual onboarding and new hire engagement approaches have been most effective at your company? Let us know in the comments below.