With virtual onboarding still prevalent across many sectors, Matrix Recruitment examines the pros and cons with advice for employers
Before the onset of the pandemic, a typical first day at a new job would include meeting with HR with a welcome pack in hand, a tour of the workplace, directions to the coffee machine and an introduction to new colleagues. However, with many businesses still working remotely due to the pandemic, virtual onboarding of recruits has become the norm through emails, video calls and online chat rooms.
A recent survey by Matrix Recruitment found that 41% of workers are keen to change jobs this year, and, for those that do, many will be onboarded remotely.
ONBOARDING IN A PANDEMIC – THE EMPLOYER’S PERSPECTIVE
Onboarding is a very personal and important part of integrating new hires, which can be difficult to replicate remotely, according to Matrix Recruitment’s Breda Dooley. “Welcoming new staff and helping them get settled in can be difficult when it is done remotely – you lose those little personal touches, a warm handshake, the offer of a coffee from your new desk buddy, or a seat at the same lunch table. The initial days in the workplace are when new hires get to see how things are done and start to connect with their new colleagues. This can be particularly important for graduates, who are not used to the professional work environment and the nuances that come with it,” said Breda.
There are other challenges too Breda adds: “Technology might not work, new hires might not feel as welcome as they could if greeted in person, they may be given too much work too soon or feel micro-managed. Worse still, they can feel ignored by senior staff and receive no feedback at all, spending half their day staring at a computer screen because their manager hasn’t prepared for their arrival. This can significantly impact their first impressions of the job and can determine if they thrive or throw in the towel during the probationary period.
“In saying that, and in my experience, the process of onboarding new employees at Matrix Recruitment virtually has been relatively seamless. We have scheduled times in our diaries to catch up with our new starters each week and they can contact us via Microsoft Team’s chatroom outside of this time. In one sense, they probably have more access to managers compared to previous new hires pre-pandemic. Having a structured plan has also been the key to a successful onboarding experience for everyone, new hire and manager included,” Breda adds.
CREATING A POSITIVE ONBOARDING EXPERIENCE – ONE PERSON’S STORY
And Matrix Recruitment isn’t the only company that has managed to create a positive onboarding process amid the Pandemic. Another business that has struck the right balance is Asana, a tech company that helps teams orchestrate their work, from small projects to strategic initiatives.
Sinead Reilly joined the marketing team at Asana three months ago as a Sales Content Manager after moving home from Australia. Virtual onboarding is not new to Sinead who first experienced it while working as a marketing professional in Melbourne, but her most recent experience with Asana has been particularly positive.
“I’ve been really fortunate that the company I work for has invested time and resources into creating a very positive onboarding experience. In the beginning, I was assigned an onboarding mentor, who I met with weekly to answer any questions I had. I was also lucky that I was onboarded alongside other new hires. Not everyone was joining the marketing team, but it was nice because I got to meet other new recruits across the business.
“Unsurprisingly, Asana uses its own product to connect our teams remotely, which has made the entire onboarding experience really easy. We’ve also been sent welcome gifts and treats to keep spirits high during lockdown which was a nice touch and made us feel like a valued part of the team and business, from the outset.”
Employee treats are a popular choice for companies welcoming new hires and go some way towards helping employees get a sense of the company’s culture. However, Breda believes that no amount of branded water bottles, notebooks or cupcakes can convey company culture in the same way that a week in the office can: “It’s important that new hires get a feel for company culture during their onboarding. Unfortunately, in many cases, the human interactions needed to communicate the essence of the business are not available in the virtual space. This is particularly challenging when you are trying to create bonds between employees in a remote setting.”
ONBOARDING AFTER THE PANDEMIC:
While there are pros and cons to virtual onboarding, the question remains, is it any match for in-person onboarding? And what happens once the pandemic ends?
If given the choice, Sinead knows exactly what option she would prefer: “I’d rather onboard in person and I’m looking forward to finally setting foot in our Dublin office and working with my colleagues in a workplace setting. There’s a lot to be said for desk-side conversations, building rapport in-person and chatting with colleagues outside of structured video meetings.”
Breda Dooley believes that virtual onboarding will continue to be a feature even once the pandemic ends, although not to the same degree. “The reality is, companies are being forced to onboard employees virtually because government guidelines request that all businesses that can work from home, do work from home. When those guidelines change, many businesses have indicated that they will switch to a hybrid working model which will see employees balance remote working with days in the office – this means that onboarding will also adapt.
“New recruits will no longer have to do their first day from home and can get to know colleagues in person as well as online. This can only be a good thing and will ensure that new hires get the best of both worlds.”
Matrix Recruitment’s onboarding tips for employers:
FOR THE EMPLOYER:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – the onboarding process should commence three to four weeks before the new recruit’s starting date. Create an onboarding plan for the new employee to follow and ensure nothing is missed from the calendar. The new starter should be ready to go at least three to four days before their start date, allowing for any issues or tech glitches.
The induction plan – a well laid out, clear induction plan is crucial, particularly when working remotely. Complete the induction plan well in advance and share it with all relevant trainers. Assign time slots for catch-up calls with the new recruit and ensure each trainer’s calendar has times scheduled. This will be a comfort to a new starter as they can see a clear training plan when they join. New recruits should also have a task schedule so they are never left wondering what they should be doing. It is also essential that the new starter has access to all the documents they need for their training, and knows where to find these documents.
Constant communication – Communication is key while staff are remote working, especially for new starters. Clear lines of communication between the new recruit, their team and their manager are essential for their learning and development. Regular one-to-one video calls, Company meetings, virtual coffee mornings and even a work WhatsApp group chat are all great ways to keep this connection.