Talent Acquisition

Building Employee Advocates

With many new hires starting remotely, HR needs to ensure they feel part of the team.

By Maria Selvaggio

As the pandemic continues, employers are reimagining the employee experience and figuring out ways to keep operations running through uncertainty. This begs the questions: Are these changes permanent? Has the future of work changed for good? And, most importantly, are companies truly listening to the needs of their people?
These challenges are highlighted when onboarding new employees, especially considering many may never meet their coworkers face-to-face. The Human Capital Institute reported that 58% of organizations focus their onboarding on processes and paperwork, with most limiting their onboarding to an employee’s first week. However, when welcoming team members, it has never been more important for people teams to reframe their onboarding approach -they need to lead with a people-first mindset. What does that look and feel like for a new employee and how can employers get ahead of retention challenges down the road?

Meet Employees Where They Are

Starting a new job is nerve-wracking for anyone, especially an employee starting remotely. So it is important to put new team members at ease and set employee expectations even before their first day. Collaborating with the IT team to ensure a seamless process for shipping equipment and technology set-up is a good start. Also, make sure time is scheduled for new employees to meet the IT team virtually to ask questions or get help with logins early on their first day. Strive for consistency and plan for a fully remote onboarding and orientation experience using interactive Zoom trainings.

Get creative and take advantage of tools such as polls and reactions to keep people engaged. Be strategic about tasking orientation facilitators and play to their strengths. Leave ice breakers to the personality types that would be most excited and welcoming, and plan for a substitute in case the facilitator isn’t comfortable with it. While it sounds small, consider playing music at the start of a virtual orientation meeting as members join. Finding ways of bringing the company’s personality to life for new employees is key to embracing them within the culture.

Build Connection Points

Before the pandemic upended how people work, watercooler moments and serendipitous interactions in the office provided other ways to get to know peers outside of an immediate team. With those moments now few and far between, employers must prioritize facilitating connections as new employees join. Luckily there are plenty of ways to do this. Employee resource groups and task forces allow for relationship building opportunities around the areas employees care about most with people they may not be able to meet otherwise. The groups, focused on employee personal and professional development, could offer activities to facilitate annual cultural appreciation months, such as Pride and Black History Month. They could also conduct quarterly DEI and communications trainings. A community involvement group could coordinate volunteer efforts at local organizations that align with the company’s mission and values. Those passionate about increasing diversity in the business could join a diverse hiring task force. Employees could also meet for monthly virtual coffee breaks or host spontaneous Zoom lunches to discuss books and the latest Netflix binges -no work talk allowed.

Be Considerate About Meetings

The effects of Zoom fatigue have been well documented. Being intentional and considerate about scheduling meetings and assigning tasks is important to stave off burnout. A virtual meeting is not only a time commitment, but also a draining mental exercise, requiring one to listen intently and process information. If a meeting can be an email, make it an email.

As team members join an organization remotely, building rapport increasingly becomes a challenge. What would take a new team member weeks of introductory meetings with new colleagues now takes months. HR professionals should encourage cameras on during meetings so employees can grow comfortable with new faces, see reactions, and take non-verbal cues. During video calls, opt for “hide self-view.” Studies on Zoom fatigue have shown that when self-view is enabled, people spend more time watching their own face, rather than their colleagues’.

Placing an emphasis on meeting protocol also helps cultivate an open working environment. Model how to protect heads-down time by only scheduling calls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and implementing one day a week with no meetings.

Invest in Remote Celebrations and Show Thanks

If most of the company’s team members reside in the same place and meet in-person for a party or celebration, be cognizant of that and schedule events for remote teammates to enjoy. Remote events should not feel like second-rate versions of personal events, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Build the budget to include perks like virtual team trivia or an option for employees to order a fancy dinner delivered to their home. Be sure to share virtual highlights with the broader team via Slack or other channels.

In addition to supporting employee-run groups, recognize employee efforts and consider rolling out an employee recognition program. Have employees nominate their peers based on how they showcase company values in their work, use company-wide meetings to award individual winners, and work with managers to recognize their own teams. It’s important to not underestimate the power of employee swag like sweatshirts, stickers, t-shirts, mugs, and even scented candles to commemorate celebratory moments.

All employees should feel like a part of the team, and planning for growth starts with empathy, especially in these uncertain times. Be proactive about the onboarding process and stay in touch with how new team members are experiencing the company every day. It can mean the difference between a new hire and an employee advocate.

Maria Selvaggio is vice president of people at M1 Finance.

Tags: November 2021

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