Remote Onboarding – What’s the Missing Ingredient?

We interviewed people who had recently joined a new company and found that some misses in the remote onboarding process have led to serious ramifications for both organizations and employees. These include lack of development of mutual trust, varying impact levels for different employee groups, and inability to properly discuss critical topics while interacting remotely.

We undertook a series of interviews with people who have changed jobs during the pandemic and spoke to them on how remote working impacted their onboarding experience. In a previous article, we wrote about how the process of induction and orientation has become more efficient than before the pandemic and how that has positively impacted employee experience.

This article will expand the entire onboarding experience, what they felt was missing, and some recommendations on how the gaps can be bridged to build a brand that is loved.

Of the numerous areas of discussion with our interviewees, three clear themes stood out and those will be the focus of this article:

  1. Face-to-face interaction is critical to establishing trust.
  2. Onboarding remotely impacted different employee groups differently.
  3. Some critical areas of discussion just don’t work when remote.

Establishing trust

The biggest issue with remote interaction that 100% of our interviewees called out is building trust. The formality and the somewhat forced nature of interaction doesn’t lend to people opening up and as a result, the trust and bonhomie that could build in a 5-10 minute informal chat with another person takes months to happen when remote. And in the case of many of our interviewees, it just didn’t happen. Causing them helpless frustration and stress. They knew what was happening, how it was impacting them and the organization, but just couldn’t do anything about it.

Note: This impact isn’t restricted to the topic of remote onboarding and in fact impacts every one of our nine elements of successful transformation. You can read about the nine elements here. We will be expanding on this topic in the weeks to come.

The impact on different groups:

The large proportion of our senior respondents brought this point out – different employee groups have different experiences with remote induction and orientation.

Junior employees (0-3 years) who are younger are very comfortable with the remote process. But in their case, brands lose out on the aura and spectacle of entering a large and swanky facility. Because organizations can no longer leverage the physical elements of their employer brand.

The feedback was similar for their technology hires. This employee group is intimately familiar with working remotely and takes to it naturally.

The sales function lands up somewhere in the middle. It is tough for them to quickly build the required strong working relationships with allied teams of data analytics and marketing.

But the team members joining Admin, Finance, Analysis, HR, Design, and Marketing, etc. face the most difficulty. These teams have a large amount of cross-functional interaction and struggle the most due to the aforementioned point on trust-building.

Some critical topics just don’t work!

The jury is out on this, and we will continue our research on this theme, but 30% of our respondents felt very strongly that organizational purpose, vision, values are discussion topics that just don’t work when being delivered over a video call!

Since these are emotion-based topics, transferring emotion over a screen becomes supremely difficult. All organizations tried, and continue to try, but the frank admission was that it wasn’t working. Some organizations consciously decided to keep the session topical, others brought inductees into specially curated face-to-face sessions to ensure the core purpose and employees’ contribution towards it were addressed at a forum that allowed inspiration and dialogue.

Here’s something that could maybe help you. Some organizations with success in their onboarding experience brought energy and human touch into their onboarding experience by including employee families into the onboarding experience, inviting them into sessions with leaders, organizing small sing-along or role-play sessions that amplified their organizational culture to beyond the employee.

A round of applause from us to these onboarding champions who have worked so hard under such difficult times to keep their employees front and center.

In closing, we would like to share a hard-hitting statement that one of our interviewees, the CFO of a large eComm company made on Employee Experience:

“Some organizations have focus on employee experience in their DNA and the others just don’t get it! Having worked at multiple organizations over the last 25 odd years, I believe there are no in-betweens.”

What do you believe is missing when onboarding remotely? Let us know if you need help with the same at your organization!

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Your thoughts?

2 Responses

  1. Very timely & totally insightful! I hadn’t placed much thought to how different work groups will respond to remote on-boarding, in fact remote engagement, as a whole.
    We are a “jab era” start-up & have yet to fully chart out the on-boarding experience. Your posts will definitely provide us with some ideas!!

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