Well, it’s not quite the dark ages but what with this remote living and this weeks disappearance of the sun, it sure can feel like it at times.

There’s no denying it, things are tough right now and every business is going to be facing their own unique challenges from this pandemic. However, a common challenge that will be shared by many of us; how do we keep the magic alive within our culture and our team?

Keeping the magic alive is a broad topic – but in this post, we’ll be specifically focusing on onboarding. 

In a pre-pandemic world, new starters would likely be surrounded by fellow colleagues in an office; allowing them to build those bonds easily, ask questions freely and pick up on all of the little nuances of their new environment. Unfortunately, we do not currently have that luxury and we must adapt our approach to suit the current norm.

Here’s what we’ve learnt so far… 


The Objective: What is onboarding really about? 

I know that there have been times in my career where onboarding has certainly felt like a process to get someone working as quickly as possible, “hit the ground running” as they say. Perhaps we’d been eagerly waiting to close that funding round to provide the cash for a much needed new hire or spent time persuading our CFO to give us the green light to make that spend. Whatever it was, when the superstar candidate had been found it was full steam ahead. 

One positive of this lockdown has been that it’s provided us time to reflect, research, read, learn and really remind ourselves about why we do what we do…

Speaking to Brett Putter, Culture Gene; The onboarding experience serves as the first post-interview encounter with the company culture and first impressions last. The aim of onboarding is to remove anxiety, build trust and create opportunities for new starters to develop relationships so they feel connected and part of the team. If you succeed at those you will get them up to speed.” 


Pre Boarding: Let’s start at the beginning…

The offer letter. From the moment you send out that offer letter, the onboarding has started. As well as including all the must haves (salary, benefits, terms) your offer letter can be a tool to talk about your culture and values. You can use the offer letter to help the candidate learn more about how your values impact your decision making process by letting them know why they’re the successful applicant; how did they align with your values? What attributes did they demonstrate that made you feel they would bring a positive contribution to your culture?

Making it tangible. Do you have a culture book or presentation that you’d usually put up on a screen and run through face to face? Could you arrange for your CEO to sign a welcome note on a printed copy and have that posted out to your new starter? Perhaps you also have some SWAG that could be sent along with the printed copy? These small touches will help to make your culture feel tangible and bring life to the remote onboarding experience. (Don’t fancy queuing up at the local post office, try Stuart couriers).

Don’t wait until day one. No doubt, like us, your office drinks or team lunches have moved location from the local pub to a zoom room. Why not invite your new starter to some socials ahead of their first day, it’s a great way for them to begin building relationships in a more relaxed setting and will help to make them feel more comfortable and confident about getting involved and asking questions once they start. (For team building activity inspo check out our page here). 

Make day one smooth. Where possible provide access to all software and systems ahead of time, ensuring your new starter can log in from the moment they start.


Onboarding: Day one 

Over communicate. Communication is always key but in these current times, communication is crucial.

Here’s a list of things that we think are useful for a new starter to have from the off;

  • Org Chart 
  • Company RACI 
  • A comms and contact guide; 
    • How to reach various members of the team 
    • Examples of what the new starter might need to reach each of these people for
    • Expectations for these relationships; ie stakeholder, peer etc 
  • Staff handbook and any Covid-19 policies that have been put in place 
  • An onboarding schedule; what they’ll be learning, with who and when 
  • Company meeting rhythms and rituals; what happens when 

Some tools that help us streamline our onboarding and make access to information easy; Learn Amp, Notion and Click Up.

Virtual buddies. An age old onboarding tool is the buddy system; pairing up a new starter with an existing team member to help them settle in. Revisit your buddy checklist and look at the things your buddy would normally cover in the office – how can these things be adapted and do things need to be changed? Something that feels really key to us at this time is a “tips and tricks” section, to help the new starter learn all the team nuances that they’d normally be exposed to organically in the office.

Follow up. Earlier we mentioned ways to bring your culture into your preboarding and we believe it is important to follow up on those points, be it a culture workshop with your People Manager, a virtual coffee with the CEO or a round table discussion with a group of new starters. 

Make a point. As they say, out of sight, out of mind – make a point of introducing your new starter to the team; perhaps a team zoom lunch, a 10 minute call with a handful of individuals who this person will be working closely with, an email to the team telling them about their new teammate, an announcement at the company update or perhaps all of the above. 


And finally… 

Keep culture and values at the forefront of every step of your onboarding journey. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to ask a question to learn more about your new starter, to find out how they’re interpreting your culture, to tell them a story or give them feedback that enforces who you are and why you do what you do. 

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