Making New, Remote Staff Feel Like Part of the Team

January 2021
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You know your new employees have the right experience for the job; that’s why you hired them. But working during the coronavirus pandemic has magnified the importance of something that PR leaders shouldn’t take for granted: an onboarding process that helps new employees gain their footing in your company.

For those of us who have shifted our teams to working remotely, it means rethinking our strategies for onboarding new hires. Making new employees feel like they’re part of the company — even when they’ve never been inside the office or met their co-workers in-person — helps integrate them into your organization. 

At Scooter Media, my PR agency in the greater Cincinnati, Ohio, area, we take pride in our company’s culture and have even won awards for it. We have been fortunate to hire several new employees since we began working remotely in March.

Onboarding new team members remotely presented challenges, though. Without being with them in-person every day, how could we help them feel not only welcome, but aligned with our company culture, values and client-service processes? Turns out, it wasn’t as hard as we first imagined it would be.

Here are four ways that Scooter Media has successfully onboarded its new employees remotely:

Break the ice.

Looking for a time-tested ice breaker that helps everyone get to know one another? At Scooter Media, new employees fill out our “Scooting to Know You” questionnaire. This Q&A asks new employees to share their favorite places to eat, social-media pet peeves, Spotify playlists and more. They receive a compilation of responses from our staff, which helps new hires get to know their co-workers, too.  

During their first week on the job we also send our new employees a “Welcome to Scooter Media” care package. Customized based on their responses to our questionnaire, these packages include Scooter Media swag, office supplies and other staff favorites such as coffee and candy. 

Climb the mountain with your Sherpa.

Starting with a new company can be overwhelming. Working with new processes, clients and teams is a lot to absorb, and new employees might have questions they don’t know how to answer. Working remotely, and it adds a whole new layer of complexities to starting a new job. For new hires, it can feel like climbing a mountain without a guide. 

This is why we embrace the buddy system by giving new employees a “Sherpa” co-worker to help them navigate the challenges of their new roles so they can reach the summits of their potential at the company. These buddies are veteran staffers who share similar interests with new hires and can answer their questions (where to find files, for example) and explain how certain tasks are carried out.

When joining a new company, especially virtually, having someone to talk to goes a long way toward boosting productivity and fostering company culture. 

Talk one-on-one.

Despite the conveniences of modern communications technology such as texting, email and remote-office messaging tools like Slack, nothing beats having an actual conversation with someone. By making a concerted effort to talk to new hires one-on-one, we can have meaningful exchanges and connect on a more personal level.

This is why I call new employees at the end of their first week, first month and first 60 days to see how they’re adjusting, where they’re struggling and how I can address their lingering concerns.   

Set employee goals upfront.

Setting goals with new employees upfront ensures they understand what’s expected of them. but also what you as their supervisor need to focus on to help them reach them. Our simple professional-development questionnaire gives us insights into the skills our new employees are most proud of and those they wish to develop. Perhaps most important, the questionnaire helps build a plan of action so employees can achieve their goals. 

Well-thought-out plans of action for employee goals help build a strong work environment with happy employees who have the right personalities for their jobs and for the company’s culture. A strong work environment is one in which co-workers look forward to seeing one another every day. But a company culture that collapses the moment its members are no longer together in the same physical space may never have existed at all.

The bottom line suffers when employees don’t feel connected to their organization, so making sure they feel like part of the team and are connected to your company’s culture from the start is not only a nice thing to do, but a smart one. 

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