Online Induction for virtual staff
Technology has totally transformed the way we do business in the modern era. No longer do employees have to be slaves at their desk, glued to the phone with the fax and printer working flat out to keep them up to date with realms of paper.
Nowadays, staff are just as likely to be working remotely, taking a mobile approach with any number of portable devices, or even kitting up a home office that allows them to dial into the company’s system.
Both avenues offer tremendous advantages when it comes to flexibility, both for the employer and the employee. But when you have staff who also need to be inducted virtually, things become a little more tricky.
After all, you then lack the face-to-face direct human touch – the warm handshake from the general manager, the first day drink with a work buddy, or even the personalised tour of neighbouring coffee shops.
So how do you account for this while still creating a sense of engagement? Here’s five strategies to implement.
The very same computers that are going to allow the staff member to work from home are the very same ones you can call on during an online induction to ensure it stays personal, as well as informative. For example, maybe you structure the learning modules a little differently to how you would with someone you can have direct contact with. For example, you could start the day with a Skype chat to say hello and welcome them. Then, they can log into some online modules and work through that at their own pace. When it’s time for a break, a video-conference with their department could be a chance for them to put a face to the name of their new co-workers, while a phone hook-up with the big boss can create that feeling of a company is invested in its people. Remember, the point of an induction is to build inclusivity, and that starts from day one.
If someone doing their online induction course in a training room can feel isolated when they hit a snag, imagine how it would feel to face that situation 500km away – sitting out of your depth and wondering who to ask for help. For this reason, it is absolutely essential (and that goes on to include day to day work) that your virtual new staff have a clear contact list of people to ask for help – and that it includes co-workers who have indicated their availability and willingness to help. Make sure you’re really specific with their area of expertise, and also include a back-up. After all, induction is time-sensitive, and you don’t want to be waiting for someone to call you back when they finally return from lunch. So structure each contact like this: “If the HR learning module freezes, contact Jess Smith in our IT department on direct dial 000. If she’s not there try Brian Adams on 111”. As a final note, give them a ‘if you can’t get anyone else, ring this person’ number. That way, as a last resort, they’ve got a fail-safe friend to call for help who can, if necessary, go physically hunting for the person they need to talk with.
With share and share alike being the approach of many business tools, avenues such as Dropbox and Google Drive become essential addition in the creation of an online induction program for staff training. And the reasons are endless. For example, not only can you can track employees’ progress and compliance, you can also be on the same page as them at all times. This means, for example, you can see when they’re nearly finished the morning’s modules and it’s almost time for a ‘how are you travelling?’ phone call. It’s also far easier for someone struggling with a piece of policy to get help if the person they’re talking to can open up the same document or video, go to the exact same point and use that as a starting point to help fill in the gaps in their understanding. Trust us, the potential is limitless. And if you’re wondering what kind of tools are available, Google ‘business virtual technology’. You’ll be amazed at what’s on offer.
Yes, the employee is new to the business, and it’s up to them to make an effort to acclimatise. But no matter how far away you work, it’s always great to feel welcomed by existing colleagues. One way you can do this is by encouraging the people they work with to make them feel part of the team. They could send them an email to say hello or drop them a jokey note with a pointer to a favourite Dilbert cartoon. Another great idea if you have an internal staff portal is to run a photo and small fun questionnaire for each new arrival – along with those of existing employees. After all, if staff can read up on their co-workers and maybe identify some shared habits and interests, it’s a great way to start a conversation without even having to have met.
This is actually a pretty crucial step, even more so than if they were doing their online induction in an office environment. You see, every fresh employee has new software, systems and procedures to understand, and these take time to learn – well beyond what may be considered their one day of official induction. At the office, of course, you can lean over your desk and ask someone to show you something again, which doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. But if you’re at home alone, wondering what to do, the silence can be daunting. So give them a kind of study buddy that they can call on for help anytime and with any online induction query, no matter how big or small, and for a period of weeks. Just make it’s someone who is patient and who is very well versed in the tasks the new person will be doing. Also make sure their own schedule isn’t overwhelming at that time, so they have the time to dedicate to the job.
As a final note, also remember that culture is everything. Your virtual staff member may work at home, but that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in what’s happening in and out of the office. So make a point of filling them in about opportunities for bonding, for relaxation, for family days and more. You may just find that occasionally they can come along, and if you’ve done your online induction properly, they’ll already feel like part of the family, one who has names for faces and therefore an easy in to conversation and camaraderie.