Last week OPM issued new guidance providing flexibilities for agencies to onboard new workers using remote tools. The memo lays out a few key activities that agencies can now perform using teleconferencing tools and encourages HR and IT leaders to work together to find the most effective ways to complete the administrative requirements of onboarding.
The new options are intended to enable agencies to continue meeting their staffing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, while the memo addresses remote delivery for the administrative elements of onboarding, agencies may be struggling to effectively connect new employees to the new organization. And, with one recent study suggesting that a negative onboarding experience makes new employees two times more likely to look for a new job, it’s clear that effective onboarding must be a priority.
Here are six things to consider as you are working to quickly shift to virtual onboarding:
6 Keys to Virtual Onboarding
- Focus on the essentials – The study referenced above also found that the average onboarding process has 54 tasks for new employees. While that may be okay when they are face-to-face with someone who can help guide them through the process, asking a new hire to sift through all those requirements alone is daunting. Your virtual onboarding process should focus just on what is critical for the employee to get to work. Look for ways to streamline administrative requirements and consider deferring non-essential administrative trainings and meetings. Challenge yourself and hiring managers to find ways to assign productive work within the first few days of the employees tenure.
- Start before day one – In traditional onboarding processes, a lot of the pre-first day activity is administrative and misses out on opportunities to begin engaging the new hire in their new role and their new organization. Instead of just thinking about what needs to be done to get the employee to their first day, consider how you can best engage prior to the first day to help them connect to their work, their colleagues and the organization.
- Make time for one-on-one sessions with their supervisors – LinkedIn found that 72% of new hires in their survey said one-on-one time with their supervisors was the most important part of their onboarding experience. And, 96% found the meetings at least somewhat useful. Encouraging supervisors in your agency to prioritize spending time with new hires is an essential part of onboarding.
- Integrate storytelling – Every element of your virtual onboarding experience is an opportunity to build the brand of the agency and introduce new hires to the culture and values of the organization. Leverage videos, blogs, and articles that demonstrate the values, attributes, and behaviors that define your organization. You should share the stories that demonstrate the impact your agency has on customers and communities to help new employees get inspired by the impact their work will have.
- Intentionally connect new hires to their colleagues – Helping new hires feel a sense of connection and belonging to a distributed team is really critical. Consider scheduling virtual coffee meetings between new employees and their team members. Or, having team members write notes to mail to the new employee’s home office. In a time where all connections are electronic, having a physical link others can be very meaningful.
- Stay agile – Remember, you likely won’t get the virtual onboarding process right the first time – or maybe even the 51st time. And, that’s okay. If there was ever a time not to let perfect be the enemy of the good it’s now. Don’t be afraid to try new things, experiment, and learn. Resist the urge to invest in technology-driven solutions that are time-consuming to build and difficult to maintain. Instead, look for ways to rapidly deploy tools and processes that you can quickly adapt based on feedback from new employees. Be open to your new employees that the process is still a work in progress and enlist them as part of the team to help you make it better for those who come after them.
The rapid, forced shift to remote onboarding is going to stretch even the most forward-leaning and resilient organizations. But, with a few simple practices and the right attitude, you can capture the opportunity to radically reinvent the way you bring new people on to the job.
Need more tips on effective onboarding? Check out the GovLoop guide to essential onboarding.
Tim Bowden is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He is partner at Gotham Government Services, and is most energized when he’s exploring how the intersection of culture, people, and strategy drive business results. For nearly 20 years he has collaborated with clients in the public, private, and non-profit sectors to address mission-critical challenges in the areas of culture, leadership development, and learning. Additionally, Tim has experience in the design and analysis of survey-based measures of culture, employee engagement, and interpersonal skills. He has provided executive advisory, learning, and organizational culture programs for the Marine Corps Systems Command, Treasury Executive Institute, Department of Labor, and the Naval Sea Systems Command.