How to onboard new recruits in the virtual world of work

The UK is well into its fourth week of official lockdown and businesses across the country have moved their employees to work remotely. Whilst many companies, including Teamspirit, are used to a degree of agile working, having everyone permanently at home is a new challenge; from the continuous cries of ‘can you hear me?’ on Zoom calls through to my personal challenge of juggling being a parent, a maths teacher, a manager, and ensuring client servicing levels remain as high as ever, all in the space of an hour.

Welcoming new people

And whilst bedding in current employees to the new normal has proved relatively smooth, it’s a totally different challenge for fresh faces starting a brand-new job at this time. And, to be honest joining a business right now is not the easiest thing to do – either practically or emotionally. Businesses, including Teamspirit, have had very little time to prepare for a whole new way of bringing people on board and making sure they feel part of a team; many of whom they have never met.

In the first week of lockdown we welcomed two new people, Wendy a director and Olivia, an account executive, to the Teamspirit fold. Both bring fantastic skills and experience and we are thrilled to have them. But how to make them feel welcome and importantly, make sure they can be productive. Here’s how it went.

Logistics

The first issue was the logistics. Finding out where each of them was planning to spend the next few weeks and getting their equipment to them and set up properly. With several calls into the IT team, couriers booked and some welcome help from family members both were set up and onto the system with relative ease.

Secondly, and importantly, how should the induction period work? Making people feel welcomed and a part of the team is incredibly important, but most of the usual options are not available!


Everyone joining the team gets a line manager as you would expect, but also a buddy. Someone designated to look out for them in those early weeks, that does the same job as them and can be a sounding board. In this time of virtual onboarding these roles have never been more important, and early engagement was key. Both buddies and line managers were in touch prior to the start date to introduce themselves and set up virtual coffees and lunches on the first day.

Virtual inductions

A full virtual induction took place during the course of the first week, from video calls with client teams, to inductions into all the tools and processes they would need to know to do their job in these early weeks. Our CEO Kirsty Maxey has had video calls to welcome Wendy and Olivia individually, and separately Adam Smith, our MD, and myself have spent time with them to talk about the culture and ethos of Teamspirit, and make it clear that the virtual door is always open for questions or any struggles.

So much for the work aspect. But joining an agency is so much more than that, and we are a close-knit team so felt very strongly that we needed some social activities as well. Olivia had an early team catch up and Teams lunch with her fellow Account Executives, while Wendy’s first management meeting involved wine. We have a weekly ‘Pruddle’ where the whole PR team catch up and run through everything from new business to client challenges to our news quiz of the week, but last week we extended it to become a welcome drinks on Zoom. It gave us all a chance to have a more informal catch up and get to know our new colleagues.

Looking ahead

It’s not just the first week or two that will be challenging for new joiners. We will be making sure that we check in on an ongoing basis, and loop them into our wellbeing initiatives, from weekly mindfulness and yoga sessions, to our regular quiz afternoons. And they were of course included in the little gift we sent the whole team as a heartfelt thank you for their adaptability and positivity in these unusual times.

Anyway, we think it went well, all things considered. The team has done a great job at welcoming both Olivia and Wendy aboard and I honestly hope they already feel like truly valued members of the team. We are already planning the face-to-face ‘welcome’ drinks when we can all be back together.

Written by Jo Preston, group board director and head of people at integrated financial services agency Teamspirit


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