Onboarding during COVID-19: How to welcome new starts (whilst working from home)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

With much of the UK workforce now working from home, many people are starting new jobs without stepping foot inside their new office or meeting their new colleagues.

A good onboard policy was important even before the pandemic. According to a recent study by Society for Human Resource Management, replacing an employee can on average costs SMEs 6 to 9 months’ salary. Even when employees stay past the first few months, their first impressions of a business can influence their decision to leave sooner rather than later.

In these COVID times, those first impressions are now being made virtually and line managers are having to get creative to ensure new starts are getting the best first experience of their new company as they no longer have the obligatory ‘first day team lunch’ to fall back on.

The operational and strategic elements to your current onboarding plan are likely be led by your HR and L&D teams but the social element needs be more personal and tailored by you for your team and your new employee. Here are our tips for making your new start feel welcome and valued:

Say Hi! Send out an e-mail to everyone in the office so they are aware you have a new team member. Ask your immediate team members to drop them a welcome message on their first day and schedule a virtual team meeting in their first week so everyone can ‘meet’.

Connect people. One of the most important factors in helping a new employee settle into their roles is having support from, and good relationships with, their new colleagues. Whilst working remotely you can help make new employees feel welcome by providing them with opportunities to build relationships with colleagues. Have online socials, inside and outside the team. Be creative with virtual quizzes, watch-a longs, games nights, book clubs – anything that suits the group.

Assign a buddy. Starting a new job can be quite daunting and alienating. Appoint a team member to take them under the wing for the first few weeks, someone they can have a webchat with over coffee. Choose someone on their pay grade so they can ask questions they might be too nervous to ask their line manager.

Help build a sense of community beyond their immediate team. Building relationships during their first year can help new hires feel less isolated and more confident. Help them identify internal stakeholders (superiors, peers, direct reports) whose success they will contribute to, or who will contribute to their success. The new hire can then formulate plans to connect with each of them on a one-to-one basis.

Connect people with others who are new. Help employees find other new employees with whom they can exchange stories and develop a community through shared experience.

Be present, accessible, and super-responsive. Encourage questions either through email or an intranet, collaboration platform and reply as soon as possible to their queries. Set up regular one to ones with your new employee in which they can ask questions and you can check how they are settling in.