Given it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the office in 2020, a virtual onboarding experience is becoming ever more important. Whether you are in the process of hiring now or in the next few months, it’s crucial to shift your onboarding process online. This will ensure new employees feel like they are part of the team and begin to emanate the values of your team and organisation.
Post offer, prestart date
During the interview process, your new recruit has built the foundation of what they believe your culture to be. Any actions you take between giving out an offer and before a candidate starts builds on their perceptions of the culture.
In the midst of these uncertain times new recruits can be left feeling anxious about their decision to join a new team; this is the best time to give new starters a sense of culture. Think about checking in with them once a week or fortnight until they start. This could be an appropriate time to send them some information about your values, culture and mission to reinforce their positive feelings towards the company they have decided to join.
Many companies add nice touches for someone’s first day, like a welcome pack or a team lunch. These things give this candidate a sense of belonging, that they are part of your team and company.
Aim to transpose what you usually do to a virtual setting. If you usually do a team lunch, send them a Deliveroo, or send them the swag bag in the post along with a handwritten note from the team, manager or CEO; these are simple things you can do to have a profound impact on someone’s immediate perception of your company.
It is important to introduce your new employee to the team and the wider business. Send out a short bio to the wider business and introduce them over video chat to their team.
Physical and virtual workspace
Set them up for success.
Engineers want to contribute code as soon as possible; make sure their machine is set up with their favourite IDE so they can contribute to building and shipping your products in the first week.
Think about providing thorough documentation about your standard merging process, version numbers and developer standards
Make sure their physical workspace is ergonomic and they have the equipment they need to work effectively. This is a very personal thing for a software engineer so perhaps think about giving them a budget that allows them to do this.
This is a great starting point to strengthen your candidate’s impressions of your company and that they made the right decision to join.
A two-week schedule and their first ticket
Sending out a two-week schedule before your new recruit starts gives them a psychological safety net as they know what to expect, and don’t forget to leave breaks in to allow them to reflect on all of the new information.
Think about setting up pair programming intertwined with the first ticket they will pick up, so the new recruit can understand the path to production; think Jira workflow, the status’ on tickets, user stories, testing, peer review process through to deployment.
As a leader, you should be hyper-aware in these first two weeks, checking in daily and ensuring they know who to go to when they get stuck on something.
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face to face conversation as we need more focus than a face-to-face conversation to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, tone and pitch of the voice and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy (1).
It can be easy to book a new recruit into every zoom meeting you can find, to take things off your own plate. Instead, give the new recruit the option to join video calls with other teams, which will give them the chance to get to know more of their colleagues as well as understand how the wider business comes together but also use the time for other important work if necessary.
A new recruit’s induction should be as long as their probationary period, manage their expectations and don’t try to achieve everything at once – let them settle into the role. Check in regularly and ask for feedback on their experience. Make sure they feel part of the team.
In some time, if your team is to return to the office, it’s incredibly important to reintroduce this staff member to the team & stakeholders again. It will reinforce their sense of belonging and give them a chance to get to know their colleagues in person.