IT staff are in high demand and fiercely sought-after. No one knows this better than HR managers. Once new employees are successfully recruited, however, they need to be quickly won over by the company and stay for a long time. The secret to this is a friendly, welcoming culture combined with a structured onboarding process.
Challenges of onboarding new IT employees in a virtual team
Successful onboarding introduces newcomers to work equipment, methods and processes, tasks and expectations, the corporate culture and, of course, their colleagues. All of this is exciting for both sides, but it also presents a challenge – one that is made all the greater by the fact that it has long been common practice in IT departments (well before the coronavirus pandemic)for people to work remotely, i.e., from home, in a co-working space or on the go.
But how can new employees be integrated into a virtual team if communication takes place exclusively online? Software, communication tools, and shared work platforms are all provided; and employees must learn how to use them. However, the issues that are actually important are those that involve a little more uncertainty.
Above all, new employees want to know
What is expected of them
How hierarchies are structured
What falls within their area of responsibility
How much personal initiative is required
Who is the contact person for problems or suggestions – and much more.
Remote workers struggle to get to know their colleagues very well. The informal but enlightening chats in the kitchen or at the snack machine no longer naturally occur. So, we thought it might be helpful to give youa few tips to ensure your onboarding process is still a resounding success.
5 tips to make remote onboarding for your IT team a success
1. Ensure a friendly welcome
This should be a matter of course, but it’s worth mentioning anyway: prepare your team for the arrival of the newcomer – before they even come on board. A summary of their previous employment could be useful, but above all provide an overview of their position, tasks, and responsibilities as well as the reasons you’ve employed them.
It’s crucial that you host a virtual welcome meeting on their first day. After a brief introduction, allow them to provide further information about their story. Encourage everyone else in the team to introduce themselves as well. Although this isn’t the magic bullet for successful collaboration, it does allow for an initial “getting to know each other” period.
2. Set expectations
One of biggest insecurities that new employees have is about job performance: what is a company’s usual pace and how is success measured? The first thing you need to do is take all pressure off them. Start by handing over a manageable project and explain the budget and resources allocated to it. Make it clear at this stage that you will provide regular feedback and that you are also open to any feedback they may have.
You can minimise stress by providing a detailed checklist of the work that needs to be done. Individual KPIs for the first week, month and quarter will help provide further orientation. Keep in mind, however, that newcomers will lack the routine that the rest of your team has already acquired, so be patient with them.
3. Clarify the position of the new team member
It’s not just the new employee that needs support; their new department also wants to know what their role in the company is as soon as possible. Ensure equal access to all team meetings and encourage participation. You should resist the temptation to hold urgent meetings with core team members only for reasons of efficiency. Instead, we recommend you hold weekly, or even daily, meetings with everyone, where you discuss the current status of projects, how they’re going, and how you want to proceed.
Every IT specialist should and wants to have the opportunity to be informed about current project decisions and, if appropriate, provide their own input to the solution. Signal from the very outset that length of service makes no difference in this regard. All suggestions are welcome. Productive collaboration occurs when everyone on the team is aware of the respective strengths, creativity, and reliability of those around them. Give new employees both the chance and challenge to make their mark.
4. Appoint a job buddy
While working in the office, new employees quickly find out for themselves who has an open ear for questions, who can explain things patiently, and who is on the same wavelength. There’s no need for personal contact in remote teams, yet such contact is crucial to getting to know each other.
That’s where you come in. After all, you know your team best. Ask a suitable employee to be the mentor of the new recruit during their first few weeks or months. Nothing builds trust during onboarding like the advice of an experienced professional who also invites questions. The theory behind most IT tasks can be discussed many times over, but it is only really internalized once the employee has performed the task themselves. An experienced person offering support here this quickly provides the necessary security and confidence.
The company will also benefit if it follows the key principles of training by underpinning the onboarding process with demonstrations, specified work assignments, examples and even small lessons for self-study. This is the way to ensure good results.
What’s more, don’t forget to relieve the mentor of other duties during this onboarding period.
Encourage new employees to name the aspects of onboarding that were successful and those that need improvement. Schedule regular meetings to do this and listen very carefully. No one can tell you in more detail what the onboarding process is still lacking than someone who is right in the middle of the process.
Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. The information you receive now is the most valuable building block for improving future onboarding processes.
Remote onboarding: Create opportunities for analogue interaction
Finally, if it’s feasible in terms of time and space, we recommend you organise an in-person meeting for the entire department. This should be a social event, not for the purpose of working. An evening meal out, a company excursion or a party after a successful project are perfect examples of what you could do. At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication when it comes to building team cohesion.
If this simply wouldn’t work, introduce small rituals into the remote work routine. This could be an online game, a fun hackathon or a Friday night beer with everyone on camera. A helpful hint to finish off: it’s refreshing for employees when managers aren’t present at every meeting
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