The best made plans can be scuppered when you have to face a pandemic, like that of COVID-19. Despite of borders being closed and countries in lockdown, some businesses will try to continue business as usual, meaning they might have to onboard employees remotely. Whilst the circumstances are not favourable to anyone, many employers have had job offers out to employees for several months, and some employees will have left their previous employment in preparation for their new position.

We have outlined some fundamental things to consider when you are onboarding employees during a pandemic, to make the process as smooth and productive as possible for both parties.

Communicate Clearly & Frequently

When onboarding someone remotely, you won’t naturally interact with the employee as much as when you constantly bump into each other in the office. Further – because of COVID-19, the employee is not only experiencing significant change to their work life, but with the situation at hand, also most likely in their personal life. To bring some clarity into a time of chaos, communication therefore becomes more important than ever. Make sure you build up a routine for frequent communication – ask questions and give direction, perhaps more often than you would have done normally to make sure the employee gain enough confidence to work on their own.

In times of uncertainty it becomes crucial to communicate clearly about what is expected of the employee and the situation at hand – be honest about our temporary ways of working and what it will look like going forward. We recommend daily check-ins of the employee’s wellbeing and progress, encourage an open and honest environment, and with that monitor closely how the employee is doing.

Make use of technology

There are countless software’s available to help remote teams interact with each other similarly as if they were in the office. Video conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype can be useful tools not only to discuss work related matters, but also to open up for casual conversations and to host social activities virtually. Put effort into building relationships from day one – welcome the new employee by hosting a virtual Welcome-breakfast or Friday Drinks to make sure (s)he feels inclusive of the team.

Have a look at our blog post about 8 ways of keeping up the team spirit when working from home for some inspiration!

Use Online Training Modules

If you haven’t already put these in place – now is a good time to do so. Setting up training modules online requires some cross-departmental efforts, though it can be a valuable resource for future onboarding and training as well. Why not introduce the training modules to your more established staff as well? Now is an excellent time for your employees to develop their skills and expertise, both for the sake of the knowledge, but also for a sense of accomplishment.

In an unusual situation like this, it is important to adjust the training to current needs and expectations rather than running with the script. Again – communication is key. Explain to your new recruit what the usual onboarding routine looks like, and what has been temporarily put in place due to COVID-19. Ask for feedback and alter the training program as-you-go.

Ensure knowledge transfer

One thing that might fall between the cracks when your office is not operating as usual, is the knowledge transfer between team members. When employees are not physically present in the office, it creates barriers to asking questions during feelings of uncertainty. Here, making an extra effort to make personal introductions to the various team members can be a way of pushing down that barrier. Make fellow team members aware of challenges and expectations that you are facing with onboarding a new employee, and perhaps assign your employee an “Onboarding buddy” from a different department. You could also set up a separate channel in your communication tool with a group of department representatives, as a way of creating an open environment for the new employee.

Be Realistic

Conducting work remotely if you’re not used to it can be a headache. Because of the lack of established onboarding routines, the feeling of frustration will probably strike both employers and employees. Therefore, one must be realistic in terms of expectations for what can be achieved during these times. Face the facts about us being in a national crisis – and make the best out of the situation.

You might temporarily have to alter the way you measure performance and appraisals, which further needs to be communicated clearly to all employees. Make sure to give your new starter recognition for their progress to make them feel valuable and motivated. Perhaps it is a good idea to divide their objectives into smaller milestones and reward each achievement.

Make the Most of the Desk Time

Online research and administrative projects, as well as online training modules mentioned above, are excellent tasks that can be performed when working independently from home. Similarly, client facing activities might not be the focus as of now. Adjusting the working tasks to the temporary ways of working and prepare for future projects when things “go back to normal” can be a way of utilising this time. When faced with a challenge, which the current situation is for many, try to focus on the benefits and how to best manage this time, how we can learn and develop, rather than seeing it solely as a problem.