How to Remotely Onboard New Employees During COVID-19

By Skye Schooley,
business.com writer
|
Jul 08, 2020
Image Credit: AndreyPopov / Getty Images

Quontic successfully onboarded remote employees during the pandemic. Learn how your business can do this too.

Every small business has to master the art of effective hiring and onboarding to retain top talent, but with the pandemic forcing employers to use remote tools to perform these functions, some are struggling to modify their approach. To guide you through the best practices of remote onboarding strategies, we spoke to HR expert Mike Lantz, chief people officer at Quontic, an adaptive digital bank based in New York City. 

Quontic places a high importance on hiring the right employees, and investing in their growth and development – especially during the pandemic. Quontic has successfully hired and onboarded 10 new employees during the pandemic, with Lantz spearheading the efforts. Learn about the six strategies Lantz and Quontic use to successfully navigate remote hiring and onboarding, and how your business can follow suit. 

The importance of strategic employee hiring and onboarding

According to recent studies, great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82% and boost productivity by more than 70%. 

"Effective onboarding drives employee engagement and employee retention," Lantz told business.com. "Companies that hire and onboard well can quickly gain an advantage over their competition. Effective onboarding drives up employee performance and drives down overall cost of turnover and poor performance." 

A 2017 Gallup report revealed that 88% of employees believe the organizations they work for don't onboard well, leaving much room for improvement (and that report didn't consider the specific challenges of sudden remote onboarding). 

By making strategic efforts to enhance your onboarding process now, you have a competitive advantage of hiring the best talent. 

How to remotely hire and onboard new employees during the pandemic

Lantz identified six key strategies that Quontic uses to onboard remote employees. Small businesses can implement these tactics to successfully hire and remotely onboard new hires amidst the pandemic. 

1. Focus on job description and role clarity.

Before making any hiring decisions, focus on identifying clear roles for each open position. Additionally, Lantz recommended creating clear expectations for what your desired outcome is for each employee's first 12 months of employment. This will ensure that your hiring managers know what key skills to look for in an employee. 

"This allows the recruiting team to ensure the candidates you are recruiting fit with the culture and bring the capabilities needed to get the job done," said Lantz. "This is something we always do, pandemic or not, but it is much more important during the pandemic since the new team members are working from home and don't have the natural interaction that occurs in the day to day of working together in an office setting." 

2. Engage new hires before their start date.

Employers should be deliberate and intentional about creating an inclusive and engaging experience for each new hire, even before they officially join your company. Go the extra mile to make new hires feel as though they are already part of your organization, especially when you are hiring remotely. 

"Given there is a lag from the offer letter to starting, it is important to engage since they aren't fully committed," said Lantz. "For example, send a company swag bag or a book that embodies company culture for them to read ahead of starting. It's also important to quickly connect ahead of the start date to answer any questions or just touch base to see how they are doing; it will show true connection and dedication." 

3. Recreate face-to-face interactions.

Think of everything you would typically do when onboarding a new hire in person and find a way to do it remotely. When onboarding a new hire, it is important to create a professional, comfortable environment that makes you (and the employee) feel as though you are interacting in an office setting, face to face. For example, Lantz suggests holding each video chat meeting in a quiet area with an appropriate backdrop and professional attire. 

"Be sure you are giving the new hire all of your attention, and don't check email in the middle of onboarding as it might be distracting and could make the new hire not feel as important," said Lantz. "It's also imperative to create the same experience as if you're in the office every day. For example, schedule a Zoom lunch, make sure the new hire is introduced to everyone on the team, participate in virtual happy hours, etc." 

4. Overcommunicate and overengage.

When you are remotely onboarding new employees, it is especially important that you overcommunicate and overengage with them to create a sense of belonging. Employers should be prepared with a strategized onboarding system that can be easily transferred to a remote environment and clearly communicated to new remote employees. 

"[Overcommunication] is especially important for new hires," said Lantz. "They have joined a team, where in most cases they have never met any of their co-workers, except through video chat. It is important for new hires to feel included and a part of something." 

Since Quontic's team members have recently been working from home, Quontic leadership has been intentional about overcommunicating and creating opportunities for new hires to connect with Quontic team members during the pandemic. 

5. Find ways to introduce your company culture.

Company culture is a key ingredient for increasing employee engagement and retention. However, it can be difficult for new hires to get a true sense of your organization's culture when they are working strictly in a remote environment. 

Think of unique ways to virtually demonstrate your company culture and include your new hires in the process. Whether this means virtual lunches, team competitions, online games, or virtual happy hours, include your new employees in events that represent your company culture and get your team interacting. Lantz also recommends adding a mentorship program. 

"To ensure engagement with a new hire and existing associates, it's smart to consider creating a mentor program so the new hire feels engaged in the company and its culture," said Lantz. "The mentor should be someone whom they can be transparent with and connect with outside of the office as well. This person can introduce them to the ins and outs of the company they are joining."   

6. Facilitate intentional onboarding. 

Intentional onboarding is crucial, especially during a time when everyone is working from home. It is important that you follow a strategized onboarding plan to ensure that each new hire is getting the most they can out of their training and introductory period.   

"The learning that a new hire gains from overhearing discussions or water-cooler conversations when everyone is working in the same building doesn't occur when everyone is remote," said Lantz. "Before a new hire starts, Quontic builds out a detailed onboarding plan ensuring they connect with all the necessary people and have all the critical experiences to learn their job." 

What to avoid when remotely hiring and onboarding employees

Just as there is a right way to remotely hire and onboard new talent, there is a wrong way as well. Lantz listed the top four things every employer should avoid when virtually onboarding new employees: 

  1. Avoid assuming the way you used to hire and onboard is the only right way. Innovate and create a new onboarding strategy to fit a remote environment. 
  1. Avoid assuming your current managers know how to interview and onboard using remote tools. HR can be a great partner here by creating training for how to do this. 
  1. Avoid delaying hiring and onboarding – the time to strike is now. 
  1. Avoid hiring candidates who don't have a strong independent work ethic. If a candidate requires a lot of management or accountability, think twice. You will not be physically around to motivate them. 

Overcoming the challenges of remote onboarding

Switching to a remote workforce can be challenging, and virtually onboarding new employees is no exception. For successful implementation, ensure your staff has the right remote tools at their disposal, and train your hiring team on the new software and virtual onboarding best practices. 

"Companies during the pandemic must refine their hiring and onboarding capabilities by utilizing remote tools, documenting their hiring and onboarding process with precision, and training their recruiters and hiring managers on best practices relative to remote hiring and onboarding," said Lantz. "Bottom line, it takes more effort, but the outcome is worth it." 

For the Quontic team, the hardest part about converting to remote onboarding was the lack of face-to-face interaction with candidates. However, with proper training and adjustment, the team has thrived. Its recruiting department is now much more efficient at conducting interviews remotely than it was in person. 

By strategically implementing a remote onboarding process and adjusting it to fit your employees' needs, you, too, can successfully hire and onboard virtual new hires.

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. She received a business communication degree from Arizona State University and spent a few years traveling internationally, before finally settling down in the greater New York City area. She currently writes for business.com and Business News Daily, primarily contributing articles about business technology and the workplace, and reviewing categories such as remote PC access software, collection agencies, background check services, web hosting, reputation management services, cloud storage, and website design software and services.
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