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. If you have any ideas on topics you’d like us to cover on this blog, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what information would add the most value to your business during this challenging time.
The arrival of COVID-19 has introduced social distancing and remote working as the new normal. Business as usual approaches are being disrupted, re-evaluated, and modified. Companies that have been resistant to a work from home policy have been forced to move to a virtual environment. Organisations that were once slow to market have mobilised themselves to expand their digital offerings and strategies. Amidst the disruption it is critical for organisations to question the status quo and establish improved and sustainable ways of working. As we navigate this fast-paced transition period, organisations need to interrogate their existing decision-making structures, knowledge sharing capabilities and communication channels in order to identify potential inefficiencies and areas of improvements. Re-evaluating decision-making structures Organisations should question whether their current decision-making structures support informed and swift decision making. The pandemic has forced many companies to make difficult decisions relating to employee safety, business strategy and customer engagement, with the number and gravity of decisions increasing exponentially. It is important, therefore, to take a critical look at all current decision-making structures in order to identify those that need to be streamlined or changed. Companies should identify which decisions are most critical and then categorise them in order to understand where in the organisation those decisions should be made. Previous approaches which limited decision-making authority only to the very top level of management no longer enable leaders at various levels to respond urgently to pressing issues during the crisis. Now is the time to empower more stakeholders in the decision-making process. To encourage new ways of problem solving, some companies have created a forum for rapid debate. It is an opportunity for individuals from across the business to participate and share their perspectives. In this way, more viewpoints can be considered before any decision is taken. Coordinate knowledge sharing While organisations respond and adapt to the challenges of the pandemic, consideration for how knowledge is coordinated within the business becomes pivotal. As companies that used to be co-located move towards virtual environments and teams, clarity on how knowledge is stored, shared, and leveraged must be established. Internal processes and procedures need to be documented, digitised and accessible to all employees. What information should be digitised is an important question to ask. If the decision is made without careful consideration, the information may be incomplete, incorrect, or irrelevant. Companies should identify critical operational, product and customer service knowledge to be documented and digitised in order to support business continuity. Technology also becomes an important factor to consider. Organisations have started to leverage document sharing software like MS Teams, Google Docs and DropBox to share knowledge. Finding the right tool will depend on your specific needs, but the important thing to remember is that it should promote fast and easy knowledge sharing to support the ever-changing environment that the pandemic has created. Effective and frequent communication As the workforce has become distributed and remotely connected with little human interaction, effective and frequent communication is more important than ever before. Organisations have the responsibility to put their employees’ minds at ease, provide hope for the future and to bring clarity to the crisis. The level of information that is communicated during this crisis is therefore very important. The change that the pandemic has brought has likely unsettled your employees and therefore these changes should be communicated with a level of empathy to minimise anxiety. Scheduling team huddles via videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet and Skype enables management to deliver difficult messages with empathy and compassion. We’ve also seen how companies have shared important COVID-19 messages through FAQ guides, newsletters and internal systems such as the company intranet. Delivering the right information to the right people in a timely manner is key. Therefore, consider ramping up your business communications by providing weekly or even daily updates where possible. The impact of COVID-19 across the world is unprecedented and may be felt for years to come. Tried and tested business approaches may be too slow to keep up with the current pace of change. There is no better time for organisations to reassess their current approaches to ensure maximum business value. If you have any ideas on topics you’d like us to cover on this blog, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what information would add the most value to your business during this challenging time.