Since the lockdown started, GuyKat has welcomed five new joiners. All five had accepted their offers and quit their previous jobs in the weeks before coronavirus changed everything. It is always a big step for anyone to make a job move. Imagine the extra stress of joining a new company in these uncertain times. This creates an HR challenge; how do you successfully onboard people to your culture and ways-of-working in these extraordinary circumstances?

Paradoxically, the starting point in a crisis is no different than normal times. We know from experience that new starters are more likely to be successful when we do specific things. We have a checklist! The key in this crisis is that ‘remote working’ is not used as an excuse to miss anything out. The steps will be the same. However, delivering them remotely will likely mean you have to deliver them differently. That may need some creative thinking.

To give you the idea, some of GuyKat’s onboarding tasks are listed below – you can adapt this for your own company.

  1. Company history

First things first. We start the induction process telling the story of our company. We want staff to understand how we ‘grew up’. There are turning points in our story that explain why we do some things in very specific ways. We want to build an emotional connection between our new starter and their new work family.  We’ve had an exciting story so far, and we want them excited about their chance to play a part in our next chapters. Usually, our CEO runs this session. Up to now, it has always been done in person. The CEO having individual sessions with everyone isn’t going to be practical if a company moves from counting employees in the tens to the hundreds or thousands, but if you can find someone who has tenure and is part of the company story, and who is passionate about it – then they can pull it off as well as the CEO. This session can still be done remotely. It doesn’t matter that you might be miles away from each other, walk through the story with interactive pdfs, images and insights of how the company reached the point where it is now. This is essential to understanding a company’s culture and how things work internally.

  1. Assign a buddy and a mentor

The best people start new positions wanting to feel challenged and hoping to learn continuously. Assigning a mentor and a buddy can unlock this. Our rule of thumb is the mentor should be at least one ‘level’ above the mentee in seniority, ideally higher. It works best when they are in a role that the new starter might realistically aspire to one day. The buddy should ideally be at the same ‘level’, but certainly no more than one above them. The role of the buddy is to give them someone they feel safe to ask what they think are daft questions they would be too embarrassed to ask someone they wish to impress. In reality, they are rarely daft questions, but it is part of professional growth that people feel they are. We help them through any initial imposter syndrome when the mentor/buddy system is working well. In remote working, you need to nudge your mentors and buddies to be pro-active in reaching out to offer their support. It is usually a ‘push’ model of support at first, and you will know it is working when the new starter has turned it into a ‘pull’ model.

  1. Introductory meetings with key staff from different teams

First impressions are so important! Here at GuyKat, everyone is tasked with scheduling a 15-minute introduction meeting with the new starter at some point in their first month.  Even if it is likely their roles mean they will never work together directly. This gives an overview of the whole company, all the different teams, and all the various products and services and back-office support. It will demystify the organisation. Having everyone do this in the first month is only sustainable to about 50 people (it is sustainable even with that many!).  If your company is larger, you may want to have a cross-section of random connections between divisions. This can be done remotely via Zoom or similar technology. In a lockdown, this is as much benefit for the existing staff member as the joiner. Human contact and connection with colleagues beyond the business nitty-gritty and silo make for happier people.

  1. Join Sales Calls

We have new starters listen in on some initial calls with new business leads (i.e. sales calls!).  We do this even if the starter is never, ever going to be in either a sales role, or a direct client-facing role.  It’s a great way of letting people hear how we talk about the company and how we position our services. It’s also a great way of letting our new starters understand the issues that our clients are reaching out for us to solve.  The only difference in the current situation is that they likely have to join the teleconference as a distinct attendee which is more visible to the lead than if they were sitting in the office listening in. We find that all leads are completely cool when we explain why they are present.  If someone wasn’t, we likely wouldn’t want to work with them!

  1. Keep on the communication

Let’s not stop once onboarding is finished. Communicating between employees is essential. Bring on the pets, family and kids onto the zoom calls. Quizzes, happy hours and general catch-ups are essential. Every Monday morning make a list of the people in the company you’d like to have a chat with this week and schedule it. Embrace online life and keep yourself and others in the loop!

Onboarding at the time of crisis is harder than usual.  However, it is as important as always. Keep your employees engaged and you will see how they will flourish once everything is back to normal.