By Dan Baron, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing
It is an undeniable truth is that the way we do business has changed. And with it, the way we onboard.
Maybe you’re happy about the shift to remote work, or maybe it’s causing you grief. For some, it takes the form of fully remote staff. For others, that may mean the team only gathers for 2 or 3 days a week. While the practice has proven that the work still gets done (better and often faster), what happens when you bring in someone new?
Onboarding has traditionally been a blend of Informal and Formal Training. Often, formal training is led by a tenured team member or manager. While informal training comes from hearing and seeing the work getting done. But in this new environment, Informal Training can be almost impossible to plan and even harder to qualify. While there is not a “right” or “wrong” approach to addressing this deficiency, below are some of the innovative ways that companies are overcoming those obstacles.
1) Sample Work
You have so much to learn when you start at a new company. You may be learning about products, processes, workflows, and/or responsibilities. Often, it can be incredibly overwhelming, as rarely do new hires come with all the skills required. Often, the gaps in training are not found in the philosophy of the work, but rather in the execution. Comfort within a role can take anywhere from 12-24 months for most employees, and often it only comes with experience and repetition.
However, you have a backlog of work that can help speed this up. You have customer correspondence, completed projects, and sample documents. These can be used to give the new hire exposure to the work, but without the pressure of “Success or Failure.” Offer your new hire homework on a weekly or daily basis, have them draft replies to customers or work on projects where they are able to check their work in real-time, and you will see that comfort grow.
2) Establish a ‘Mentor’ Team
Delivering any content that you have created is key. Whether it be content around the company or the work itself, you want to make sure you are putting that training in the hands of a qualified person. Most companies have someone who takes responsibility for keeping training materials up-to-date and delivering on them. Their comfort with the material helps exponentially in the verification of understanding. But your broader team could help, not only to lighten the load on your trainer(s) but also to provide more substantive in-the-moment lessons.
Whether it be by specialty, job function or just as simple as availability, you can split up sections of the training to be delivered by any member of your team. Not only does this help to give your new hire a chance to meet more of their peers, but it also can serve as a vote of confidence in the individuals on a team. Protecting the “correct methodologies” and avoiding “tribal knowledge” is still important and can still be achieved through a lead trainer’s validation.
3) ‘Work Room’
Engagement is a huge factor in determining a new employee’s comfort. Knowing that they are part of a team takes more than an org chart and directory. It takes genuine interaction.
You may already do something like weekly “Team Huddles” or even the occasional Happy Hour. And while that helps with making sure the team gets to know each other and their work style, it does not offer much as far as informal training goes. In this regard, nothing will replace the office environment, as it presents different scenarios and offers many opportunities for a new hire to listen in. However, there is a virtual way to accomplish this, at least in a minor way. “Virtual Work Rooms.”
To try this, you just need an audio chat room where your team can join (Discord, Slack, or Teams just off the top of my head.) There is no set time frame like most meetings. This is instead just an open room where you give your team the option of logging in at any point in the day, for however long they would like. This helps to take away some of the awkwardness that comes with reaching out to people you do not know for guidance. It also serves to creates a safe space for employees to have non-productive conversations, which only helps to create an engaging team environment.
4) Introduce Culture Early
When is the best time to let a new hire know about what makes you stand out as an employer? When is the best time to share how your team communicates and collaborates? These are all factors that we want our new team members to pick up quickly because they work as the foundation for the fire hose of knowledge they are about to drink from.
Learning about the company and culture should not wait for day one. Ideally, candidates should be considering company culture in the early interview process. Whether it is in an initial screening, later down the line in panels, or in 1-on-1 interviews; aligning about your culture ensures that both parties are best prepared right out of the gate. This also helps to take some pressure off new employees around asking for assistance or guidance. They will have some understanding of how your team prefers to communicate.
In conclusion, when it comes to onboarding new team members, you must be persistent and willing to be creative. By using these strategies, you can build a reliable process that will take headaches out of onboarding.