How to effectively onboard new starters virtually

March 24, 2020

To say it has been some interesting years so far for the recruitment industry, would perhaps, be an understatement. We are fortunate that the markets we recruit into are office-based, and most people’s work is produced digitally – whether that’s implementing an HR System, calculating bonus payments or running a headcount report, you’re using a computer and can probably work using a laptop from home. Working life can go on, albeit in a different setting and a new way of working. The same cannot be said, of course, for some industries like hospitality and retail who will need more support.

We are continuing to work on roles that we were instructed on several weeks ago, and are continuing to be instructed on new vacancies as well. Broadly speaking, I have seen two kinds of reactions in the market from clients:

  1. “This isn’t the right time to onboard a new starter, as we’re all working from home. Let’s put the role on hold and revisit it once things have calmed down”
  2. “We can onboard and train people digitally, and as long as they have a laptop and internet connection we are good to go”.

So why are companies taking such different approaches here? The answer lies partially in technology, and partially in company culture.

Many businesses have been set up to work from home for years, or even decades. I know of several businesses where they simply do not have the desk space to have everyone in the office at the same time, so everybody works at least a day a week from home. These businesses have remote login set up for all or most of their staff, can route phone calls through to mobiles, and are used to communicating virtually with team members – whether that’s through Skype, Slack, WhatsApp or plain old e-mail.

For these businesses, there is no large technological leap needed. They simply carry on with what they are doing, just for more people. It is a simple move to interview people via Skype and even move to digital onboarding. One large tech client of ours is even giving new starters laptops on their first day and then sending them off to work from home along with the rest of their colleagues. While the technological infrastructure has been in place for years, it is the company culture and social acceptance of remote working that allows for this shift in onboarding practices. If you understand that remote working is normal and can be highly effective, why wouldn’t you think the same of remote onboarding?

On the other side, there are the firms that have not embraced working from home in the same way. On a technological level, they may simply not be set up for everyone to work from home, or be able to give remote login details to everyone. Businesses may be working furiously to get the right infrastructure installed. But these technical issues are relatively easily overcome, although they might require some financial investment. What is much harder is to convince senior leadership that not only can your existing staff work just as effectively from home as from the office, but that you can even interview and onboard new staff without them ever setting foot in the office. The leap from no home working to full remote onboarding is, unfortunately, just too great a step for many to take.

So, how can you effectively onboard someone that you’ve never met?

  1. The interview.

There are no shortage of applications and smartphone apps that allow for video conferencing. You can use Skype for Business, Zoom, Go2meeting, WhatsApp, Facetime, Google Duo… the list is endless. You can still see your candidate “face to face”, and you don’t lose out on the communication from body language that you would lose in a phone interview. With many of these apps you can dial in other interviewers as well for a full panel interview, and of course you can have the candidates’ CV open on the screen next to their video call.

If you’re working from home while you interview someone, make sure you’re in a quiet space with a neutral background. Dress as you would for a normal day in the office – remember, they are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them, and you should give them as good an idea as possible of what life will be like when they do join the team in person.

  1. Additional assessments

Perhaps you’re not sold on video interviews, and want some more reassurance that you’re making the right hire. There are a multitude of online assessments available, including psychometrics, skills-based assessments and more. Do contact us if this is of interest, we are happy to advise you accordingly and organise all of this for you.

  1. Digital onboarding

So you’ve decided this is the candidate to hire – great! Now what? Here’s where you can get creative. Are there photos of your office, or even a digital tour, that you can share with them? If you’re in the office, you can use a mobile or tablet to take them on a tour yourself. Arrange time for them to digitally meet their manager and team – you can use the same video conferencing tools you used for their interview. Think about the training guides they are given – can these be accessed remotely or by e-mail? Are there video guides as well as written guides?

There are many companies already doing this and much more – use your networks, both online and offline, to get more ideas. Even though you are working from home, it doesn’t mean that recruitment has to stop or even slow down.

If anything, think of it as an opportunity to modernise your recruitment processes – many of these tools could be used to great effect for future proofing your business.