Three Tenets For Successful Post-Pandemic Onboarding

A strong onboarding process is crucial to getting your new hires up to speed and acclimated with the company, but the process is much more than that. A good onboarding sets your new employees up for success by showing them the resources available to them and the support network they will have, and it gives them valuable insight into your company culture.

Experts like management consulting firm Sia Partners point to a well-done onboarding process as a significant factor in a new employee’s success.

“Onboarding is normally seen as a “check the box” activity, but it’s the most important thing a company can do, especially when you’re onboarding in today’s remote environment.” -Sia Partners

Of course, onboarding becomes a more difficult hurdle to overcome in this post-pandemic world. The pandemic changed the hiring world in two principal ways: a shift towards emerging technology and a surplus of workers looking for employment in an uncertain world.

Per the Society for Human Resource Management (as reported at USA Today), unemployment jumped from 3.5% to 14.8% in the first three months of the pandemic. With the concept of ‘normalcy’ changing on a daily basis, organizations had to adapt and embrace new technology. Even workers that didn’t lose their jobs were looking for new work at ever-increasing rates.

As the country begins to heal, it’s clear that remote and hybrid work models are here to stay. This prevents a new obstacle for employers, who may only see their new employees on a screen. While this makes onboarding difficult, a well-prepared organization can still set its new hires up for success and welcome them into the company culture. We provide three major tenets to be aware of in this new age of onboarding, with help from the experts.

Embrace technology

It may seem obvious, but technology is the heart of remote work and the reason all of this is possible. How many people were overly familiar with Zoom prior to the pandemic? Now, it’s become a part of day-to-day life so familiar to use that even our children are savvy users. That means it’s crucial to stay up to date on current and emerging technological trends as they arise.

The Business Journal’s Niki Jorgensen suggests that everyone in the organization use the same platforms and be familiar with them. “For remote onboarding meetings and introductions, managers should design the process to use the same video conferencing platform used by the entire organization. Instant messaging platforms can help new hires build relationships with colleagues by encouraging the casual interactions typically reserved for the office. If employees are to use these tools in their daily duties, managers should ensure recruits have a solid understanding of how and when to use them.”

With everyone on the same page, and not just the hiring managers, it fosters a sense of community and continuity within your organization. This way, a new hire can ask anyone in their department for assistance.

The Alternative Board believes the missing ‘water cooler’ element can be recreated on Zoom by having a virtual “welcome party” for new employees. This allows them to see their new coworkers as people and provides opportunities to make workplace friends.

Prioritize culture

Using technology like this to create a human touch is one way to get your new hire to see your culture at work. If your employee is just completing their work behind a screen with no investment or correction to your organization, you’re doing both parties a disservice.

The University of Pittsburgh offers some suggestions. By providing a company handbook (and maybe some fun facts), your employees will get a chance to really know who you are. Beyond that, taking extra time to go over job responsibilities and expectations in a one-on-one setting provide a sense of clarity. By being specific with expectations and taking extra time to answer questions and be available, the new hire will feel valued.

Jorgensen adds that a company can provide activities that highlight cultural pillars and promote the corporate community.

“If collaboration is a pillar of the workplace, management should schedule time for hires to meet with new colleagues, either one-on-one or in a group setting.” – Niki Jorgensen

Ultimately, community, clarity, and plenty of time are the keys to emphasizing your culture.

Communication is key

The common theme in both of the above tenets is apparent. At its core, communication is the key to a good onboarding process, and without daily in-person interactions, it becomes even more essential. As employers, you should make sure extra time is allotted to check in with your new hires. The Alternative Board states that learning by osmosis and walking around the office aren’t viable learning options in a digital setting, so employers need to have regular meetings and open a back-and-forth dialogue.

Elearning Industry’s Eleni Zoe Papaioannou offers six challenges of onboarding remote employees, and most of them, including challenges such as feelings of isolation, personalizing the experience, and avoiding miscommunication, can be solved with constant and clear communication.

Talent Culture’s Jo Meunier believes an emphasis on soft skills is vital to interacting with younger workers, and skills like creativity, complex problem solving, and critical thinking can be fostered by a stable culture with good communication. Not only is excellent communication necessary for onboarding but for the employee growth afterward as well.

Wrap up

Onboarding in the digital age is an evolving and complex concept, and academic studies on the topic are increasingly popular. What’s clear is that the workplace changes brought about by the pandemic are here to stay. Employers need to adapt to this new world so that they can recruit and maintain the top-tier talents they deserve.

The Society for Human Resource Management offers a helpful how-to guide on setting up a virtual onboarding process linked here.

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