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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Thank you for listening to the Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Onboarding during a pandemic can present many challenges. Your short-term, urgent priorities may be very different from what they appeared to be when you started the interview process. And to make matters worse, instead of introducing your new employee to their team in the office, you are jumping into important meetings over fragmented, blurry zoom calls. In this week’s episode, Jeff talks to Michael Watkins about how to help new employees succeed remotely and set your organization up for long-term success.

Onboarding remote employees is a difficult process. Most people who are hiring and onboarding people never intended to do it remotely. New employees are constantly learning, and in a remote situation, you have to change the way you learn and be even more structured. You need more organizational support because the problem isn’t connecting new people with their teams. It is connecting them with their peers and bosses.

The new employee needs more direction and vulnerability from their bosses, but this may not be something they have thought about. If you are a new employee, you need to be focused on getting the information that you need. Q: Why do you think vulnerability helps onboarding? What was harder for you to understand when you were first integrated into your company--the culture or the work? Why? What made that transition easier? How can you apply that to a remote situation?

For the new employee, make sure that you identify who is at your meetings or on your group calls. In a remote setting, it can be hard to identify all the people involved in decision-making. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get to know your co-workers and their executive assistants, and always ask a lot of questions. Take the initiative to do whatever you can to be well-informed and well-connected.

Q: What do you think is most challenging about meeting people on zoom? What helps you feel connected to other people in a remote environment? How can you help new people connect better over the phone or a video call?

For the boss or human resources representative, see it as your responsibility to help that new person be successful and remember that small things can make a big difference! Set up a virtual mentoring or coaching program can help new employees connect with the company culture and better understand their role in the company’s workflow and mission. Identify their “key stakeholders.” These are the people who have an interest in your company and can either be affected by or affect you and your decision making. This could also be your boss, co-workers, or direct reports.

As you apply these guidelines, keep in mind that effective virtual onboarding does not apply exclusively to external hires. Employees making internal moves in a remote-work environment can face challenges that are as tough as — if not tougher than — those confronted by new leaders coming from the outside. And in the midst of a crisis, it’s just as important to get them up to speed quickly. Q: What challenges might an internal hire face? Why do you think it could be harder to adjust remotely?

Application Activities:

  1. How has your onboarding process changed since the start of the pandemic? Does it include virtual training or mentorship? Make a list of the ways that it has changed. If you have not changed much, do you feel like you need to change anything? Take some time to go over your newest employees’ onboarding experiences. Even when the pandemic is over, their feedback will help you continue to improve your retention rates and productivity.

  2. Do you know how all of your employees are connected? What employees need to have good relationships with each other? Think through these relationships and create an “introductions” list for each position so that you can ensure the right people are being connected whenever there is turnover in a position.

  3. How are your employees doing if you are still working remotely? Have you taken the time to check in with them? Remember that working remotely can be challenging when there are unclear expectations and poor communication. Ask some honest questions to make sure you aren’t missing anything and creating more opportunities for turnover (and therefore more onboarding!).

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