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The pleasures and perils of remote onboarding during the pandemic.

From “microtraining” to virtual drinks: how Covid upended the onboarding process

The past 12 month hasn’t just upended the interview part of the hiring process; managers and HR professionals at banks also have had to make significant changes to how they onboard new staff in a remote working environment.

Onboarding technology platforms “have had a good 12 months”, says former Barclays and UBS HR manager Renee Conklin, who now runs RC HR Consulting in Hong Kong. “The pandemic has further fuelled the use of onboarding technology. Because people are working remotely, we’re seeing more online microtraining, whereby employers are producing short videos to teach new staff about their core systems like expenses and quarterly assessments. Digital content about the company is being made more easily accessible,” she adds.

Covid has also led to more new-joiner paperwork going digital, says Daniel Connors, associate director for banking and financial services at Robert Walters in London. “One of the most dreaded parts of starting a new role are the hordes of paperwork that new hires are required to sign and return. While many businesses had already transitioned to digital paperwork, Covid certainly has fast tracked any outdated processes in this area,” he adds.

Having great onboarding tech is a must these days, but it can only get you so far when new recruits are starting their jobs at home. “Onboarding has always been challenging: the new person is anxious and trying to impress people and get productive. During Covid it’s become an even bigger problem because it’s more difficult to socialize and integrate into a company over Zoom,” says Lewis Garrad, a partner and career business leader at Mercer.

“Line managers should invest more energy into socializing new team members. In a virtual working environment, they can no longer think of onboarding as purely an HR problem, or just organize a big team lunch for everyone. They should take the lead in ensuring new recruits meet their colleagues online and understand exactly what everyone does, otherwise they’ll be unproductive,” adds Garrad. “Line managers now need to overcommunicate, for example via morning check-ins, to avoid the new joiners feeling isolated,” says Conklin.

Banks have stepped up efforts to embed new people into their team cultures, says Connors. “They’ve been impressing upon new hires a sense of community from the outset by getting them involved in the team – such as adding them to WhatsApp or Skype groups and scheduling social video calls to introduce them to the rest of the department. We’ve been hearing a lot about welcome gifts and virtual drinks for newly onboarded candidates as a way to make up for the lack of facetime with colleagues,” he adds.

Financial services firms are also trying to tackle the uncertainties new hires may feel during remote onboarding, says Connors. “Unlike previously, where new starters were left to their own devices to a degree to find out more about the organization, managers are now sending them more regular updates. This includes internal newsletters about what’s happening within the department as well as updates on projects, so new people already have an idea of their tasks during their first week,” says Connors.

Photo by Stanislav Ivanitskiy on Unsplash

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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