Onboarding in a COVID-19 world

By Rahul Balakrishnan

One of the prevalent challenges that we are seeing organisations facing these days is onboarding their employees during the current scenario of lockdown. 

So how does one design and manage their onboarding strategy to engage, prepare and train new hires under these unique conditions? How does one create that all-important sense of community, when many new employees might not meet a single new work colleague face-to-face for many days or even months?

Review current onboarding processes

List out onboarding processes that currently rely on face-to-face interactions, from welcome drinks and induction days to systems training. Then plan how these can best be achieved remotely, from online training videos to webinars. Along with this, gather the right data on the new starters, from the tech they have at home to their particular vulnerabilities in relation to COVID-19. This can also help plan a staggered ‘return to work’ process when social isolation measures become less stringent.

Get the necessary technology

From the laptops and the phones your new remote workers will require, to the software systems that will help deliver more efficient remote working, technology is key. As is ensuring the remote workers are set up on email and have access to all the necessary folders, software while also ensuring privacy and confidentiality of critical information. Involving the IT and OPS teams in the process will come in handy.

Don’t just communicate but over-communicate

Communicating regularly with people due to start soon will instil confidence and prevent the HR Department from being inundated with enquiries. This could include:

  • A communication explaining the new onboarding strategy in light of COVID-19, and that there will be regular contact with all the information needed.
  • Person and role-specific information – whether there will be a delay in the joining date, whether they will be working from home or whether their probation period will get affected.
  • Information on how the organisation is responding to COVID-19 both in terms of how the workforce will be protected and supported, and the efforts to minimise the damage to business in light of the crisis.
  • News about any work the organisation is doing to help fight the pandemic, such as delivering food for the poor or supporting migrant labourers or actively fundraising for specific causes.
  • Weekly Q&A sessions for all new starters in a structured manner.

Going Virtual

How to build a team when people can’t meet face-to-face?

  • Making reporting managers more accessible than ever to new team members
  • Having regular team meetings and involving the new hires to share, act and reflect on the efforts being made to build a strong peer group
  • Organising virtual team lunches, coffee/tea breaks where everyone can join on a Friday afternoon for a chat, keeping in mind it doesn’t become another productivity tracking work exercise.

Remote working training and information

From training videos for getting up to speed with remote working systems and processes, to team biographies that give new hires the lowdown on who their colleagues are and what they do, there’s much that can be done to make remote workers feel less remote.

Above all, keep communicating with the new starters in every way possible. By giving teams the tools they need to communicate, learn and support each other, they will adapt swiftly and rise to the challenges of a very different workplace environment.

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