By now you are getting used to remote working. You have your home office set up, and your lower back is grateful that you no longer have your laptop perched on an ironing board while sitting on the edge of your bed. Your colleagues are used to seeing you wearing loungewear and they no longer bat an eyelid at the sight of your children or significant other wandering around in the background of the webcam. Hey, it’s the new normal, so far so good. But work doesn’t stand still even if we are in these unprecedented times. New formidable business challenges lurk around every corner. One of the biggest challenges facing business even before the crisis is handling the onboarding and induction of new employees. Many businesses still don’t understand how vital onboarding is for new employees. Adding a remote element can in some cases be the last straw. Take a look at part 1 of this blog on onboarding principles. This blog is about the tools of the trade.
Finding talent in a regular market is difficult enough. Trying to work out how to give your potential their paperwork and provide information and support is daunting enough when you’re sitting alongside your new team member. It becomes even more challenging when you’re forced to do the onboarding remotely.
The good news is that recent times have shown that tools and technology now exist to make this experience as immersive and productive as possible. Literally everyone and their grandmother knows how to use Zoom by this stage!
The quickest and easiest way to complete new employee paperwork is using DocuSign. It’s relatively cheap and allows HR to send out copies of contracts policies and NDAs in one electronic envelope. The new starter can sign the contract wherever they are by adding an electronic signature. Easy. What’s really great about DocuSign is it removes the barrier to signing contracts that previously existed. Printing, signing, scanning, posting. We saw turnaround on contract signing from 5 days to 2 hours! In this competitive market it helps to get contracts signed quickly and easily and begin the process. Once you have your candidate, DocuSign will help you secure them quickly.
Face to face introductions
Before the new starter’s first day, set up an online meeting with them via Zoom to say hello. You can give them some insights into some of the areas they might want to research or tools they need to skill up on. You can then share with them the link to the onboarding tool which we build using Trello. Using the tool they can have a look at what they can expect to be doing over their first few weeks.
Onboard with Trello
At Ammeon we are big believers in visualising process and flow. As agile evangelists and practitioners, we try where possible to show work in progress on Kanban or scrum boards. This visual paradigm makes it easier to digest the status of different objectives and tasks in flight.
When redesigning our onboarding we borrowed learnings from other companies (tip of the hat to Matthew Ovington from Travelport) who used Trello to visualise the onboarding of employees into the organisation. What we did was expand this process to create a reusable Trello board to create the key onboarding tasks, events and stakeholders for each new starter. We also included links which could be accessed when the employee starts on their first day (but not before) to internal systems and processes.
We believe that the manager and team are responsible for onboarding the new employee. Trello allows you to share a board with all the people involved in the onboarding. We typically provide access to welcome buddy and technical buddy so they can configure the board and set up meeting times and events themselves without HR or managers doing it on their behalf. It’s ideal because if meetings overrun or something happens, meetings can quickly and easily be moved using the tool.
By adding events for days 1-5 of the employees first week and further events for the following weeks the employee could clearly see what was expected of them during their first month in the office. We added in photos of key stakeholders and profiles, plus some nice events like coffees with welcome buddies to break up the day. The addition of a “done” column where Trello cards can be moved when complete gives a really good sense of satisfaction to the user. Links into internal systems like confluence allow new users to get a curated view of the key documentation, process and policies.
Trello can easily be integrated with Slack so managers and HR can receive notifications when Trello cards are moved from one pile to another so managers can quickly get alerts as their new starter completes tasks on their Trello board or check-in if nothing is happening to see if the employee is doing okay. This works particularly well remotely where it’s harder to keep an eye on your new start and see if they are getting stuck.
Our team runs daily stand-ups remotely at 9:30 every day on Zoom. In this meeting we share what we did yesterday, our key focuses for the day and any blockers. Ensure that the new starter joins these standups and contributes their tasks from day 1. This helps socialise them quickly and feel part of something rather than an observer. This helps with the socialisation aspects of onboarding too.
Maintaining team contact
I mentioned in an earlier blog that we use Slack. Internally. When onboarding, it’s important that the welcome buddy and managers point out the key channels that are used. Typically there are hundreds of slack channels but knowing where to find important information, as well as the fun stuff, can be a daunting task. Help them by adding them into key channels and showing them how best to use the tool. It takes a bit of work but when onboarding remotely it’s really important that new starters know the etiquette of the tool and how to use the asynchronous nature of Slack to their advantage.
Daily tea break
As soon as we started working from home with the COVID outbreak we introduced tea breaks at 3:00 pm to down tools and chat with our teammates. This tradition has become even more important as we onboard a new team member. It helps fast track them into the team and provides informal catch-up time that is regularly available in the real world but less so online.
Setting clear expectations and startup goals is critical for managers and new employees alike. There could be a tendency to hope for the best as we all scramble to get used to the idea of working remotely and handling the new and difficult business challenges. But keep an eye you must and creating and storing goals which can be revisited and updated over the first few months is very important.
During the first few months ensure you set regular 1:1s with your new starter to see how they are getting on. I like to use the 5 conversations model to vary conversations and get feedback. All this can be done effectively remotely
So that’s it. You’ve set up the tools and built a structure around the onboarding. You now have a successfully onboarded employee. Be satisfied by then that you have done your best to speed your employees ramp up, measure their productivity and keep in regular contact with them. You may have to wait a few months to meet them in person for a celebratory drink but it will be worth it.
COO | Ammeon