10 Keys to Onboarding Success – Even While Remote

By Carolyn Thompson

I was always confused about the difference between onboarding and orientation? There is a difference … and it makes all the difference in your ability to keep those great employees you just hired. A couple definitions:

Onboarding is the process of building engagement from the first contact until the employee becomes established within the organization. This includes integrating the new employee with the company and its culture and getting them the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.

Orientation, on the other hand, is a stage of onboarding where new employees are welcomed into the organization, and learn about it and their job responsibilities.

The goal of onboarding is to make the person feel that they want to work in your organization. The goal of orientation is to integrate the new employees into the organization as quickly as possible.

What’s the difference between onboarding in your organization’s office or remotely, as many companies are having to do in this moment? Lucky for you, you can use all the ideas here now while you have lots of remote work going on, and in the future when some new staff are in the office and some are remote.

To start with, you should understand that onboarding is about 10% recruiting, 20% assessing candidates, 25% orientation to your association and 50% ongoing coaching, guidance and support. In other words, onboarding doesn’t begin or end after an employee’s first day on the job.

First Contact and Assessment

Recruiting is all about figuring out whether a person is right for your organization and a particular job and for that person to figure out if your organization and that particular job is right for them.

The first contact starts before we even know it does – people see our organization online, driving by, in print, from the viewpoint of a current employee or customer. This doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the first contact – your website, social media, print information and the outside of your building or office, if you have one, are all pretty controllable. Will the viewpoint of current staff send the message you want a potential new employee to have? Yes, if you:

  • Help staff learn the impact of their words and actions (online and in person) on the image of your organization both to clients and potential employees.
  • Create a clear mission, vision for the future and values statement, and then help staff learn them and live them.

Let’s assume your current assessment process gives you an accurate reading on who has the skills, interests and aptitudes for a particular job in your organizations’ industry and your specific culture. That’s a great start to onboarding success. We must also be sure we are building engagement in more than the just the facts of the tasks:

Be sure your organization culture is being communicated throughout the interview process. An example of the wrong message is a sophisticated tech organization that requires potential employees to come to the office to fill out a paper-based application, or one that makes a big deal of their family-friendly policies and flex time, but then requires potential employees to interview only at 8 a.m. on Mondays.

These first touchpoints with potential new hires has been at least partially remote – with certain processes being online – in most workplaces for many years. We have websites to tell about our organizations to customers as well as potential employees. We use online assessment tests and even some of the initial interviewing is on the phone or via video. Keep moving in that direction.

Make Them Want to Stay!

For a downloadable checklist on Getting Staff up to Speed and Feeling Great, click here.

New staff arrive fresh and excited about embarking on their new adventure. How you prepare for and then manage the critical early days sets the tone for their experience with your organization. Make sure you’re doing the following:

1. Prepare for their arrival by telling other staff, preparing their work space including computer (if they’re remote, have any hardware shipped to them in time for their first day), getting the supplies they’ll need and logins to important websites or platforms set up, and making a schedule for the first week.

2. Give them an introduction to the organization. Use online scavenger hunts and other fun ways to get them to learn about the organization in a more fun way than lectures or reading.

3. Introduce them to co-workers, vendors, supervisors, and other people they’ll be working with.

4. Provide training of on-the-job duties. Some of this will be you and some should be done by a coworker (it doubles as a retention benefit to coworkers by giving them the opportunity to help their team learn). Always use real work examples and do it on deadline so tasks continue to get done and you don’t have to transfer skills from a pretend project to an actual one.

5. Review all policies and practices. The employee handbook and training manual are great recruitment tools, as long as they’re current and relevant. Make them available in print and online formats for written reinforcement and as continual, searchable resources.

6. Provide an overview of benefits and services. Have them read pieces of it and then talk or video chat with them to give examples that get them excited about the really great things about working in your organization.

7. Discuss career/life goals and needs and how the organization can help meet them. Find out early what motivates them so that you can provide positive reinforcement that’s meaningful to them.

8. Discuss your expectations and those of the organization. Most often when employees leave sooner than you wanted them to, they say things like “I just didn’t understand what was expected of me.”

9. Provide a tour of all facilities where they’ll be working, which includes vendors and customers, if their job causes them to be in other locations. As many offices continued to be shuttered in the coming weeks, do this through video if possible.

10. Include them in the organization’s activities immediately. It’s those things like employee baseball games, birthday parties and baby showers – or right now virtual lunches and happy hours or groups chats – that make an employee really feel welcome.

Onboarding – whether remotely or in-person – is a whole system process. It takes everyone in your organization to make it work!

Carolyn B. Thompson is the president of Training Systems, Inc., a customized training and HR consulting company that helps small and medium-sized organizations enhance their ability to recruit, inspire and retain quality staff and improve performance through training. Training Systems, Inc. also provides training design and delivery services to training companies and the training departments of large companies, and professional and trade associations. She loves to answer question and can be reached at [email protected].

Photo credit: iStock.com/Charday Penn

More Remote Tips: Carolyn and the team at Training Systems, Inc. are offering a Remote Work Tip of the Day on Facebook. Follow them and check it out daily!

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