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Jenny Shiers


Senior Director, Employee Success

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Onboarding: how to convey your company culture to new starters working remotely

Five ways to share your company culture with new starters working remotely.

These days, culture signaling often has to be virtual from the off. I’ve been seeing many innovative ways that companies have pivoted to embrace this. My five top tips will follow, but first, some context.

The hope for new starters is they’ll be up and running quickly. Onboarding should always be set within the context of keeping teams connected as a whole.

Covid-19 has forced many workforces to work from home. Some companies are in the process of re-imagining how they do business and this changes their interpersonal dynamics considerably. It’s an unusual time to be a new starter, especially if you’re a graduate. Instead of the usual guided tour around the office, shaking hands with colleagues at their desks and having follow up chats at the coffee machine, new starters now begin on screen, with unknown participants joining the call, trying to figure out where the ‘unmute’ or ‘share screen’ buttons are, and so on. It can be daunting.

When you’re new to the world of work, the home office is most likely a shared living space, so this may also present challenges. From a company perspective, it’s important to get the welcome right and get across the guiding values that will assist the newcomer in their job going forward

Expound company virtues, virtually

It’s true that ‘virtual’ suggests unreal, yet values and beliefs are the same, whether expressed face-to-face or in a virtual space. So first up, let’s not think we must do things in a way that’s second best or worse than before. As for many businesses, when we hire at Salesforce, we don’t just seek people who can get the job done; we seek people who will maintain and add to our culture by living our values every day.

It’s exciting to engage in new ways and as we’ve grown, we’ve found that talented individuals are eager to join us because they share our mission to improve the state of the world and align with our founding vision of a company centred around trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. We’re keen to expand on this, welcome people in and see the opportunities. We were honoured to be named as the UK’s best place to work this year by the Great Place to Work Institute, and we’ll keep up our standards even during these challenging times. It’s so important to us then that newt starters are united and part of the team going forward.

To fully immerse new starters into your culture, here are my five top tips.

1. Have one place for all your onboarding

This sounds simple enough, but it’s often overlooked. Think of it as a one-stop for all your onboarding resources, whether it’s a website or an app, provide a tool that enables employees to engage, track, navigate, and plan activities. I suggest this includes quick start guides with links to resources or systems used by the team, or a list of the best groups to join on the companies instant messaging platforms. To support this, hold weeklies where onboarding teams can talk to new hires to learn about their highlights and challenges. Empower and inspire.

2. Have culture guides on hand

We’ve developed a system called ‘Trailguide’ where a peer helps a new starter through informal mentorship and friendship during their first 90 days. One-to-ones like this can become invaluable, especially since graduates have recently benefited from tutorship. Why not appoint your most passionate and longest-tenured employees to welcome new joiners? This will instill company values from the get-go – we’ve found this to be mutually beneficial too. Sharing is caring, and learning about the career path of valued team members offers an inspiring journey.

3. Make it easy to ask questions

This is key for new starters. Encourage questions either through an intranet, collaboration platform or an Al driven help desk —just make the process of asking anything, really easy. We have a mobile-optimised Al driven concierge service; it provides answers from all employee-facing groups, including HR, IT, finance, and facilities. This means new hires have a single place to get answers about things like benefits, equipment, pay, and so on. When you’re working from home, this type of always-on support really helps.

4. Be upfront and open with wellbeing

You might think that a wellbeing survey is a bit formal – it doesn’t have to be. Wellbeing surveys, including daily pulse surveys, can help businesses gain insight into how their employees are feeling and that’s important right now. It also gives the management team data to review, so pain points can be seen and solved. Just the act of offering support can go a long way in the minds of someone new to the job, in uncertain times.

5. Have online socials, outside the team

Even though you’re online, you can still make sure there’s a lot going on. Be creative with virtual quizzes, watch-alongs, games nights, book clubs – anything that suits the group. We know from our graduates that such catch-ups really help them to feel part of the community. It’s also an opportunity to form relationships with people outside of their immediate team which adds to a collective business purpose. Plus, it makes sense if you have to re-configure teams as people will already know each other.

Keeping teams connected

Overall, the hope for new starters is they’ll be up and running quickly. Onboarding should always be set within the context of keeping teams connected as a whole.

It’s important to realise that everyone’s work from home situation is different. Managers need to feel empowered to provide the flexibility needed for all employees to work efficiently from home, depending on the mix of environments. A graduate might live in a busy shared house with limited space, working parents with young children often have to split their time between homeschooling and work – whatever the situation, an open line of communication is crucial. So too, is listening and offering bespoke support so that individuals remain connected and feel valued as part of the team.

One of our graduates from Ada, at the National College for Digital Skills, is continuing her apprenticeship during lockdown. Megan started her apprenticeship in October 2019 and hopes to become a Solution Engineer.

Speaking about her experiences Megan said, “my learning has kept its momentum and clear direction. Working remotely is easy, and it’s been good to stay connected with my manager, buddy and fellow apprentices, just virtually”.

The ease with which Megan describes how technology and agile working has helped bring in support is really positive. Facetiming through devices belongs to the younger generations who are already at ease sharing in this way. Crucially, having a platform for training and learning allows her to see the journey map that lies ahead of her.

Businesses redeploying and re-skilling employees during this health crisis will continue to take on roles essential to maintaining operational and customer service standards. By using online training platforms such as Trailhead, skills development can enable skills development to thrive remotely.

Empowerment creates change

When you listen empathetically you learn. When you encourage new starters to join internal diversity networks and equality groups, it gives them the opportunity to be present in an inclusive culture. Communities of underrepresented groups and allyships – emphasising social justice, ensures diversity and inclusion remain a priority. Only by facilitating and listening can we empower employees to become agents of change. Giving everyone ownership is key.

Interested in this topic? Read 10 ways to create a fully inclusive remote onboarding process.

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Jenny Shiers

Senior Director, Employee Success

Read more from Jenny Shiers

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