We are currently onboarding three new employees virtually and if “location, location, location” is the mantra for real estate, the mantra for virtual onboarding is “connection, connection, connection.”
It is important to be deliberate about helping new folks connect in meaningful ways with “JMTC”: with their job, their manager, team, and the intentional culture of the organization.
In an in-person environment, new employees have the advantage of experiencing and observing someone doing the job they have just accepted. This is a powerful way to come to understand what the role requires and involves.
In a virtual work environment, however, that kind of “on-the-job” learning is not as easy. When onboarding remotely, you want to raise your game regarding job descriptions and key performance indicators, ensuring they are uber-clear and explicit. With people doing more independent learning, these formal documents will be referenced as important guideposts for ensuring progress.
We know that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores (Gallup). All that research was done pre-pandemic and I would argue that the percent is likely higher now given the shift to remote work.
That’s why it’s important for managers to schedule frequent calls and Teams/ZOOM video meetings with new employees. In a remote work environment, trust and relationships are harder to build because we don’t have the luxury of informal socializing around the office and in-person meetings where we can read people’s non-verbals.
We also need to thoughtfully design these check-in meetings to periodically address all the following in the first 30/60/90 days.
- Technology and remote work set-up. Do you have what you need to be productive?
- Relationship building. Tell me more about your family and what you enjoy doing outside work etc.
- Progress on learning and job skills. What important experience have you gained since we last met? Which of your key performance indicators are still fuzzy for you?
- Two-way feedback. In addition to offering praise and constructive feedback, be sure to ask the new employee to share how you could better support them.
If your company uses behavioral analytics, share team members’ reports with new employees to help them build awareness of how their motivating needs and communication tendencies line up with the broader team. This will accelerate trust building and demystify collaboration.
Ensure a mix of team meetings where the entire team is present along with meetings where new employees are meeting with two or three other team members to debrief a project or discuss something in more depth.
Also consider partnering up your new hires with more experienced folks on the team to discuss relevant books or resources that are germane to their onboarding.
Joel Davis, one of our new employees, had this to say about our efforts to facilitate his connection to the team:
“Coming into an organization as ‘the new team member’ you are tasked with making connections and building rapport with the existing team. An important part of doing this is both time with the team as a whole and time with team members individually. The value the ADVISA Team has provided me in prioritizing both as part of my onboarding process, especially in this virtual environment we are living in, has been paramount to me feeling accepted, understood, and welcomed.”
Your core values are the pillars of your intentional culture. It’s important new employees have video “face time” with senior leaders to hear them tell the story of how they became involved in the business and how they see the core values of the organization manifesting in policies, decisions, and behaviors. These meetings are also a great opportunity talk through the mission and vision for the future and create a line of sight for new employees as to how their role supports the broader work of the organization.
Krista Warn, another new ADVISA employee, had this to say:
“One of the most powerful aspects of our onboarding was meeting with the Founder and President, where we discussed each value, why it was important and how ADVISA lives out that value. To be able to witness leadership living and breathing by our company values and not merely hanging them on the wall provided an excellent example for us to look up to as we start our career journeys here at ADVISA.”
Another great way to center your culture for new employees during virtual onboarding is to ask them to complete culture interviews with select teammates. The questions in these interviews are aimed at uncovering how other people experience the core values of the organization.
While remote work realities do create challenges in the onboarding process, you can still tag all the important connection bases. In fact, we found our efforts to design a robust virtual process have improved our onboarding game. The use of technology to break up the learning into chunks and the thoughtful sequencing of ZOOM meetings with the right people has been very positive.
I would love to hear your ideas for helping new employees connect with their job, manager, team, and culture in your organization. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
For more from Heather Haas, read her previous article “The Leadership Dilemma No One is Talking About.”
To read more about onboarding, check out “Welcoming a new employee? Invest in building his or her confidence.”