Hi! I’m Steph, the People Director for Fizzbox. I wanted to share my views on the timely topic of remote onboarding, reflecting on the recent recruitment and induction of our first few hires since we decided to become a ‘fully agile’ workplace.

Following a considerable – impromptu! - trial period during the pandemic, the approach we’re embracing is: work when you want, where you want, as long as you get results.

It’s big, it’s bold and it’s the future of work, so Fizzbox is entirely on board.

One of the more challenging aspects of this new agile approach is ensuring that new recruits still get the full red-carpet treatment, aligned with the welcome that new members to our team would have received pre-pandemic.

We decided to scrutinise our existing onboarding process and make changes to bring it in line with our new-look workplace. Here are some of the things that we considered along the way and some of our top tips.

Virtual Onboarding

Prior to Joining

Tackle the elephant in the Zoom: We may all be used to virtual interactions by now, but it still feels unnatural to attend interviews via Zoom, so reference this with every candidate! Take the time to settle everyone at the start of each virtual session. Acknowledge that dogs may bark, someone may knock on the door, the screen might freeze… and reassure the candidate that this is ok!

Don’t make assumptions: Never assume that candidates are familiar with the tech platform that you select. Provide basic guidance on how to join the meeting and who to contact if there are any issues. Advise them to join the meeting a few minutes early so they have time to take some deep breaths before you admit them via the virtual waiting room.

Set clear expectations for the first few weeks: Once we’ve formalised an offer to a successful candidate, we map out and share an induction schedule, detailing meetings to observe, key people to meet, and any virtual staff hangouts. We take time to map out what the first few weeks will look like, because a robust induction schedule paints a clear picture and takes the nerves away. It’s ok if a few times need to change once someone is on board; it’s a good starting point so they know what to expect.

Virtual Onboarding

Share engaging, useful information: Our designer has put together a colourful, branded ‘Meet the Team’ document, detailing who works here, what their job role is, their working pattern, personal interests, and guilty pleasures. We email this out to our new starters a few days before they come on board. It reminds anyone who is nervous that we’re a nice, friendly bunch and we’re looking forward to them joining our team!

If you say you’re flexible, BE flexible: Take a collaborative approach to those first few weeks. What other commitments does the new employee have that need to be considered when putting together training schedules?

Dive right in: If possible, get your newbies to join any team socials, update meetings and coffee hangouts prior to their official join date. You can make it clear that this is entirely optional but it’s an inclusive, welcoming signal to that individual that you’re excited to get them on board.

Virtual Onboarding

First Impressions

Get the tech right: There’s nothing worse than turning up on your first day and nothing is ready for you! We make sure that there’s a laptop ready, complete with access to relevant networks, comms channels, platforms, systems and shared drives. Remember the little things too – mouse, charger, laptop bag – so that people don’t need to ask. Also, make sure that new members to the team are clear on IT process…who should they contact if something isn’t working as it should be? Similarly, if you’re sending tech equipment out to someone, triple check that you have everything together in one shipment, to save time in the long run.

Don’t overshare: Try to space out the sharing of important information across the whole probation period. It’s unrealistic to expect someone to retain everything they’re told during a period of significant change. Drip feed the big stuff and circle back on the important points more than once.

Little touches go a long way: We now give our new starters a little welcome gift bag, either sent to their home address, or left on their desk the first time they come to the office. A welcome gift really needn’t cost the Earth and can be made up of a few simple, but useful items such as: sweets for a sugar rush, calming herbal tea, a copy of a meaningful book (we usually opt for Lencioni’s ‘The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team’), a notepad and pen and - of course - anti-bac! Gifts should be carefully considered, eco-friendly where possible, and you should avoid items such as alcohol that may not be suitable for everyone.

Virtual Onboarding

Water cooler hints & tips: Our Employee Engagement Team are currently working on a one-pager about the area local to our office, pointing out the best coffee shops and the outside spaces to eat your lunch – things which would usually come up in natural conversation by the water cooler. The document will also include insight into various office quirks; tiny bits of information such as the dodgy lock on the 4th floor loo – it seems unimportant but it’s better to share titbits like this from the off to avoid unwelcome embarrassment!

