Anxious, unsure, and alone. No, we’re not talking about first day of school jitters – this may be what new hires are experiencing when they join your organization in today’s remote world.
Everyone wants to feel like they belong and are connected to the organization and brand they work for, yet the absence of natural touchpoints and opportunities to connect in real life make it common for new hires to feel isolated, disconnected from their peers and the brand.
You’ve worked hard to attract these folks to your organization: if you want to avoid the great wave of disengagement that typically hits new hires joining a remote work environment, you need to work just as hard to give them a great onboarding experience.
Here are a few strategies to make the most of onboarding in a remote world.
Tip #1: Experience the Brand Early and Often
Simply put, your employer brand is your reputation as a place to work, and it can be influenced by the things current and potential employees think and say about what it’s like to work at your organization. The easiest way to build positive reputation is to deliver positive experiences; you need to live the brand you want to be known for.
Your new hire will be nervous to start a new role well before their first day, so let them know they’re not alone and help alleviate some of their nerves by assigning an onboarding buddy. This person is an existing team member who will check in on the new hire throughout their onboarding journey, answer any questions, and share insider tips to help the new hire acclimatize to your organization. You can ask the buddy to reach out to the new hire before they start to say hello and let your new hire know they’ll be waiting to support them as they transition into the team.
Branded Cultural Cues
This may seem small, but in a remote environment where people see their own walls every day and not your company brand, it makes sense to invest in some branded swag. This visual cue will help new hires associates to your organization and build a connection to it ̶ research shows that it can help create a shared sense of identity and purpose as part of a team.
Try to gift swag that has relevance and connection back to your mission. If you’re a purpose-driven organization, this could look like a small donation to a charity or non-profit on behalf of your new hire. If you’re in tech, this could be a subscription to a leading industry publication. Whatever it may be, make it intentional.
Living your brand should be a shared responsibility across all levels of the organization, but there are usually a few stand-out team members who truly embody your culture. These are the people who work hard and bring 110% to everything they do; the people who truly live the values and demonstrate the ideal behaviours within the organization – these are your brand ambassadors.
Pick a few of your strongest ambassadors at different levels of the organization and arrange meet-and-greet sessions within the first 30 days. These touchpoints are just as important as the mandatory training and policies that need to be reviewed because they help to set your new hire on a path to becoming a brand advocate, so be sure to prioritize and schedule time for those touchpoints equally. Ideally you should have a Living the Brand training program, or a set of guidelines on what these meet-and-greets should look like. This will be unique to each organization based on what success looks like, and on the values and behaviours you’re trying to encourage.
Tip #2: Communicate & Connect with Intention
When bringing on a new hire, you want to build intentional and meaningful connections to help them connect on a deeper level with the organization. To do this, they need to connect on both a work and personal level. For work, schedule a team meeting to bring your new hire up to speed on how everyone collaborates, show them what the team is working on, and what goals or projects your new hire can contribute to. On the personal level, get to know your newest member by asking questions about their strengths, interests, passions, goals, and how can they be utilized and supported within the team.
Surprise & Delight
While many organizations believe onboarding starts on the first day of employment, it begins the moment a new hire accepts their job offer. Make a great first impression in the period between offer and Day 1, like when getting new team members their work equipment. Using the information you gathered about your new hire during the recruitment process, consider sending a handwritten note with their equipment, or small gift based on the interests they talked about during an interview. If you can tie these gestures back to your EVP pillar, even better! There’s nothing more delightful than a gesture that’s unique and personalized.
Virtual Coffee with Senior Leadership
Whenever possible, ask your senior executive team to be part of the onboarding experience: a senior executive taking time out of their day to meet with a new hire signifies that this person is a valued member of the organization from day 1. Have your executives share their career journey and what they’ve learned since joining the organization, how they live the brand, and goals for the future. Encourage them to get to know the career ambitions of your new hire as well ̶ you never know when you could be sitting across from a future executive!
These intentional conversations and meaningful connections not only showcase your band, but they also signal to your new hire that you are invested in their career. When an employee feels their wellbeing and development is genuinely supported and encouraged from leadership, they’ll feel content in their decision to join your organization.
Train Hiring Managers for Onboarding
One of the greatest dangers of digital onboarding is lacking a clear sense of direction. This responsibility falls with people managers who showcase the brand and help the new hire connect your mission and values back to their day-to-day accountabilities and work. We’ve all heard the saying, “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses,” so equip your people managers with the knowledge and resources to ensure they’re the reason a team member stays and not the reason a team member leaves. Your new hire should feel as though their onboarding experience has been carefully curated for them and, in this new world, goes beyond the training specific to their role.
No matter how you decide to onboard your new hire in a remote world, be intentional about the experience and connections that they’re given. Our world has seen a dramatic shift in the last 18 months, and this is only the beginning of the future of work. Engagement and retention strategies that were at one time successful are quickly becoming outdated.
In a time when many of us feel isolated and disconnected, organizations that can successfully create a positive brand experience and meaningful connections from day 1 will be well positioned in the war for talent. Your approach to the employee experience could turn every new hire into your next brand ambassador or your next brand detractor.
Article by Jessica Soper
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands and high-performance cultures.
From C-Suite to Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition leadership, we partner with our clients to transform their organizations and design the most compelling workplaces of the future.
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