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During the COVID-19 lockdowns, employers didn’t have a choice: new starters had to be interviewed and inducted remotely. But since the lockdowns, having an integrated workforce is fast becoming the new way of working. Having both on-site and remote employees can be valuable to employers looking to attract the best talent and improve their employee value proposition.
Flexible working allows for a new channel of talent throughout Australia, including talent in regional locations, and leaders need to be thinking about how to optimise their hiring and onboarding process in a new COVID-19 world, to ensure new employees have a consistent experience with engagement.
With HR bearing the brunt of supporting remote employees since the world turned upside-down, how can leaders actively provide an integrated approach that supports HR and their focus on talent and employee retention?
Don’t leave it to HR
The new employee experience doesn’t stop with HR, and at ASPL Group, this is where we see a lot of organisations fall down. Your organisation’s HR team can’t be expected to carry the full responsibility of making new employees feel at home. Sure, they should be supporting the hiring experience for candidates, but recruitment stops once the candidate has signed on the dotted line, and so should your recruiters. Leaders, this is where you come in.
Leverage HR to be a better leader
Embedding HR principles into the employee onboarding process, and your leadership style, is the best way to set new employees up for success, particularly in a remote working environment.
To optimise onboarding processes for new employees and improve the overall human experience an organisation can offer, consider implementing these simple but effective strategies:
- Buddy up
No matter how old your staff members may be, they’re never too old for a buddy. A buddy program shouldn’t be one that starts and ends with graduates; it can help both new and existing staff members feel at home.
A buddy system automatically sets new starters up with a colleague to confide in, and a resource for answers to their questions. Particularly for employees being onboarded remotely, one or two Zoom calls with a buddy per week is the perfect opportunity to ask questions and fill the gaps in their knowledge. It can also be nice for them to have someone to ping on Slack in moments of feeling overwhelmed or isolated.
If you’re implementing a buddy system, it’s important to make sure all staff members understand the intent of the initiative, and that their involvement is critical to the company’s success. Existing and senior staff members might have a ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude, or feel that they’re too busy to help a new starter, and it’s exactly this attitude that needs to be eliminated, in order to unite your remote workforce.
Try to buddy team members up with others in a similar role or at a similar seniority level, to foster feelings of parity and relatability.
- Create opportunities for incidental learning
Incidental learning is crucial to professional development. In an office environment incidental learning is easy to facilitate, because it’s easy to listen to and share when in the same space.
For a remote team, incidental learning becomes far more difficult to facilitate. Staff members miss out on incidental interactions and the moments of listening and connecting with one another that they would get when sitting in a shared office.
To create opportunities for incidental learning for your remote team, encourage teams to schedule time for social catch ups throughout the working week. These might be a weekly trivia quiz or a lunchtime exercise class. Whatever it is, providing an opportunity for staff to bond and discuss something other than their work will increase team bonding, and maximise incidental learning opportunities.
- Schedule collaboration time
Whether you’re in the office or not, collaboration is so important, even for the most autonomous teams. As humans we’re social beings, and creativity is born from collaboration – if it wasn’t, teams wouldn’t exist in the first place!
To optimise the collaboration experience for your remote team, create a best practice framework for use across your whole organisation, that structures what collaboration should look like. Should the meeting start a particular way? Should it run for a particular length of time that allows for robust discussion, but doesn’t leave teams exhausted? Should 5-10 minutes be allocated to ‘water cooler’-style chat before or afterwards? Consider the structure that has dictated some of your most successful meetings since moving to work from home, and use these to form the basis of all collaborative calls moving forward. Not only will this provide a sense of consistency for new hires, but it will remove the pressure of hosting meetings for staff across all departments and seniority levels.
- Start week 1, on week 2
All too often we see employees hit the ground running on their first day of a new job, and after a few hours they feel out of their depth, exhausted and a bit like a fish out of water.
Consider giving your new hires their first week ‘off’. No expectations, no deadlines; give them the week to immerse themselves in the company policies, servers, induction meetings and team greetings, before loading them up with work. This will allow them time to familiarise themselves with the organisation, ask the questions they need to, and understand who they’re working with and what their exact role is, so they’re set up for success in week 2.
It is critical for each new employee to appreciate the company’s vision, mission and culture, and the first week is the perfect time for this. It also gives your existing staff an opportunity to reconnect with the company’s values as well. Schedule an hour where each of your employees share with your new employee their elevator pitch, their understanding of the vision, and why they’ve chosen to work there. This will allow an opportunity for collaboration and engagement as they learn to be vulnerable and trust each other.
As a leader it’s so important to actively try to enhance the employee experience. Your organisation is only as good as it’s people, so giving them the best experience possible should be one of your biggest priorities.