Provide go-to contacts: Consider buddying up a new team member with someone who has been with the company a while, so they have a go-to person for any ‘newbie’ questions. Make sure they know who to reach out to in case of an emergency, as well as for role-related queries. Keep reiterating that it’s more than fine to reach out at any point – you can’t repeat this too many times!

Take it from the top: Our CEO meets with every new hire during their first week, to set the scene. He tells them about the history of the company, fills in any gaps from the recruitment process, and demonstrates that we’re an inclusive, open business with hierarchy in the background, rather than the foreground. We all know that leader actions are key to business success, so leadership teams need to over-compensate in order to be visible in this new virtual world.

Virtual Onboarding

Once Onboard

Embed core values: Remember that values aren’t just about sharing a shiny infographic in an induction pack; they must be backed up with aligned behaviours. The values and principles that you expect your new employees to buy into, must be visible in every single interaction across the business, and every communication to external stakeholders.

Prioritise employee welfare: The welfare of our staff is our top priority and since we moved to hybrid working, we’ve had to look at all of our policies and procedures, to ensure that people are safe and comfortable whilst working from home, as well as within the office. It’s vital to recognise that despite all of the benefits that remote working brings, it can sometimes feel isolating and from time to time, people may need extra support.

Protect the business. Take time to consider how you’re going to enforce the basics whilst new team members are out of sight. During those first few weeks, shine a light on important topics such as GDPR, confidentiality, Diversity & Inclusion, relevant legislation, governing bodies, and the like. After that, it’s a case of ensuring that all new employees are added into existing mandatory training programmes to retain robust and consistent behaviours across the business.  

Virtual Onboarding

Facilitate connection. At Fizzbox, we’re all about the power of connection. It’s what we offer to our customers, so we’re committed to replicating this internally with our team, especially with new starters during their first few weeks with us.

Here’s a few simple ways in which you can facilitate connection for a new team member:

· If an individual is meeting their new reports or their new line manager for the first time via a virtual platform, ask a facilitator to join for the first five minutes to make introductions and break the ice. They can duck out once everyone has settled.

· Always acknowledge that virtual meetings can feel a bit awkward!

· For larger team meetings, make use of fun, inclusive ice breakers and have some pre-prepared questions to fall back on if things go quiet. One of our favourites is ‘Giants, Wizards, Elves’, a virtual take on ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, complete with daft actions.

· Don’t delay in giving new employees access to collaborative channels such as Slack, private Facebook groups, internal networking platforms and WhatsApp groups.

· Ask all existing employees to ensure that they’ve got a recent photo on their channel profiles so it’s easy to work out who’s who - after all, joining a company virtually means you could potentially not meet someone in person for months!

Virtual Onboarding

Annual reviews are SO 2019: It’s a common mistake to park learning and development conversations until someone has been with the business for a year or so. We believe that training needs and career growth discussions should be happening from day one, on a fluid, rolling basis. Why wait until it’s too late and heads have been turned by another job or exciting new opportunity? Find out how your new employees want to develop and map out ways to help them grow alongside the business, so that you can both reap the benefits.

Accept feedback graciously: Accept that you won’t always get it right and things may get missed – it’s better to know what they are for next time, so ask for feedback! We send out a survey at the one-month mark, asking how we’re doing, whether we can do more to involve, connect and inform. Make sure that feedback lands into a safe space, where comments will be used constructively to change future strategy.

Foster a trust culture: Let’s face it, it takes a high level of trust to give a near-stranger their equipment and send them home with part of your business in their hands. But agile working means that we have to let go of antiquated views that people must be logged in and ready to work at 8.55am. As an employer it can feel a little uneasy, but our advice would be: embrace it! By allowing new team members to manage their own schedule, take tasks on at their own pace, and settle into their new role from the comfort of their home, we will quickly see them flourish and out-perform our expectations.

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