Onboarding new team members is typically a very personalised, face-to-face experience. The current shift to remote working, introduced by the pandemic, has however introduced challenges one would not previously have considered.
Painting the scene
In an ideal world there would be someone to welcome a new team member in person, show them around and explain practicalities like where they’ll be sitting and how the coffee machine works. In the same vein there would be someone to facilitate introductions, indicate where key company and/or project artefacts are stored and maybe even arrange a team lunch to make them feel welcome. These intentional interactions aim to familiarise the new team member with their working environment and lay the foundation for them to carve their own path and build their own personal relationships.
Onboarding a team member remotely is very different. The meet and greet is now an introductory email and the welcome lunch becomes virtual greetings that may span across multiple meetings over several days. As these ways of working are still new to most, for new team members who need to be onboarded virtually, it can feel a bit unsettling.
The following 3 tips will help to reduce new starter anxiety and ensure a smoother transition into reaching their full productive capacity:
Facilitate virtual introductions to connect team members
Introducing new team members to the team is an important part of creating an environment where new starters feel comfortable and motivated to contribute. It is difficult to create that “water cooler experience” virtually and having a thoughtful approach to facilitating virtual team introductions will go a long way toward improved team morale.
To immerse new team members into their new working environment, consider setting up various channels to connect the team. Introductions can be done formally or informally, facilitated in groups, one-on-one or a combination of these formats. Also consider scheduling weekly virtual team check-ins with a slot dedicated to introducing new team members.
Virtual social events such as lunch and learn sessions or team quizzes also give new starters the opportunity to get to know their colleagues in an unpressured, informal setting.
Ensure project artefacts and information are readily available
To ensure that the new starter can easily find their way around your virtual landscape to track down key documents and information, be sure to have a virtual onboarding info pack or “cheat sheet” available. The pack should include information about where all project and other documentation is stored, who to contact if they have any specific questions, a team organogram with each person’s role and contact details and some ways of working ground rules, like what tools the team uses to collaborate.
Tools such as SharePoint and MS Teams are great for storing, organising and sharing project files. When compiling your list of key artefacts, also include details regarding the document owner and purpose. A project wiki which outlines a project’s history, milestones and timelines is also helpful to get new team members up to speed quickly and easily. The general rule here is: the more information you can provide, the better but keep it simple, clear, and focused on the reader.
Empower new team members with the right tools for the job
Each team has a specific set of software tools that are used to support communication and collaboration. It is therefore important to equip your new starter with “how to” guides to these tools as well as a virtual buddy system to help them get comfortable with the team’s work dynamics.
MS Teams, Slack, Jira and Trello are all examples of common software tools used by teams to stay on top of their work items and share progress with their team members, but the way in which these tools are used typically differs from company to company. So even if your new starter has experience with using your selected tools, bear in mind that they will still need guidance around how it is used within your organisation’s specific context.
A final thought
Onboarding new team members virtually takes intentional consideration and careful planning. Applying the tips above will go a long way in ensuring that your new team members feel adequately equipped to not only tackle the job at hand, but to thrive in their new role.
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