During the pandemic, for almost 50% of the nation’s workers, everything went remote and digital.
Whilst initial efforts were focussed on ensuring basic business stability, eventually HR began to turn its attention back to business as usual.
This would involve recruitment, development, communication, culture curation and, of course, onboarding.
Remote onboarding comes with its own set of challenges though. As an article by Reuters stated: “[The] task becomes a whole lot harder when the ‘onboarding’ is done during a pandemic that has forced millions to work from home, leaving new hires to judge colleagues on their taste in curtains and conduct on Zoom.”
So, how are some of the top firms doing it? MoneyBox, an app-based savings function, apparently gives out new joiners Deliveroo vouchers and buddies up new starters to have lunch.
Speaking to Reuters, one new starter said: “We've been getting Deliveroo vouchers and we've been sitting around our computers while talking to one another and having lunch. It's probably the best induction into a company that I've ever had.”
In fact, MoneyBox’s HR lead, Jack Johnstone, said despite initial fears they are now hiring again, even into more difficult-to-onboard roles. Alongside the social elements, they also send out a welcome video along with whatever technology the new hire needs.
Citi have also been hiring during the pandemic – filling over 3,400 needed roles in the last six months alone. Their tack involves regular face-to-face virtual meetings with managers, buddy partnering and use of multiple tech platforms.
Social meetings are also encouraged to replicate ‘by chance’ meetings that often take place in a central work location.
The latter is what Standard Chartered, the multinational bank, focus on – ensuring that social meetups occur.
Andy Halford, Chief Financial Officer at the bank, told Reuters that he ensures that work drinks, over video, and social events occur. "Some people find it easier to talk and connect when they are not `at work´," he said. "We want to humanise this situation for everyone."
What does virtual onboarding really mean?
In reality, whilst working from home has many benefits, Professor Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University, explained that it creates many cultural issues too.
It’s hard to notice how many hours people actually work, when its acceptable to take a break and to know what to wear.
It can also spark e-presenteeism. "At home it generates a strong incentive for over-communication, so endlessly sending unnecessary emails and Slack messages just to highlight the fact that you're still there," Bloom was reported as saying by The Daily Mail.
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Speaking previously to HR Grapevine, Harriet Shurville, Chief People Officer at Iris, added that firms should be ensuring that new starters have clear objectives to help them on their way.
Whilst social occasions and over-communicating, she said, are an important part of the introduction process, it is objectives that help the hire become a success.
She said: “You’ve got to have really clear objectives. Objectives around what you would want from them and is reasonable and realistic for them to deliver in a set period of time – and then set-up regular catchups to ensure that what you’ve set is something that they can achieve and also to check that they’ve been given the tools to do that.
“This is probably something which is more important than ever – who they’ve got to work with and what the parameters around it are – because if you’re not it will be much harder for the hire to work out successfully.”