Top Four Ways to Preserve Company Culture During COVID With New Employee Onboarding
By Matt Greenfield, President, Cannella Media DTC
For organizations fortunate enough to grow and expand and/or replace personnel during the pandemic, integrating new hires to their company culture while working remotely can be challenging. Yet, the work-from-home culture during lockdown can have a long-lasting effect on a company’s team dynamics.
Here at Cannella Media, we understand firsthand the work-from-home impact on culture having onboarded 15 new team members since the company began working remotely on March 16, 2020.
The Challenge of Preserving Work Culture During COVID Work-From-Home
As a large agency with entrepreneurial roots, it’s critical that all our team members adopt a “what-if” mindset and all-hands-on-deck mentality. We also recognize the importance of preserving our fundamental operating principles of intellectual curiosity, communication, engagement, teamwork, transparency, community, happiness, and independence.
Before the lockdown, we had a successful onboarding process that was essentially a baptism-by-fire, complete immersion experience. However, with our entire team working virtually, new hires don’t have the advantage of being in the office and naturally absorbing our company culture from working alongside their teammates.
To adjust to this “new normal,” we pivoted to an onboarding process for a 100% work-from-home environment. Along the way, we have learned a few things about employee onboarding during COVID.
What to Know About Onboarding Employees During COVID
1. Frequent Communication and Check-Ins
We share company culture and values with new hires early and often. Getting new hires and the team on the same page as efficiently as possible is an important first step: setting clear expectations and being upfront and direct in communication is incredibly helpful and making documents accessible via a centralized location ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Our managers adopt an open-door (or “call”) policy to keep the line of communication always open. We schedule check-ins with new hires at the beginning and end of each day to build rapport while making sure that we address any issues and that the onboarding process is progressing as planned.
2. Shared Technology and Reporting Systems
Using the right tools helps replicate as closely as possible the collaborative environment in which our team thrives. For example, we use video and screen-sharing technology and Smartsheet, a collaborative work management software.
Our office utilizes Microsoft Teams, the central hub around which team members gather for both our professional and social interactions. For instance, we use the platform to support document and file sharing, and real-time team collaboration, but also use to foster social engagement among the entire office, such as step count challenges and recipe exchanges.
3. Team Training
Training for a new job while adjusting to a new company culture can be nerve-wracking and a bit scary, especially when a new hire is working at home on their own but having a team of supportive colleagues and can make a tremendous difference.
We schedule introductions and high-level cross-training involving those in different areas of responsibilities and from other teams. This provides new hires with a holistic view to understand how the organization works as a whole, which can be harder to grasp in a work-from-home environment, with the added benefit of fostering introductions and interactions with a variety of people within the organization.
4. Social Interactions
Virtual events such as happy hours and lunch gatherings are great opportunities for new hires to become an active part of the company community. We also offer a “COVID-hire new staff” gathering to give our new team members extra support.
Additionally, video calls for all interactions help to simulate an “in-person” experience as much as possible. We urge all team members to find opportunities to have those get-to-know-you watercooler moments with new hires as part of these calls (e.g., before or after meetings.)
A well-designed onboarding process is key to ensuring that new hires receive a proper introduction to company culture and become part of a productive team as quickly as possible.
• Don’t reinvent the wheel: Use clear documentation and structured processes to help ensure that everything is addressed each time a new hire is welcomed to the company.
• Be willing to pick up the phone: Encourage constant communication to help everyone stay on the same page so nothing and nobody falls through the cracks.
• Make it a team effort: Leverage the skills, experience, and knowledge of everyone on the team to support new hire onboarding
• Get leadership involved: Ensure that team leaders have the time to mentor new employees and give them a well-rounded outlook of the company.
• Use the right technologies: Create multimedia visual training aids and make them accessible via a central location to communicate experiences that new hires can’t grasp in person.
• Encourage accountability: Make sure everyone is participating in the onboarding process and create checklists to help track all the onboarding activities.
Building a work-from-home culture during lockdown has its challenges but with a little forethought, is completely doable. Every day is crazy and different — so while it’s important to have a structure so we aren’t doing things on the fly, we learned early that rigid training plans won’t work and that it’s important to stay nimble and flexible.
Most importantly, if nothing else, it’s so important to show your appreciation. In today’s work-from-home culture, we’ve learned that a simple “thank you” goes a long way to encourage someone who’s trying to learn the ropes and the workplace culture with less support and context than before.