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Getting your new talent off to the best possible start in the post-COVID era


Onboarding has always been a challenge for organisations, whether they're start-ups or international corporations. There are numerous factors to consider, from practical ones - like gathering payroll information, setting up phones and laptops, and arranging access to office space - to more subtle ones, like ensuring new joiners are able to bond with their teams and are comfortable in their new working environment.

But with the forced move to lockdown and remote working in early 2020, employees joining new companies were unable to go through the familiar first day, where they'd be shown round, introduced to their colleagues, and put through a formal induction process. Indeed, many have even been through the interview process remotely, utilising Teams, Zoom, and the other platforms that have become omnipresent in our working lives.

So, looking back at all this more than a year later, what has COVID-19 taught us about the elements of a successful onboarding process, and how can we ensure these lessons inform the way we welcome new talent in the future?

Our experiences of virtual onboarding

At Exponential-e, we experienced these challenges first-hand throughout 2020 and into 2021. The most encouraging thing we witnessed was the way our teams, and those of our Channel Partners, supported each other throughout the transitional period, ensuring channels of communication remain open and new joiners are properly supported, whether that means arranging formal induction calls and virtual training sessions or just dropping them a line to see how they're doing.

As a result of this regular virtual contact, staff are much readier to simply call their colleagues if they need something, even if it's someone they've not met before. While this would have been unusual just two years ago, it's rapidly become a normal part of our working days - no different to asking someone a question when you pass their desk.

All this has helped develop our corporate onboarding process, ensuring it is flexible enough to accommodate remote working requirements, and ensure new arrivals' early days are productive and enjoyable.

The case for a face-to-face welcome

Regardless of these advantages, there are some thing you simply can't replicate over a call. There's no substitute for the kind of engagement and rapport building that comes from in-person meetings and interactions with our team members, particularly for teams that thrive on bouncing ideas off each other, and the longstanding relationships with customers and partners that would previously have been developed over working lunches and post-work drinks.

Furthermore, settling into a new working environment remotely can mean the first trips to the office can feel like starting again from scratch, as it's an unfamiliar environment, with team members who may have yet to meet each other in person, even after working together for more than a year.

A hybrid approach to onboarding for the new era of hybrid working

In recent posts on this blog, we've considered the rise of hybrid working - the use of both office-based and remote working on a flexible basis, providing staff with the full advantages of both. This looks set to be the 'new norm' in the post-COVID landscape and is an approach we believe should be extended to onboarding process.

For example, UC platforms can be utilised to ensure administrative tasks can be completed without requiring anyone travel, and also deliver training on a more flexible basis, while team meetings can be scheduled at the office to allow people to get to know each other and immerse themselves in the company culture.

In this way, not only will new arrivals be ready to deliver their best as quickly as possible, they will also be fully acclimatised to the new way of working. Although today (hopefully!) marks the end of lockdown, it has become clear some changes are here to stay. Hybrid working and video calls have already firmly established themselves, and for good reason. But for all their advantages, there is no substitute for seeing our colleagues - new and old - face to face, and for getting out and meeting with partners and clients. 

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