6 ways to create belonging for new employees in the remote world
Ria took over a new position in a media company a few months into the pandemic. It was a mid-manager position and her team on an average was 2 to 3 years old in the organisation. They had pre-existing relationships, knew ‘more’ than she did about the company’s culture, the predilections of the super bosses and the finer nuances of working with the inter-departmental teams.
She grappled to remember the faces and understand the team dynamics. Ria felt isolated at meetings and struggled to get on top of things. She was insecure and decided she would create her own route to make her presence felt. She would clandestinely mark mails to them with progress reports and ideas in the hope that her work and contribution is acknowledged. She ended up with an irritable senior, and disgruntled co-workers.
Suffice to say, Ria is disappointed and toying with the idea of moving on because she feels she doesn't feel a sense of ‘belonging’.
In an offline scenario, Ria would have hopped across to her co-workers or gained ‘intelligence’ and built trust chatting with them during water-cooler conversations or huddle meetups.
Virtual onboarding is no mean feat. New employee onboarding requires a lot of preparation and thought. The biggest challenge is helping them build an emotional connection with the new team given the distance of space and time, looming large and the lack of ‘personal touch’.
Therefore, being intentional in this effort is vital in facilitating inclusiveness and to build trust among the new hires with a long-term perspective.
It is only when employees feel welcome and have a sense of belonging, will they shine at work.
Here are a few things organisations can add to the onboarding process.
The first day begins before the First Day in office.
A ‘welcome’ swag bag of branded merchandise is a gesture that demonstrates warmth. Make sure you it is replete with an organogram, productivity tools, contact details of key personnel they would be liaising with, the right hardware, software, and access needed to do their job, effectively. A goodie bag of healthy eats and a care package would be an added bonus. A personalised note from the CEO displaying genuine enthusiasm to get them excited about their role and the impact they can make on the vision of the company.
This goes a long way, in not only supporting the onboarding efforts, but it reinforces the company brand. LinkedIn is abuzz with new employees sharing their onboarding experience that have gone viral. It certainly elevates the brand image.
First day is impressionable.
In the offline world and in the traditional sense, a new employee on their first day is shown around the office and introduced to their co-workers and other team members. This is an integral part of the onboarding process. With virtual onboarding, this step tends to get missed.
Set up a casual video call to welcome the newest member on your team. Have the new employee introduce themselves with some fun facts over a coffee meet and have each team member introduce themselves as well. This helps in putting names to the faces and provides them a platform to build relationships, early. It simulates a culture of teamwork where all are striving towards the same goal.
Face-to-Face catch-up calls.
In case you have any remote employees living in the same area as your new employee, it may do good to have them to meet up with your new hire to welcome them to the team. This face-to-face meet where new employees can be invited to spend some time together at the office or over lunch. Encourage them to ask questions and make them feel at home.
Ongoing conversation is vital.
For the new employees to feel part of the team it is important you stay in constant communication. However, let the communication not just be about business, tasks, results, deadlines and job status. Focus on conversations about their personal goals, wellness, families, hobbies, adventures or even health. Under normal circumstances, these social conversations would have come up, naturally. These personal touches are welcoming for building trust and in getting to know their co-workers better despite the time zone or geographical distance.
Assign a Mentor or Buddy.
It can be quite overwhelming to be onboarded in a completely remote environment. Assigning a team member as buddy to the new employee will go a long way in helping them hit the ground running. A mentor helps them in understanding the roadmap of internal networks, the company culture and the roles and responsibilities of other team members. The mentor is the go-to person for any clarity. Ask employees to turn on their video when conferencing to make meetings more personal and foster team connection. Hold weekly one-on-ones with new hires by creating a virtual “open door.”
check in and offer support This will enable a victorious start to their journey in the company.
Weekly one-on-ones by mentors, managers and HR leaders is a good way to check in and offer support to the new employees. Seek feedback from time to time to demonstrate a culture of care and make them feel at home. Stay connected with them through a text or email or do what worked in the old economy - make a phone call! Assure them that your ‘virtual door’ is always open and when they do reach out ensure you respond in time. Your ‘busyness’ and lack of responsiveness can put a dent in the trust curve.
Given your own erratic schedule, perhaps it may not always be possible however invest the time and if you desire a happy, engaged and committed team.
Virtual onboarding when done meaningfully and effectively, is the icebreaker to integrate the new employees into the company with ease.
Every interaction and experience of the employees solidifies the trust they place in you as a manager and company. And, this trust is built not during virtual meetings, alone but the human interactions beyond these meetings. Get to know them through these interactions. As a new employee, take the time and effort to mesh into the culture and partake in the opportunities coming your way to make your presence felt.
The more effort you invest as an organisation in this process, the time needed for the employees to feel valued and appreciated will be lesser and their trust and buy-in into goals, higher.