Every process in the employee lifecycle now takes place virtually, including a few areas that might not seem like a priority. However, overlooking the details of any given process has consequences on a business’s ability to attract and retain top talent.
This is true of new employee onboarding, where new hire success can hinge on high-quality delivery of virtual programs and tools.
Now might be a good time to revisit your onboarding program and adjust. Here are four steps to improving retention and employee engagement with your remote onboarding program.
Materials and expectations. The first major adjustment when transitioning to a virtual employee onboarding program is to update your learning materials. Everything you teach and train should reflect the reality of the new hire’s tasks and procedures — if they’re remote, their workflows will be too.
Then, add new steps in the onboarding process to ensure access and retention across multiple learning styles. This starts with a pre-onboarding phase that sets clear expectations for equipment requirements, software needs, internet access and any other preparations necessary for an effective first day.
The best way to address the learning curve from in-person learning to remote training is to set expectations and share what the process will include and require prior to the first day. New expectation-setting employee resources can include a remote onboarding checklist, sent in advance of initial training to make sure all new hires have the right equipment, communications infrastructure, and software. You may want to go over the checklist in an optional welcome call to outline what new hires can expect on the first day and first week on the job.
Communication methods and tools. The virtual environment should contain a diversity of thought. Ensure you’re adaptable in the teaching process and creating a welcoming culture with one-on-one check-ins, but also mix in large or breakout group activities to facilitate different learning styles.
Teaching styles also need to evolve, because remote onboarding lacks nonverbal cues trainers have grown to rely on. So, encourage increased connectivity with more frequent and intentional touchpoints, and keeping the lines open in multiple ways at once, whether that’s through a hand-raising tool, a group notepad or other tactics that are available.
Consider using the chat function for questions, as well as breakout groups with direct check-ins. Increase the number, frequency and range in type of retention checks. Also encourage, but don’t require, leaving cameras on as a way of promoting engagement and collaboration.
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Remote onboarding infrastructure. Some businesses may need to adjust their onboarding infrastructure to better fit the “new reality” of the virtual setting.
The first change regards timing and cadence.
Virtual training needs to allow more time in-training for questions and making sure people understand, but on an overall program basis there also needs to be a longer runway for ingestion. We see success with companies that condense their training into modules with a narrower focus in smaller class sizes.
To better deliver on these tweaks, learning and development departments may require structural changes.
Now is a good time to evaluate whether you need to adjust the supervisor-to-trainer ratio, class size or the number of trainers per session. Smaller class sizes are working better — 15-20 instead of 30-50 — with initial work activity benefiting from an increased supervisor ratio and reduced team sizes.
Some necessary changes may affect other areas of the hiring cycle or organizational chart. The speed and rate of engagement throughout hiring and onboarding is a major differentiator — fast, responsive companies incentivize candidates to have urgency and make them feel valued. No matter what the use case is, there needs to be adequate IT infrastructure and support.
Information exchange. Leave room for future adjustments and encourage feedback and participation in process improvements.
Open dialogue about the training process sets a very positive precedent. Keeping remote employees engaged and involved can be a challenge at any stage in the employment cycle, and discussion can show them their input is valued and encouraged in the work environment.
The transition from an in-person to a remote workforce can be a complex process, with potential for many considerations to fall through the cracks.
If your business is hiring new employees, bringing on contingent help, or retraining current workers to new remote tasks, high-quality virtual onboarding delivery will be well worth the investment.