As the coronavirus crisis continues, organizations are trying to continue operations as much as they can. However, daily affairs now require a special approach. For example: onboarding and training new colleagues. After all, you have to keep your distance, even during the onboarding program. However, ineffective onboarding can cost your company between 90 and 200 percent of an annual salary. So, despite the current circumstances, it’s still very important to take good care of the onboarding of new employees. According to Netpresenters Head of Operations, Linda van Oppen, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel during the coronavirus crisis. One thing is vital during proper onboarding nowadays: copious amounts of attention.
Linda van Oppen faced the onboarding challenge herself, when a new colleague joined Netpresenter early April. Van Oppen typically runs an extensive program with new employees. This program isn’t only intended to get someone started as soon as possible (the ‘cold’ side of onboarding), but also to ensure that someone feels welcome, gets to know all of their colleagues, and embraces the company culture (the ‘warm’ side of onboarding). ‘However, it’s difficult to feel welcome in an empty office. Meanwhile, new colleagues are probably extra insecure about their unconventional start. A warm welcome has never been more important’.
Assigning a ‘buddy’ to a new employee is an essential part of this warm welcome. He or she offers a helping hand during the onboarding process. In this case, she took on the role of buddy herself. ‘The buddy system is now extra important,’ Van Oppen explains. For example, with no physical distancing, walking to lunch or a meeting together is a natural thing to do with new employees. As this isn’t a possibility at the moment, properly introducing someone might take some extra work under the current circumstances. ‘You have to make a little more effort for a warm welcome, and it’s probably going to be digital.’
Van Oppen also stresses the importance of communicating as clearly and transparently as possible. She had to do this herself when the start date of the new colleague was initially postponed by two weeks due to the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus. ‘We called twice a week at that time. Normally, an e-mail prior to the start date is sufficient, but when things go less smoothly, it’s better to make a phone call,’ says Van Oppen. ‘Be honest. If you’re uncertain about something, just say so. These are uncertain times for everyone. Employers have never experienced this before, either. They don’t always know how to deal with this situation. It would be best if you made clear agreements,’ she adds. But even after the starting date, clear communication remains crucial. ‘For me, it’s important to be able to judge someone on how they function and fit within the organization during the first month. That is only possible if a person knows what is expected of them. Express those expectations clearly.’
Software plays an important role, supporting the onboarding process. At Netpresenter we currently use Microsoft Teams for daily communication. Colleagues communicate with each other via Teams, but there’s also plenty of interdisciplinary communication: a weekly meeting with the entire company ensures that everyone is aware of each other’s daily activities. Thanks to this weekly meeting, new employees quickly find out who their colleagues are and what they are working on.
In addition, we publish internal news on our own software. We also introduce new colleagues via our corporate channel. In normal times, this introduction is visible throughout the entire office on all narrowcasting screens. Now our office is almost empty. Fortunately, the message is also visible in the company app, where colleagues from all departments can leave a welcome message immediately. This feature was especially popular, now that we can’t get acquainted face to face easily. Although our newest addition has yet to meet most of his colleagues in real life, he already knows what’s going on in the company. He also got a pretty clear view of our company culture.
Despite some adjustments to the execution of the onboarding program, and extra use of digital tools, our own Linda van Oppen didn’t need to change course completely. All the usual steps were taken, albeit with even more attention for our new colleague. ‘A new job is always exciting, so put yourself in the shoes of the other person.’ Although onboarding has become a bit of a challenge nowadays, the circumstances also offer an opportunity to reflect on your current onboarding program, Van Oppen thinks. ‘If your onboarding is already in order, just go the extra mile and hold on to it. If you don’t have a solid onboarding program yet, now is the time to create one!’
Could you use some tips to improve your onboarding program? Check our five tips for effective onboarding.