Onboarding remotely: what does the future look like?

15 months into the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us have adapted comfortably to doing our jobs from home. But what about people who started new jobs during the pandemic? And in particular, what about workers who started not just new roles, but new careers in a remote environment?

This is the subject that Lynda Gratton addressed in her latest article for the MIT Sloan Management Review. In essence, while it is easy enough to translate onboarding materials and welcome rituals into a remote setting, there is a whole range of less tangible cultural onboarding that can be harder to recreate.

Young people at the start of their careers are particularly vulnerable because of this. Where once they would typically have had daily opportunities to bond with colleagues, observe the culture, values and norms of the organisation and gather vital yet informal insights and ideas, now they are working from home, alone. As the way we work continues to change, we need to make conscious changes to the way knowledge is shared inside of companies. Here are some of Lynda’s recommendations:

Innovate with technology. At PwC, for example, new hires can use VR headsets to interact with each other in a virtual coffee bar, watch senior partners present in a virtual auditorium, and enjoy games and private conversations.

Curate interactions. If face-to-face office time is going to be less frequent in the future, then it must be replaced with something else. Curated interactions could be one way of doing this. This can include ensuring that new hires have a team project to engage with straight away and including discussions about work style preferences and team values in the kick-off.

Create opportunities for bonding. Ensuring new hires have access to formal and informal interactions with colleagues at all levels is another important way to promote the sharing of tacit knowledge. This can include Q&A sessions with senior staff, one-on-ones with colleagues who are a few years further along their career path or Friday afternoon calls to discuss how everyone is spending their weekend.

Make space in “the room where it happens”. When important work is taking place – from sales pitches, to planning meetings or workshops – take the time to ensure those who will benefit most from observing how things are done are included.

Finally, it is important to keep track of the demographic makeup of your physical office. If trends start to emerge showing that new hires and their more experienced colleagues never cross paths in the office, it is time to step in and start creating opportunities for knowledge sharing and observation. Developing knowledge beyond what is found in formal training is crucial for new joiners – we need to be deliberate about it.

Read Lynda’s full article on the MIT Sloan Management Review website here.