Imagine yourself in the following situation: you found a new (or first job) at the company of your dreams, your contract is signed, you’ve finished (or almost finished) your amount of weeks notice, you’re excited to meet your future colleagues, see and organise your new desk,…

But then the news is out: your future company transformed (or had to transform) into a 100% WFH company.

What do you do? ​

Both as an employee and as an employer, the situation above is unfortunately unavoidable in these C-times (let’s not use the official word too much).

You as an employer, HR-manager, or buddy (if your company applies a buddy program), cannot welcome your new employee on his or her first day at the office, show him or her around, introduce him or her to his or her colleagues, show him or her how the coffee machine works (and how to clean it…) or even have a welcome drink.

How do you solve this issue, without demotivating and/or excluding your (future) employee and keeping the company’s onboarding and welcoming practices in place? 

1. Virtualise your welcome activities

It might sound logical, but try to virtualize as many welcome and onboarding activities as possible.

Instead of going desk to desk to introduce the new employee, organise an online video meet-and-greet with the newcomer. Let everybody explain who they are, what they do in the company, and what they do in their spare time. Not only will it create a bond because you are showing your colleagues a part of your personal life, namely your home, it also helps current employees not get isolated and feel alone in these tough times.

Or why not do a virtual telelunch or tele-apero, where everybody brings their own drinks and snacks? As newcomers usually haven’t met their colleagues yet, it can create a sense of inclusion, especially in a less formal environment. Additionally, as it likely is a new experience for all of your employees, it can increase the bonding intensity and team spirit.

2. Send a welcome package by mail

When you start working at a new company, chances are you received a welcome package waiting on your new desk, including all the company’s merchandise ( who doesn’t own 3 T-shirts with their company’s logo?). 

As you won’t be able to deliver the welcome package to your employee in real life, why not mail it to the newcomer? He or she will feel part of the team, happy to receive a gift ( because who doesn’t like receiving a mail package?), even if this means that everybody is wearing their company T-shirt from a distance behind their computer.

3. Have an online onboarding program and/or update the current one

Chances are somebody in the company was appointed as the newcomer’s ‘onboarder’ or mentor. Usually onboarding consists of a part self study, a part on-site training. As on-site training isn’t a possibility in these chaotic times, it’s important to make sure that the current onboarding process is up-to-date and includes all the necessary information to get started in the company. 

Of course, as many companies have other priorities than writing a detailed onboarding document, this doesn’t have to be 100% complete. Make sure it includes the most important information about the newcomer’s job, the company’s values and way of working, and a list of people he or she can contact, with email addresses and/or phone numbers, during the period of the onboarding process.

4. Start each online meeting or call with small talk

As you might have experienced yourself at some point in time, nothing is worse than being thrown in a video call where you know nobody. You’ve probably muted yourself for the entire meeting, afraid to say or ask something dumb.

Why not add an obligated 5 minute small talk session during each online (internal) meeting to make the newcomer (and the other participants) feel at ease? 

Small talk , hated by some, loved by others, is of course in real life something that usually happens naturally. However,  in the online world, it can be a bit tricky and/or awkward.

By ‘forcing’ people to answer a short question (‘What are you working on at the moment?’, or less formal: ‘What are you watching on Netflix these days?’) every participant ads something to the conversation and feels part of the team.

5. Increase the number of 1-2-1’s

In an environment where everybody is working from home, it’s not that easy to get your questions answered. And we all know, as a newcomer, you probably have a ton of questions. As walking to the desk of your colleague who has the answer to your burning question isn’t an option, and you cannot call your manager or colleagues the entire time, it’s easy to find yourself lost or stuck. By increasing the number of 1-2-1’s between employee and manager, you give the new employee the chance to ask all of his or her questions at one, planned moment, and at the same time have the freedom to continue your own work by not getting disturbed by a Slack notification or phone call every 5 minutes.

These C-times are hard for everyone, however, it’s necessary to adjust your way of working in the most efficient way possible. Sure a virtual onboarding or welcoming isn’t the same as ‘the real deal’, and yes awkwardness will be present, but should this really stop you? If your company’s values and team spirit are strong and genuine, you as a company will be able to also share these in a virtual way.

So what are you waiting for? Organise that virtual afterwork. Start the small talk. Because why not try to make the best of these inconvenient times?

What is your company doing to facilitate and ease the online onboarding process?

This article is written by Elise Venbrux, Brand Manager Belgium and the Netherlands at Sortlist.  🚀

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