Our daily lives changed significantly about five months ago with the rapid spread of COVID-19. In days, many of us went from working in our offices to trying to replicate a productive work environment at home, not knowing when we would return.
As leaders, our critical thinking skills and innovative spirits were tested. As an industry, we all held tight as we wondered what impact the pandemic would have on our market and our businesses. Fortunately, even after months of COVID-19, many of us are busier than ever; however, these circumstances require us not to proceed with a “business as usual” approach, but rather to rethink and adapt the way we recruit, onboard, and train new employees.
Until recently, many companies in the mortgage industry had only a handful of remote employees. Most businesses had the capacity for virtual onboarding/training, but never the need to rely on it exclusively. From a teaching perspective, it is likely that trainers are either not inclined or experienced in providing virtual instruction only.
Similarly, learners who imaged having the support of peer trainees or in-person coaching have also needed to make adjustments to ensure their own readiness for their new roles. So, how do we acclimate new hires to our company when it is the case that those new employees have never physically been to our offices?
Work With The IT Team
The first step is to assess your organization’s capabilities. Most companies have access to technology that allows them to meet virtually to some degree via screen sharing, camera capabilities, etc. Understanding what those capabilities are and your own team’s capacity is paramount in moving forward. Partnering closely with your company’s IT department will be a game-changer in terms of how smoothly this process will go.
The IT department can guide recruiters and trainers through the new terrain of virtual hiring and onboarding employees. Are any of your processes dependent upon printed forms or physical signatures? If so, change them!
Your staff may also need assistance in setting up and conducting remote interviews and training sessions. Remember to consider whether a potential employee has their office phones transferred home or if they are using personal cell phones. Information security and personal privacy are important factors and need to comply with your company policies.
For those leading the recruiting and hiring, understanding the technological logistics of a job may be a new consideration. Until very recently, many employers have not typically had to take into account whether a candidate has reliable internet access and enough bandwidth to complete job functions. Those are critical factors.
Once you know a new hire can do the job, then you need toget them set up correctly. Normally, IT would have the opportunity to set up anew employee’s equipment. Remotely, these tasks are a much bigger lift. Providing detailed set-up instructions is imperative in ensuring that their do-it-yourself office spaces get up and running efficiently. IT may need to modify what theyhave been using, and detailed input will help.
The next step is to deliver a smooth, comfortable, and welcoming onboarding process. This involves the combined effort of recruiting/HR and the business unit team members.
Review and revamp your onboarding and training paperwork, including instructions, job aids, guides and forms. Enhance the content to be applicable to the current work environment - from the one-page sheet that teaches a new hire how to log in on their first day to any supplementary cheat sheets for work processes. Err on the side of too much information. Without the chance to ask questions over the cubicle wall, everything needs to be documented for new employees.
Forming a team whose responsibility it is to check in with a new hire prior to their start date benefits everyone in terms of preparedness on Day One. The recruiting/HR team should confirm the new hire completed all paperwork and received all equipment and training materials. The hiring manager should offer to answer any questions that may still be open. Making sure that new hires preemptively have answers to their questions is going to help ease everybody’s first day anxieties.
Because today’s new hires likely will not have the opportunity to meet their colleagues face-to-face for quite some time, encouraging managers and department members to frequently interact will help to form some of the camaraderie that would occur in a non-socially distant environment. It is important for managers to engage early and often to ensure their new team member has every opportunity to ask questions and gain clarity on their roles and responsibilities.
Keep the connection and the conversations going beyond the initial training. Encourage managers to frequently engage with their new team members during regularly scheduled team meetings, preferably using video to allow for face to face interaction. Offer time designated for Q&A, discuss the week’s to-do list, and evaluate the new team structure. Consider polling department members (both new and veteran) for feedback on how the new processes are working.
Ask more experienced employees to volunteer as a welcoming committee. Partnering your new hire with a longer tenured employee for post-training support effectively extends the duration of your training and monitors progress. The new employee will benefit from the mentorship model and feel more connected. Having a dedicated employee assigned to assist will also help free up some of the manager’s time to focus on day-to-day responsibilities.
Keep in mind that what works for one person may not be as effective for another. Try a combination or variety of these ideas and remain flexible to adjust along the way.
Laying the foundation for your company’s “new normal” is one of the most difficult parts of this process. None of us had the luxury of taking our time in rolling out these new procedures or training our own staff on how to move forward. We are all adapting on the fly.
Because learning is not being done in person, adjust your company’s expectations around learning curves and the time it should take to pick up a new skill or learn a new program. Be patient. As some locations open backup, it may be helpful to modify onboarding and training programs where possible to allow at least some of the experience to take place at an office. Even a small portion of onboarding and training taking place in person can go a long way in establishing relationships and forming connections.
Of course, this may not be possible everywhere and companies have to respect that new employees may not feel comfortable going into an office. These days we need to be flexible on a national, state and local level, dependent on mandates and laws.
It is important to remain flexible in harnessing virtual hiring, onboarding, and training stratagem. By focusing on the safety and cohesion of internal stakeholders, we work to strengthen our organizations to weather future changes – whatever conditions we may all face!