How to Strengthen Your Onboarding Program While Working Remotely

by Kelly O'Halloran
November 23, 2020
working remotely
shutterstock

PatientPop has always leaned on new hire feedback to shape its onboarding program. Since going remote, that feedback has become even more important.

In a survey that the operations team sent out earlier this year to employees after their first week, responses led to immediate changes in the virtual onboarding process. 

“We have an IT session as our kickoff for day one to help with laptop and account setup,” People Operations Coordinator Grace Reingruber said. “Since going remote, we realized it is more important to have the employees’ accounts and laptops all set up before kicking off the day with our CEO, as we had done previously.”

The medical practice growth platform swapped the meeting sessions at the suggestion of the new hires — a process that remains intact today. 

Similarly, at the used-car leasing platform Fair, leaders created feedback loops that tie new hires in with leadership and IT to revamp their entire process, Lei Warren, Fair’s director of HR operations, said. 

“Knowing we had to take immediate action to address coronavirus restrictions, we partnered with our IT team to come up with a list of actionable items, the timing of deliverables, any information they required, and an onboarding communication strategy,” Warren said. 

That’s led to an automated onboarding procedure and valuable feedback sessions. 

As companies continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future, Reingruber and Warren shared how they will evolve their processes as new challenges of remote onboarding arise. 

 

Grace Reingruber
People Operations Coordinator

PatientPop’s People Operations Coordinator Grace Reingruber said she and her team have struggled with making sure their new hires stay engaged without causing Zoom fatigue. By launching a company-wide step challenge, Reingruber said they’ve been able to encourage everyone — not just new hires — to take active breaks while getting some fresh air. 

 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced onboarding new employees remotely?

Due to COVID-19, we were forced to move our onboarding and new-employee experience program to be entirely virtual. What used to be three days of in-person presentations from each department, cross-department shadow sessions and live engagement has turned into days of Zoom sessions. With virtual onboarding, the biggest challenge was ensuring new hires feel like they are assimilating into the company culture. We want to prevent Zoom fatigue and burnout while employees work from home.

 

How have you overcome this challenge? 

We did a couple of things to help try and resolve this. First, we now have new employees fill out a Google Form the week before they start. The form includes their biography, a picture and two truths and a lie. Then on their first day, we ask them to post this information to the company Slack channel. This allows for other employees to welcome and engage with them as they guess the new hires’ lies. 

We also send new hires PatientPop swag along with their equipment to help them feel more welcomed on their first day. We have utilized Kudoboard, an online appreciation tool, for managers and teams to write a welcome note to their new team member. The manager then sends the new hire the Kudoboard link on their first day so they can read all the messages from their new team. 

Lastly, our team has always prioritized mentorship. In the office, we would assign new hires their mentors, who would then show them around and take them to lunch. Since going remote, we now ask our mentors to schedule a Zoom invite on the new hire’s first day for lunch, and we send the mentor and mentee a GrubHub gift card to treat themselves. 

 

How have you used the lessons you’ve learned about remote onboarding to improve your overall onboarding process? 

We are still updating and changing our processes since going remote. We’ve always sent our new hires a survey after the first week to collect any feedback or suggestions moving forward. This has been helpful in shaping updates to our virtual onboarding program and we have implemented several of the suggestions that employees have submitted. 

For example, to avoid any technical issues, we have an IT session as our kickoff for day one to help with laptop and account setup. Since going remote, we realized it is more important to have the employees’ accounts and laptops all set up before kicking off the day with our CEO, as we had done previously. Zoom burnout and fatigue was also an area we quickly learned we needed to focus on preventing early on. We prioritize giving our new hires breaks so that they aren’t sitting on their computers all day. In September, we did a company-wide step challenge to encourage all of our employees to get outside and get their steps in. 

 

Lei Warren
Director of Human Resources Operations

The HR team at the automotive fintech platform Fair implemented two key strategies to adjust onboarding for a remote environment. First, the team rolled out additional feedback loops with new hires, IT and leadership. Second, as a result of the feedback received, Fair designed IT communication strategies and an automated onboarding process to help new hires through their work accounts and equipment setup. 

 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced onboarding new employees remotely?

We’ve never underestimated the value of a well-planned and efficiently executed onboarding program. It’s an opportunity for us to make a positive first impression on our new hires. Our program includes periodic check-ins from their managers and the people team throughout their first 90 days. Transitioning to remote onboarding during COVID-19 did present its challenges, especially in delivering the right support at the right time. 

It’s more difficult to onboard a new hire with only a two-day notice without the face-to-face coordination that was possible when the IT team was a few steps away from the HR office. Instead of walking down the hallway to set up a new workstation, we now have to ship the computer to the new team member in advance and follow up to see if they need any additional equipment to set up their home office. The logistics involved in getting the employee ready for their first day have suddenly become a Herculean task. We have to be more thoughtful about how and when we deliver information to someone new to our team.

 

How have you overcome this challenge? 

We totally revamped our onboarding process by employing feedback from our new hires, hiring managers and other stakeholders. Knowing we had to take immediate action to address coronavirus restrictions, we partnered with our IT team to come up with a list of actionable items, the timing of deliverables, any information they required and an onboarding communication strategy. Fair’s IT team, led by our IT Director Yehuda Netkin, reviewed our internal systems and automated our onboarding process to allow efficient remote systems delivery. 

We were also thoughtful about how to include a human aspect in our onboarding process since new employees aren’t able to meet their fellow team members in person. Prior to a new hire’s orientation call with HR, a Fair IT team member connects with the remote employee to ensure that their equipment was received on time and to follow up if they have any questions regarding their system access.

 

How have you used the lessons you’ve learned about remote onboarding to improve your overall onboarding process? 

It was definitely a learning experience. We had to re-engineer our onboarding process and adapt to a new remote work environment. There’s still work to be done. The HR and IT teams have a recurring weekly call to go through expected onboarding and offboarding events and to review feedback from all stakeholders. This allows us to stay proactive and make adjustments as needed while remaining focused on delivering an amazing onboarding experience to our new hires.

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