Onboarding a new employee is tough. Onboarding a new employee remotely is even harder. There are several considerations that every company needs to have before they bring on a new employee especially in light of the current Coronavirus pandemic.
Make sure that the Paperwork is Completed
As I mentioned in an earlier post, employers still need to complete the I-9 for all new hires, but this rule has changed somewhat:
Every employee must fill out an I-9 when they are first hired. Employers normally cannot complete the I-9 form remotely. Companies must review the applicant/new hire’s documents in person. With COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) raging, this is one rule that has been relaxed. Remote workers no longer need to present documents physically. Companies can now view the documents through video and write COVID-19 as the reason for the delay in physical inspection on the relevant part of the I-9. They will need to review the documents physically once this disaster is over.
In another post, I listed some additional information on the paperwork that an employee needs to fill out on their first day. Rather than rehash that article, I want to use this post to discuss the actual onboarding process beyond merely filling out paperwork.
What is New Hire Orientation?
Onboarding is not new hire orientation. New hire orientation is essentially showing the new employee where they will sit/work, reviewing policies, and, let’s be honest, it is mostly filling out paperwork and watching training videos. It also involves telling them the basics of how to do their job.
Onboarding goes much deeper. It is about setting the employee up for long term success and to be a member of the team.
How to Onboard Employees Effectively
You need to have a plan. When I did Teach for America, one of the most important lessons that we were taught as teachers was to backwards plan. You needed to know where you wanted to end up, so that you could understand how to get there. For example, one of the goals may have been for the students to know their multiplication tables up to the number twelve. With that end in mind you can plan a series of lessons and tricks to help students memorize these tables so that they could do multiplication with bigger numbers later.
The same lesson applies to employees. A good job description can help you keep the end in mind (I wrote about job descriptions previously here). It is essentially what you want the employee to be able to do (i.e. where you want the employee to end up).
If a company doesn’t know what their end goals are for a new employee, then the new employee definitely won’t meet those goals. Onboarding starts on day one and continues for months until the employee is fully integrated into the company. Before getting into the details of improving onboarding at an organization, I want to briefly note that onboarding is a company and job specific process (or at least it should be). Ideally, there should be a different onboarding process for every type of job at the company because the purpose of onboarding is to make a new employee a good fit for their position and at the specific company they work for. Moreover, in the times of the coronavirus there are several additional considerations and training that employees will need.
Here is a quick overview of what the onboarding process may look like for employees generally.
The First Day of Onboarding
Companies need to communicate with the coworkers of the future employee to let them know that the company has hired a new employee. The team, or several members that the new employee will work with, should be encouraged to welcome the new employee when they first come into the office. In the coronavirus or “zoom era,” a quick zoom chat with everyone to welcome the new employee at the beginning of their first day is a great way to make the employee feel that they are a part of a team and the company is a good place to work. The same is true when the employee first comes into the office or onsite work environment. Gathering the fellow coworkers of the new employee to welcome them is a great way to immediately break the tension of starting the first day at a new job.
After the initial welcome, the new employee will likely have several trainings or meetings with their manager. Management should obviously give the new employee a schedule that they will follow on the first day; there is nothing worse than feeling lost on day one. The company should also assign a mentor or supervisor that will make sure that the employee finds his or her way to lunch, has people to eat with, and can answer any questions the new employee has throughout the day.
After the First Day
Once the new hire orientation is completed. The actual process of onboarding begins. This is where a good onboarding and a bad onboarding program can be differentiated. Many times, a company’s onboarding process is just a couple day new hire and training process without a long-term plan to integrate the employees into the overall team.
The only way to do that effectively is to map out the information that the employee will need to be successful in the workplace. In other words, you need an actual, formal onboarding program rather than an informal, haphazard one where employees learn what they need to do on the fly.
As I see it, there are a few key components of the formal, long-term onboarding process. One is integrating the employee into the company or business. It involves making them believe in the mission of the company and the aims of its business. The second is integrating the employee within the team that they work with. This involves them getting an understanding of the strengths of the team, the areas for improvement, how the team communicates and works together to complete its tasks, and just generally becoming comfortable and sociable with their coworkers. The final component of onboarding is orienting the employee into the basics of their job.
