There have been many articles and books written about “Onboarding” and the importance of the First 90 Days. Never has this been so important than in today’s COVID world.

Recruiting staff by video interviews is having an impact on recruitment in a number of ways.

  • Candidates reluctance to change jobs
  • Senior Management reluctant to hire someone they have not met face to face

So having made your hiring decision how do you on board the candidate? The situation facing the new hire is

  • Not able to visit the new office
  • Not meeting new colleagues – both in senior staffs who you need to work with and the staff who report to you (directly and indirectly)
  • Spending your first weeks in the new company working from home and not knowing anyone

However it is much deeper than this!

The new executive is not familiar with the organisation structure, the informal networks, the company culture and above all not knowing their own team

The higher up the organization you are, the more important are culture, politics, building relationships and developing a new network.

Onboarding new management requires a clearly defined strategy incorporating mentoring.

Mentoring needs to be a proactive and sustained activity, not just providing lists of the new colleagues and their CV’s and the phone number of “Jack – he knows everyone”. Jack or Jill may be recently retired and happy to make introductions to other staff and also explain how things really get done in the company!

Companies need to appoint dedicated Mentors and the Mentors need to be trained in “Onboarding by Video” The Jacks and the Jills can be a key part of the process.

The risk is that your new candidate may fall overboard.

Before the start date try to anticipate and resolve obstacles

Don’t make assumptions about your new staff member’s ability to work remotely. Some roles that require direct client contact or direct colleague contact just cannot be done over the phone or video. But assuming your new hire’s job (at least part of it) can be done remotely, there is a need to prepare to make it happen.

First of all ensure your IT staff get your new hire the technology and connectivity they need and are trained as necessary. Similar to technology requirements, see if there are any paperwork requirements (like completing payroll and benefits enrollment forms) that cannot be e-signed. If yes, make sure the paperwork gets to your new hire in a timely fashion. Sweat these seemingly “small things” because they can make a huge difference in your new hire’s ability to access healthcare or get paid on time, as week as making them feel welcome.

Consider how much the company operations have had to change to deal with the “new normal” as well as changes to the new recruits own role since the job offer was made. Tailor the onboarding process to the new role (even if it’s temporary). Make sure to communicate to the new staff member about the changed environment and need for flexibility as well as the longer-term vision for the role.

Out of sight, but not out of mind

  • Have a virtual welcome celebration. Onboarding is as much about making a new hire feel comfortable in their new environment as it is about teaching them the nuances of the role they were hired for. Throw them a welcome party via videoconference.
  • Help them build their network. Connect them to their colleagues by doing personal email introductions or setting up one-on-ones. You can also assign a buddy or mentor to check in weekly with your new hire. Since they can’t benefit from the organic network-building that happens in shared physical spaces, anything you do to help them make connections will make a difference.

Setting up the Manager-Staff relationship

  • Communicating schedules and availability. While this is an important part of any onboarding, it is essential now. One or both of you may need to keep odd or irregular hours, so figure out what works best for scheduling and communication. Similarly, share any organizational calendar norms.
  • Adjust the cadence and format of your check-ins and onboarding sessions. Your typical hour-long check-ins with direct reports might need to be more like two 30-minute check-ins per week. Your standard onboarding process might have included multi-hour long sessions, but that might not translate well to videoconference. So you’ll need to bite-size them and offer plenty of breaks.
  • Don’t forget to check on their situation. A new hire will be reluctant to tell you about their constraints eg child care or take advantage of any flexibility the organization offers at this early stage.
  • Set out 30-day goals. Craft goals based on how the new staff member can best contribute to the organization’s current goals. Demonstrate how the goals connect to the organization’s priorities and mission, and also how they relate to the skills that are essential for the new hire’s new normal and eventual role.
  • Have the new hire ‘self-drive’ parts of the onboarding. You can lighten the load for yourself (especially with senior hires) by letting them own parts of their onboarding process. Some self-drive ideas include:
    • Reviewing your mission and vision documents
    • Perusing recent external-facing communications
    • Shadowing meetings and calls
    • Participating in debriefs or brainstorming sessions

Ask your new hire to keep a running list of questions or ideas that come up as they’re doing these activities and discuss them during your check-ins.Regular feedback is important. Set up a regular cadence for giving praise and developmental feedback from the outset. Model the qualities you want to see and make feedback a regular part of your check-ins.

If you require more information, please contact Denis Miles-Vinall , The Buckingham Academy :