Evolving Workforces

Bringing a New Member onto Your Remote Team

01 mar. 2020

Por Tyson Jacques

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New employees join organizations every day, including during this unprecedented time where many are working remotely during the COVID outbreak. While it's a best practice to spend face-to-face time when onboarding, right now that's just not an option most of the time. Employee onboarding lays the foundation for the success of new hires at your company and provides a baseline to make connections going forward. So, it’s important to meet them where they are and draw these connections for them in a number of ways—namely, by connecting them with the company, your expectations, their tools and their peers. More than anything, this opportunity allows you to win the heart of your new employee while setting the tone for a growing company culture. These crucial, initial connections build employee trust and confidence so they can adapt to their role and environment quickly without the typical two to five-month ramp period typically seen in clerical and professional roles. World-class onboarding based on continued personal connections rests at the core of every effective and productive workforce.

If onboarding can’t happen face-to-face, what can you do to make sure your virtual onboarding prepares your new hires for what’s next, even when done remotely?

First thing’s first: you need to come prepared. If you don’t have the documentation and institutional understanding already, start working on general and role-specific training resources while you’re interviewing candidates for the job (or earlier, if you can). Make sure you and your training team can speak to the boundaries and expectations this new hire will face. Document tasks with detailed notes on any tools needed to complete them and ensure they can be discussed in conversation rather than absorbed passively. Every process should be dissected so that your new team member nails the basics by the time it’s time to fly solo.

Deliver new information in short bursts—maybe 45 minutes to an hour—in order to achieve peak understanding and retention. By scheduling pauses at regular intervals, you give your new employee’s mind a chance to catch up and make connections between the new information and things they already know. In fact, in 1999, Cornell University's Ergonomics Research Laboratory used a computer program to remind workers to take short breaks. The project concluded that workers who received alerts prompting them to take breaks averaged 13 percent more accurate results when compared to coworkers who didn’t receive the break alerts. Breaks like this come naturally with in-person training, but you need to provide scheduled stopping points when onboarding virtually.

In addition to the cognitive advantages, regular breaks also free up some time for mental and emotional check-ins, natural conversation, answering questions and strengthening relationships between the new employee and the team, especially their onboarding buddy (which I’ll get into soon).

When discussing the specifics of the role you’re training for, it’s important to share the company’s origin story, your shared values and how this position’s accomplishments tie into both the company’s mission and success. A Gallup study concluded that one in four employees don’t connect with their company’s values; be sure to live the values before and after you share them in training. Does the company value individual feedback as a core value? Take time every day to elicit feedback from the trainee and include your distributed team members in the conversation.

We all understand the importance of building the relationship between a new employee and their manager during the first 90 days on the job, but experience (and the Harvard Business Review) tells us that it’s equally important to have a mentor or an onboarding buddy. By meeting regularly with someone on the team already, we form personal connections that help provide a broader context and deeper understanding of the work, including some best practices and personal tips that you might not think to include in training. And ultimately, having friends at work makes us happier, more productive and more engaged. According to the Microsoft study covered by HBR, 97 percent of new hires said their onboarding buddy helped them ramp up quicker and boost productivity after meeting with them eight or more times in their first 90 days.

Fostering deep connections has broader performance implications long after onboarding. Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey discovered that a mere two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agrees that they have a best friend at work. Yet, by moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could see a 36 percent decrease in safety-related incidents, a 7 percent increase in customer engagement and a 12 percent boost in profit. Strong connections at work aren’t just nice to have—they impact the culture of your office and the overall productivity of your team.

The onboarding process covers a lot of ground—from HR paperwork to tools, to colleagues and so much more. However, another essential component of your new hire’s career is the ability to set and achieve goals. Many employers start with small, low-risk tasks and have their employees work their way up, but this is the perfect time to clarify what good performance looks like over the next week, month and year. Discuss their initial ambitions and make sure you are equipped to help them get there. Give them a big project they can accomplish with the support of their new colleagues and help guide their progress. A big win like that will foster a deep sense of ownership and investment that transcends every phase of your new hire’s tenure with the company.

In order to get the most out of every new employee while building a culture of investment, ownership and accountability, it’s critical that you meet them where they are and draw distinct connections for them between the company, the role they’re filling, the tools they need to do the job, and most importantly, with their new colleagues. You won’t just have a happier, more connected workplace—you and your team will also achieve more in the process.

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