5 tips to manage virtual employee induction during COVID-19

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While we continue to grapple with the global COVID-19 pandemic, life, for many organisations, is pushing forward and the need to support growth by hiring new staff remains present. In fact, the need for a great employee induction program is even higher when virtual employee induction may be required for new staff.

While we continue to grapple with the global COVID-19 pandemic, life, for many organisations, is pushing forward and the need to support growth by hiring new staff remains present. In fact, the need for a great employee induction program is even higher when virtual employee induction may be required for new staff.

New employees need a solid, consistent  virtual employee induction program to help them settle into new roles during a period of uncertainty and confusion. Whether they are completing their virtual employee induction program on their own while sitting at the dining table, or as part of a new group of employees connecting from home offices across the country, it’s important they have every chance of a successful start.

In this article, we’ll look at five key tips to help manage virtual employee induction during COVID-19 – or as an on-going ‘new normal’ approach to your employee induction program.

1 – Acknowledge the situation

The first two tips are about expectations. Let’s begin by setting the scene – be upfront about what is happening and how it is impacting employee induction for both the employee and your organisation.

Organise a virtual call with the new employee to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will impact onboarding and require a virtual employee induction.

Allow the new employee to ask questions and raise concerns – don’t make this call a lecture. It’s important to uncover the specific issues which each employee may be worried about. Extroverts may worry about team connections, while detail-oriented employees may be concerned about receiving adequate training to avoid common mistakes.

2 – Adjust all expectations

Now adjust everyone’s expectations.

Start with yourself and your organisation. It is possible that it’s going to take new employees longer to add value to your organisation. They are going to move a little slower through new knowledge, miss-out on on-the-job learning and have fewer opportunities to pick up the culture of your workplace.

So next tell the new employee not to rush. Sometimes, when an employee is face-to-face in a new environment, they rush through training in order to try to appear productive quicker. In a virtual employee induction process, that pressure to ‘look productive’ is reduced. This should allow new employees to immerse into learning and thoroughly understand processes and tasks.

It’s a balance. You want your new employees to be productive as fast as possible, but you also need to be realistic about the scenario everyone is in. Easing off and allowing a little extra time in a virtual employee induction program sets a good foundation of ‘reasonableness’ with the new employee. That should payoff in the future with higher employee engagement.

In terms of length, you should set expectations that virtual employee induction may take up to 50%-100% longer than face-to-face employee induction. That doesn’t meant that the employee isn’t productive – it just means that the all the pieces in your virtual employee induction program are simply distributed over a longer period. While employees can be forced to sit through a week of back-to-back training sessions when in the office, that can’t happen in a virtual employee induction program (and probably shouldn’t happen face-to-face either!). There’s only so long someone can sit in a Zoom meeting.

Some parts of employee induction simply take more time to become effective too. It might require 4-5 virtual team meetings for a new employee to pick up on all the cultural and team nuances – instead of just 1-2 face-to-face team meetings to observe and pick up on those same subtle moments. 

3 – Update your policies

A new employee working remotely still has an important role to understand their health, safety and security responsibilities. These components may differ in virtual employee induction programs from their face-to-face counterparts.

  • Safety. Your organisation should have a ‘Working From Home Self Assessment Checklist’ or similar document and policy and, ideally, online training materials. After the employee ahs completed the online training, it may be useful to have a WHS representative contact them to determine any unique employee needs and answer questions.
  • Health. Your organisation should also have a ‘Working From Home Policy’ and online training materials. The new employee’s manager should also conduct a debrief to discuss issues including what the employee needs to do when they are unwell, taking breaks and complying with safety and security standards.
  • Security. Finally, your organisation should also have a ‘Working From Home Security Policy’ and associated online training materials. This should cover issues including hardware, remote access, logins, password policies, cyber protection and so on.  It should also introduce the employee to remote working software you may be using such as Teams or Zoom.

4 – Build a community

One of the main challenges in virtual employee induction is the sense of community. In face-to-face employee induction programs, opportunities for community building can occur naturally and spontaneously simply due to proximity. Employees can easily grab a coffee together, have a ‘watercooler chat’ or talk on the way out of work.

In a virtual employee induction program, you might need to create those opportunities in a more direct sense. You need to facilitate the sense of being part of a wider community in your organisation.

Internal chat apps like Teams or Slack can assist with this, but that leaves it to the employees to start chats or feel confident to engage in existing chats. Some organisations go further by organising regular – but voluntary – virtual social groups.

  • A morning tea catch-up room which runs for 30 minutes at 10:30 am
  • A 12:00 pm lunch catch-up room which runs for 60 minutes
  • An end of day chatroom starting at 4:30 pm and open for 60 minutes

You can then encourage anyone in your organisation to join any of those sessions. In particular, mentors, induction buddies and managers should be required to attend a certain number of social sessions each week to encourage new employees to join in.

Many organisations are also implementing ideas to transfer the sense of office fun into the virtual environment. From online competitions to themed meetings. 

5 – Clarify their support

As a final tip, despite all of your best efforts above, new staff in a virtual employee induction program will need some support they can turn to when they need help.

  • Peer support. While new employees can always turn to their managers, sometimes they need help from elsewhere as they seek to show initiative and impress. This is where a peer support (induction buddy) program is critical. Whether its spontaneous or structured, new employees need someone they can talk to.
  • Organisation support. Virtual employee induction also needs to give new staff a really clear idea on ‘who is who?’. Who do they call to reset a password? Who do they seek holiday approval from? Who approves expenditure? Introducing these functions, organisation charts and internal contact directories is critical.

Virtual employee induction is easy with the right platform

As you can see from the above, a virtual employee induction program requires a little bit of extra (different) thought from your face-to-face programs. However, the workload can be significantly reduced with the right online platform which can:

  • Rapidly transform your existing induction materials into online training
  • Allow for quick changes to induction materials to reflect a virtual process
  • Share compliance training on working from home issues
  • Provide checklists and policies while capturing policy acceptance
  • Notify managers or other stakeholders as employees hit milestones
  • Automate the program with email invitations, due dates and reminders

With a platform like Tribal Habits you can achieve all these outcomes, and more, regardless of the size of your organisation. You can rapidly convert existing training materials, import and edit a range of ready-made online training modules on induction and remote working, and capture policy acceptances. From any location at any time. It’s how we make employee induction easy to create, engaging to learn and simple to manage.

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