Many employers have had to adapt to the new and challenging circumstances we have found ourselves in brought about by the pandemic. Thankfully, we are seeing an upturn in the hiring of graduates, and after a period of uncertainty some sectors are busier than ever.

So how do employers onboard new staff, when suddenly forced to work remotely? Existing staff can, of course with the right equipment and management, work productively from home. But how does this work for somebody who has never set foot in the company office? The good news is for graduate recruiters this will likely be the first time your hire has been onboarded, so they may not have any preconceptions or previous processes to compare it to. It’s your chance to make your new hire feel informed, engaged and supported when joining your team. We’ve spoken to some industry professionals and compiled our top tips and learnings to help you transition to remote onboarding successfully.

1. Review your old process

What is no longer possible face to face? Which elements are valuable and need to happen regardless? Was any of the old process non-beneficial or outdated? Many of us are guilty of following old processes, from using paper and snail mail to set up new contracts, to dated or irrelevant PowerPoint presentations, simply because reviewing and overhauling takes time. Now is the perfect time to assess the needs of your new starters and how you can best meet them remotely.

Janine Stoneman, Resourcing Consultant at Tata Steel Europe, says they switched all of their onboarding to remote this year; ‘We are recruiting remotely utilising social media extensively not just to advertise our opportunities but also to market our virtual open evenings and events. Interviews are being conducted via MS teams and our contracts and new starter documentation is all sent online and we have moved to PDFs and e-signatures.’ They are looking to do the same next year owing to its success in terms of saving time and money and receiving positive feedback from Managers and applicants. They also introduced more video content to their training and used Facebook pages to allow their cohorts to network.

Anna Byrne, Graduate Recruitment and Selection Lead at nucleargraduates explained how they completely overhauled their process and included some extra perks for their graduates. ‘To help the graduates get to know each other we extended our two week induction to three weeks to allow for extra team building, and were also able to work with our outdoor learning provider to deliver some experiential learning to get the grads away from their desks when it was safe to do so. We were also able to secure some very high-profile speakers (the Chief Executive of our Industry Regulator and Chief Executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) to speak to the grads- using zoom meant they only needed to drop in for an hour rather than taking a full day to travel up to our offices and back. We also allowed the grads to claim back food expenses for the induction period and sent them a welcome pack with tea, coffee, biscuits to enjoy during their induction.’

2. Communication and consistency

With various staff contributing different parts of the onboarding process (HR managers, IT team, administrators, mentors, managers and directors) all now from afar, it can be difficult to ensure each employee is getting the same experience. The easiest way to overcome this is a centralised checklist; it could be using HR software, or a simple Gant chart in Excel; but everybody involved needs to know their role in the process, what is expected of them, and when.

Frederica Cei, Graduate Global Programme Leader at SITA told us ‘Establishing a synergy with IT with regards to provisioning, regular fortnightly updates from TA to our HRCMs; standardized internal comms to HMs, team members and prospective employees to highlight next steps and manage expectations’ allowed them to maintain an effective onboarding process.

Anna Kelly at IBM says “Assigning a new onboarding coordinator to facilitate and increase communication between the graduate hires, answer any Covid related concerns, and reduce any anxieties prior to the start date has helped our new starters greatly.”

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