Let’s look at these three areas in a bit more detail.
1. Making the Employee Truly a Part of the Company
A new employee cannot integrate into a company’s culture in a week, but they do get a picture of what they believe the culture is. Within the first week the employee will have seen how different people interact with each other. He or she will see what issues his manager places their focus on and whether those issues come from the company or are something that the manager makes up on the fly.
Over the course of several months, if onboarding goes well, the employee will adapt to the culture of the company. If the company has a poor culture, then the employee will obviously try to work within that culture. A good culture or foundation is important for the new employee. A workplace culture is really what drives the employees at the company. Many companies have high morale because they care for employees and respect their ideas. Other companies have poor morale because of management or other problems at the company.
An employee learns about the culture of the workplace by watching and following what other employees are doing. If the workplace has a dog eat dog culture, then the employee will notice that the first time that they get stabbed in the back or when people do not share credit for some project or task. The new employee will likely adapt to whatever culture is already present in the workplace rather than changing it.
2. Becoming a Member of the Team
This is probably one of the most critical, but often overlooked elements of the onboarding process. The social interaction and getting comfortable with the team that an employee will work with is important. Companies can aid this process by doing a few basic things. They need to create opportunities for the team to interact with the new employee. Usually, this means taking the new employee out to lunch or having them sit with a certain assigned person in the lunchroom so that the employee can avoid that awkward moment of not knowing where to sit that may take some of us back to high school.
Good companies create opportunities for the person to feel a part of the team throughout their time at a company. That means that employees are encouraged to share ideas and feedback with each other. It also means that employees encourage each other and support each other in their work. A good manager, proper training, and feedback are necessary to create this culture.
3. Helping An Employee Adjust to Their Job
This is the reason that the employee is there: to do their job. A long onboarding process helps them become more effective and brings them up to speed quicker. There should be regular checks with the employee to see how they are doing. Ideally this would be done on a formal basis at one month, three months, six months, and a year. On an informal basis, management should check in with the employee on a multiple time a day basis during their first few days, then a daily basis through the one-month period, and perhaps weekly after that.
Every job has specific requirements. Companies need to conduct their own analysis to see what skills they need to develop within the new employee and what the employee needs to know in their specific job to be successful. Some jobs have only a few skills that a new employee needs to know, and these can usually be learned quickly. Other jobs have a variety of skills and tasks that need to be completed. Sometimes the job will even have tasks that will only occur once a year or sometimes once every other year (like planning a conference). A good employer will help employees understand what they need to do to complete these tasks and train them so that they can do them effectively.
Some Quick Notes about Remote Onboarding
With remote onboarding, companies need to be even more intentional than they are with employees that they see on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Managers must check in with their employees and their work to see how they are doing. Every coworker must aim to make the new employee feel welcome and part of the culture. There needs to be a specific plan and agenda in place to help the new employee integrate into the company. It needs to be thought out and time must be blocked off for the various parts of the first day. As I mentioned before, a quick zoom call at the beginning of the employee’s first day is a great way to make the employee feel welcome. Buying the remote employee lunch on their first day and having a lunch meeting over zoom is another way.
Throughout the first week the manager and other coworkers should check in with the employee. Employers need to create an intentional plan to interact with the employee so that they don’t feel like they are an outsider or completely isolated from the company. Companies can be successful in making remote employees fully part of the team and feel like they fit within the company. It just takes a lot of preparation and a plan.
Around one-third of employees leave a job within the first six months. The more a person is integrated into the company, their team, and their job the less likely it is that a person will leave. Remember, hiring is expensive. The cost of a bad hiring decision according to the Department of Labor is 30% of their first year earnings. Onboarding is an opportunity that employers have to help their employees and their business grow. It is too important to leave to chance or do without a well-developed plan.
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, then you should speak with a lawyer about your specific issues. Every legal issue is unique. A lawyer can help you with your situation. Reading the blog, contacting me through the site, emailing me or commenting on a post does not create an attorney-client relationship between any reader and me.
The information provided is my own and does not reflect the opinion of my firm or anyone else.
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