Virtual Onboarding and Interviewing During COVID-19

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in most companies' internal employment functions. Jopwell has also made changes in our new hire process to assist people and culture operations across the organization that are most suitable for this new remote climate. During this time, professionals are looking for jobs and many companies are finally inching towards a space where they can offer opportunities, but this also means a whole new way of interviewing, interacting, and onboarding new hires.

There are several standard methods of what interviewing and onboarding look like. At Jopwell, we are still working on building our flow for onboarding. We operate from an onboarding checklist to ensure a consistent experience when they start. We make sure to set up equipment and system access before the employee’s start date. The People team provides orientation to Jopwell’s office and culture, as well as our payroll and benefits. Whereas the employee’s direct manager leads the role onboarding, including an introduction to the onboarding/training schedule, meeting team members both in their immediate team and other teams throughout the company as well as our founders.

In a remote climate, it’s definitely more challenging to have such a hands on approach to interviewing and onboarding, but the bones of the process remain the same. It’s important to introduce employees to the company, broadly. While people had a chance to preview this during the interview process, it’s really important to set the right tone for who you are as an employer when folks “walk in the door.” You want to address individuals' primary concerns, and make them feel welcome and supported as they start this new journey while making sure they understand your company’s mission and values.

Although both transitions will be challenging, the interview process is going to be a more seamless transition, especially if your company already has a standard and reliable interview process set in place. Simply tweak your interview method into a remote process. Instead of in-person group engagements, have a virtual onem if there’s an assignment requirement for the role, have them present their work via Zoom or Google Hangouts, etc.

The most important aspect of virtual interviewing and onboarding that we are working on is establishing authentic connections with potential job seekers and creating a sense of accessibility as much as possible. Communication is key during this period and it’s important for employers to give clear guidance and set transparent expectations. We spoke with our in-house expert—Nick Setteducato, Director of People & Culture and Nadia Abouzaid, Head of Recruiting—to discuss transitioning into a virtual interviewing and onboarding climate, tools and tactics he uses to keep the process streamlined, and helpful training programs. Continue reading to learn more about what’s working for us at Jopwell!

What is the most important part of an onboarding process?

Nadia: Training on tools, skills, systems to be successful. Integration with Team & Company—getting to know your direct team and meeting people in different departments. Policies and Procedures—what are company wide expectations.

Nick: You want to set clear expectations for employees, both for how to navigate the office and how to succeed in their role. People teams should work closely with hiring managers to be sure that the employee has an idea of what to expect during the onboarding process, how success will be measured, what resources are available and how to access them, and where to go for support.

What were you doing before this happened and what have we transitioned to doing now?

Nadia: On my team, we used to set up a week's worth of meetings for both meeting teammates and doing training. Now everything is virtual and that is working alright. On systems instead of sitting together, we do screen shares and the person can walk through with guidance. A challenge we faced was picking the best way to allow someone to shadow calls -- needing to figure out conferencing over sitting together. I think the toughest part is figuring out a way that the new employee can easily ask questions. Normally you would ask your neighbor or pop by someone's desk, but unfortunately the virtual dynamic can make it feel more intrusive/less casual.

What are some major areas that would impact your onboarding in a virtual world?

Nick: I think the biggest challenge now will be how to introduce someone to our culture and facilitate the building of relationships in a remote world. It’s not as easy to get to know someone when you can’t interact face-to-face. There are so many non-verbal things that happen in relationship building. How do you gauge confusion or lack of understanding when you can’t clearly see someone’s reaction? How do you make someone feel comfortable being vulnerable in a new environment when you’ve only met on a screen? I think building that sense of comfort and integrating someone into our culture in a way that feels authentic will be the hardest part of virtual onboarding.

What are some useful tactics that you’ve used/researched in order to keep the company onboarding streamlined through this virtual transition?

Nick: Have a plan! We used a checklist, but having some defined process outlining tasks and ownership of those tasks is huge. Make that plan transparent to the new hire, but also the broader team. Let everyone know what’s expected of them and by when. Who sends the welcome message? Who runs which parts of training? How are we celebrating the new hire? Set a calendar/timeline for what needs to happen, assign those responsibilities, and hold people accountable.

What are some helpful programs and/or tools that you know of for virtual onboarding and training?

Nick: We use a Google Sheets checklist. Other spreadsheet tools or lists where it’s easy to manage tasks can work. I’m currently looking at project management tools such as I’ve used these in the past to build onboarding templates that I can then copy and share with relevant stakeholders for each new hire. Some of these companies offer HR templates for easy implementation. There are also onboarding specific programs such as Greenhouse Onboarding that let you build websites to manage the different tasks and create a consistent, branded new hire experience.

Successfully onboarding new hires will be trial and error, but having the following established will put you on the right path.

  • Create a checklist
  • Establish mini goals or 30-day plans for incoming hires
  • Determine your team’s mission and focus
  • Set virtual meetings with different team members across the business
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