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Newbies Starting Remotely? Here's How To Onboard Them Seamlessly

Working from home is nothing new - in fact, we’re pretty sure at this point you’ve read enough LinkedIn posts about remote working to never want to drop an emoji to vote on your preferred style of work again.

What is a little trickier and less accustomed to, is onboarding new team members entirely remotely. We all know that feeling of jumping into the deep end and starting a new job, clinging on for dear life to the nearest friendly person and relying on water-cooler chat to get a feel for your new team in the first few weeks.

So what happens, when you remove the water cooler and the friendly face on the desk next to you entirely?

Our Operations Manager, Mairead Sutton, is no stranger to getting our newbies up to speed remotely, having helped a handful through this lockdown alone. We caught up with Mairead to get her tips and tricks for a smooth induction online.

1. Send your newbie a laptop and they’re good to go, right?

A bit of an assumption that managers can be prone to making, is that your team is all set up and good-to-go in a home office. We’ve had enough lockdowns to grow accustomed to working from home, so surely your newbie just needs a laptop and they’re set?

Not quite. It’s so important to make sure you’re ahead of the ball when it comes to setting up a new team member. Step number one should always be to check-in and ask what your new remote worker might need to hit the ground running.

As Mairead shares, that’s not just a laptop.

“The key thing for us, is we’ve been really prepared and organised with all of their equipment, making sure it’s dropped off on time and making sure we’ve got everything they need.

Also, just checking in if they’ve got any special requirements such as stationery, and asking about their home office - what does their workspace actually look like, is there anything extra we need to provide?”

Even the act of asking will go a long way in making your newbie feel supported and excited to jump in, even if it is via Wi-Fi.

2. Translating your company culture from real-life to online is an artform

If you’ve read our blog on company culture, you’ll already know that it’s the glue that makes an organisation stick. A good company culture not only retains your staff, but it’s the single most important thing that makes a new hire head home after their first day in the office and think, “yep, I’ve made the right decision here - these are good people”.

The problem is, culture can be elusive even when your desks are a metre apart from each other, let alone when you’re relying on zoom. So how do you take the essence of your culture and help your newbie feel welcome?

Culture is everything at 84, so here’s what we do.

  • Keep your traditions, even if it’s from a distance

Always do your best to maintain traditions and routines that your people are used to, that’s how you show your new people who you are as an organisation.

“On a newbies first day, we take them out for a celebratory lunch. We've stuck with that tradition and do a virtual lunch on their first day instead.”

  • Don’t always talk about work

Lockdown fatigue is a thing. No one loves back to back zoom calls about strictly work. As Mairead says, a non-work natter a day keeps the doctor away.

“We place focus on meetings, organising virtual coffees for weeks onwards because when they get past the induction stage they’re really just talking to their individual teams.

We want to make sure that people in different teams who wouldn’t usually necessarily speak to each other are connecting with somebody once a week. It’s non-work related, we have a coffee, have a rant or just have a bit of a laugh - it’s really important.”

  • Know where to spice things up

Obviously, there are some traditions that might need shaking up to keep things fresh and foster connections. For Mairead, mixing up weekly Friday meetings has been a game-changer.

“We usually have two team meetings a week (one on a Monday morning to focus on the week ahead and one on a Friday usually as a wrap-up), but instead, we use the Friday wrap up to make things more fun. We come up with some games and split the team into a few different groups to create a bit of competitiveness, and have prizes for when we get back into the office.”

No one likes the idea of ‘forced fun’ either, so if you’re going to go down the games route, make sure to ask for feedback as well.

“Everyone’s feedback was really good, especially the newbies. It’s something they really look forward to, rather than being centred around work chat.”

3. Support your newbie, and we mean really go out of your way

At the end of the day, starting a new job online is going to be a bit of a challenge for everyone involved. Your newbie is going to feel a bit disconnected, and won’t be able to put faces to names for a while or know who to go to for help, so it’s your job to facilitate those connections.

“We make sure that they know who the points of contact are, really breaking down who’s in what team, who does what, and organising their diary electronically to make sure that they’ve got one-on-one virtual coffees with each of the team members to go through their roles, and what market they work in.

Go beyond virtual coffees as well. It’s safe to assume that your freshly onboarded teammate is going to be a bit nervous to just jump on the phone and give someone they haven’t met a buzz to ask a question, so make the first move for them.

“Constantly check in every week, ask if everything is working for them or if there’s anything they need. It’s just about making sure that we’re over-communicating and that they feel really supported.”

4. A good learning management system (LMS) is pretty much a superpower

If you don’t want to spend hours on a zoom call talking your new team member through the ins and outs of your business, you’re going to want to implement an LMS. For 84, we use this to get our newbies across the key bits and pieces autonomously.

“We set everything up on our LMS to ensure that the way things are explained are consistent to new employees. It’s broken down into modules and covers everything from different company policies to the recruitment process and different software and systems we use. It also breaks down the skills you need to learn and master to become a good recruiter.”

A good LMS will also set your newbie on the right path when it comes to the bigger picture as well.

“It centres a lot around goal setting, progression and even creating a vision board to help achieve this, so you can map out your first 90-days to a year and what you want to achieve on a personal level as well and how this ties back into your role and career.

From day one, you’re mapping out what you’re aiming for and making sure that aligns with the company expectations as well.”

5. It all comes down to trust

Last but not least, to really get the most out of your newbie and make them feel welcome, try not to be too overbearing and give them enough rope to do what they need to do.

“You may have noticed that some managers can naturally switch to becoming micro-managers in a lockdown. Our Managing Director always creates an environment of trust for the team to work within. He prepares you to work the best way you can, with utmost trust - and that’s always returned.”

That doesn’t mean don’t check in at all, but trust that they’re the right person for the job.