Onboarding

Can Onboarding Succeed in Times of Corona?

By Rainer Schmoldt

The current Corona pandemic completely overturns the onboarding programmes known so far. What has been tried and tested practice for many decades no longer works in times of lockdown. It is neither possible to welcome a new employee duly in the circle of future colleagues, with a bouquet of flowers and lots of good words, nor do the usual get-to-know-you programmes work, where all the important people in the company can take a personal look at the new colleague and the first more intensive contacts are made.

The current Corona pandemic completely overturns the onboarding programmes known so far. What has been tried and tested practice for many decades no longer works in times of lockdown. It is neither possible to welcome a new employee duly in the circle of future colleagues, with a bouquet of flowers and lots of good words, nor do the usual get-to-know-you programmes work, where all the important people in the company can take a personal look at the new colleague and the first more intensive contacts are made.

What does a normal, optimal onboarding process look like?

Regardless of the positions to be filled, professional onboarding is crucial to smoothly introduce new employees to their future areas of responsibility and thus make them successful. This process is not only important for a company itself, no, the new employees also have a great interest in ensuring that they are introduced or integrated well. It is possible that a good position was given up to take on the new challenge. And that is why the new start must be successful.

Perfect onboarding begins even before the official start date. In the weeks before, the integration of the new employee can already begin, for example, by including them in the mailing list or by providing company and product information. Preliminary telephone calls with the future boss or colleagues also give the new colleague the feeling: I already belong to the community!

The first days in the new job are very important; the personal welcome by the supervisor with a bouquet of flowers, personal words, or a welcome letter. But also, the prepared office with a fully configured laptop and business cards give the newcomer the feeling of having made the right choice of workplace. After the start, it is then most important to be familiarised with all aspects of the new job as quickly as possible: Which people in the organisation are important? Which projects are currently running? What is planned for the future? To name just a few. These topics can be covered by a prepared onboarding plan, which contains all the essential content and gives the new employee a perfect overview in a short time. The whole process is supplemented by a fixed contact person as a mentor for questions that arise. This way, a network of important contacts can be quickly built up and the new colleague is roughly informed about all essential topics.

But how can Onboarding work in times of Corona?

Since many offices are closed, employees sit in home offices or work in separate shifts in productions or assemblies, major problems arise regarding the introduction of new employees. But, what can companies do when, as in current times, the usual onboarding measures are not possible? After hiring companies have brought the difficult recruitment process to a successful conclusion with video interviews and cautious face-to-face meetings at a distance, they are faced with the question of how professional onboarding can be carried out under these conditions.

Here, too, the first activities can be initiated before the start. A personal meeting with the future boss, for example in the form of a joint walk, would be one such measure that also works in Corona times. It is also important to send the ready-configured IT equipment with welcome page and virtual onboarding plan in good time, as well as to provide the necessary means of communication. On the first day of work, a personal video message from the managing director is a good idea, possibly combined with a virtual tour of the department. To experience the team spirit and culture, an online welcome by the whole team can be extremely helpful. In the further onboarding process, virtual coffee breaks in a small circle should be integrated again and again in addition to the necessary online trainings. To get to know individual colleagues or stakeholders better, regular one-to-one video interviews are a good idea. To round things off, virtual happy hours or "tastings at home" are very popular.

But despite all the good creative ideas, it won't work without meeting people in person. People need the person in the flesh and not just a face on a screen. Sitting together at the table with another person or having a little conversation at the coffee machine is hard to replace.

Conclusion

Companies should, if possible, design onboarding as a combination of personal and virtual presence, even in pandemic times. For example, video calls could be used for team meetings, but personal contact for meeting individual colleagues or for new boss introductions. Or a rolling presence could be a solution, means half of the colleagues are in the company office, other half at home office, changing every week. So, the new colleague would be able to meet his new team step by step. That’s the best way to ensure that new colleagues really arrive at the company and become an integral part of the community.


About the Author

Rainer Schmoldt is Group Director at Mercuri Urval. He supports his clients in Executive Search, filling vacant management positions, and with Talent Services in identifying managerial potential. He is also an expert in Executive Outplacement.


  • Onboarding
  • Leadership
  • Corporate Culture