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Jenny Shiers


Senior Director, Employee Success

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Onboarding: how to engage remote workers with your culture from the outset

How to welcome new starters to a dynamic company culture virtually.

Covid-19 has forced us all to embrace new ways of communicating culture and company values remotely. HR must think outside the box in order to provide an inspiring welcome for new starters. As graduates attend meet and greets on screen rather than on site and person to person, it’s easy to focus on what the workplace has lost – but I see it as an opportunity to step up and meet the demands of now. New graduates haven’t yet experienced working life, so being creative and rethinking your talent management strategies will say a lot about the kind of company you are.

Now, more than ever, business leaders need to look at how they can create a virtual culture that is human-centric.

It’s crucial that managers stay mindful of the strange reality of starting a job remotely, but don’t dwell on what things were – positivity is key. So too is communicating a plan for the here and now. In order to engage with new employees and bring them into your culture, you’ll need to ensure that they feel connected and engaged. Communicating your core values right from the off,  puts you in the best possible place to excite and inspire. By bringing open exchange to the fore, remote interaction can become an extension of how you work as a team. As we manage the sharing of ideas, reimagine business and return to growth, HR departments are adapting as circumstances change.

‘There’s a lot to get through’

Starting a new job often involves rapidly digesting a large amount of information, from practical and procedural matters to how teammates and departments engage according to set company values. At Salesforce, we’ve built a remote onboarding process that retains and encompasses our culture. Importantly, we want new joiners to understand and align with our founding values – we’re a company built on trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. With these pillars in mind, we feel it’s exciting to engage in new ways – after all, talented individuals are eager to grow with us because we innovate and have a mission to improve the world we see around us.

When you join a group, the direction it’s moving in is important to convey. Every ship’s captain needs to know its bearing and heading. You may have heard the quote going round relating to inequalities and Covid-19 – “it’s the same storm, but people are in different boats”. It’s a good one to remember, because situations at home are different for all of us. Our graduates mostly live in shared flats, or at home – very different circumstances to always be mindful of, and very different from employees with families or those caring for others.

Here are my tips for companies wishing to truly connect with new starters, as well as instilling core company values.

Share leadership decisions and you’ll gain trust

Be open enough to explain the current decisions being made, even the difficult ones, as we know this builds employee trust. To do this effectively, more communication touch points can be introduced. Weekly webinars with company updates and smaller virtual drop in sessions will all help to provide essential information of the type new employees would normally benefit from in person.

Companies shouldn’t be afraid to state that this is a learning process and everyone should feel able to contribute to ways the business can adapt. Generating trust in this way is vital for new employees – aim to do this quickly and it will reassure them that the company has their best interests at heart.

Remote doesn’t need to be ‘at a distance’

Video calls from home can bring an intimacy to introductions, for example, it’s easy to lay a hand on an item that says something about yourself and reveals your character, swapping interests in this way is a good way to break the ice.

That random encounter at the coffee machine may be gone, but how might random meetings be facilitated within your intranet? Now, more than ever, business leaders need to look at how they can create a virtual culture that is human-centric.

Here are some simple ways to do this virtually:

  • One-to-one meetings with your most passionate and longest tenured employees will not only welcome new joiners but also instil company values in a personal way.
  • Virtual get-togethers for new joiners who started on the same day is a great way for people to connect, join a community and quickly form personal relationships.
  • Regular wellbeing surveys can gather insight into how new employees are feeling during this unique time and determine next steps to address pain points.
  • Introducing new joiners to internal diversity networks and equality groups gives them the opportunity to be part of an inclusive culture from the outset.

Lean on technology to bring employees together

At Salesforce we have developed Concierge, a virtual help desk where employees can get quick answers to thousands of questions — from technical issues to accessing benefits programmes. It facilitates more conversation. We’re able to prompt actions and discussion in the first six months of employment with a personalised email journey for new employees and their hiring managers – it’s just one more way we ensure they have structured, pre-planned support on hand.

As well as helping new starters in practical ways, technology also gives your business an insight into an employee’s journey. Also, don’t discount data feedback – it can identify changes in an employees behaviour so you can understand if they are overloaded or require additional support.

Empower employees to become agents of change

To build a culture of continuity, the notion of family is a good starting point. HR departments should listen and adjust their focus in order to maintain an inclusive culture. With equality, diversity and inclusion a priority, employees should be given room to champion change in the business.

At Salesforce, we have embraced the concept of Ohana, which is Hawaiian for family. This means that we are all bound together and responsible for caring for one another, which is even more important when we can’t physically be together.

Finally to use another Hawaiian word, when onboarding employees, it always pays for businesses to add waiwai – value.

Interested in this topic? Read Onboarding during Covid-19: how to convey your company culture to new starters working remotely.

Author Profile Picture
Jenny Shiers

Senior Director, Employee Success

Read more from Jenny Shiers

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