Over these last months, many companies have been faced with a unique situation due to the health crisis of COVID-19. In a time of social distancing and broad lockdown measures, how do companies hire and onboard new employees? The answer: remotely. 

We asked one of our HR Business partners, Anaïs Véron, for her thoughts about the first virtual onboarding process she recently conducted with Michael Page consultant, Sophie Dornbach.

How does the remote onboarding process for a consultant look like at Michael Page compared to conventional onboarding?

Normally, we have a three day induction training in the office with our new hires within their first month. After the first day, we usually have a talk to see how things are going, answer questions or doubts and we continue having follow up calls in the weeks after. 

With the new remote onboarding structures in place, Sophie picked up her computer and mobile phone in the office first. The communication between HR and the line Manager is key for this process. We spoke much more with each other to make sure that we had a clear plan for Sophie. 

Via Microsoft Teams, one of our digital tools, we offered shorter sessions on different days covering the same content that is in the three day in person trainings. They were conducted either in group sessions or in one-to-one meetings. I did the training about Michael Page values and guidelines, trainings on how we conduct calls to clients, and how to do interviews and sales pitches. Our more senior consultants then invited Sophie to shadowing sessions of interviews on Teams and were responsible for her integration into the team and the “virtual” office.

Do you want more information on how Sophie experienced her onboarding process? Click here.

Are you looking for support in onboarding or recruiting new employees? Get in touch with our specialist recruiters.

How was the technical setup organized and did it work smoothly?

Since Sophie was our first employee who was onboarded remotely, we created a tailor-made solution for her. We received great support from Michael Page especially from IT who made sure everything was working for her.

We mainly used the digital tools Microsoft Teams and Boost for the onboarding process, which worked well for the online trainings. With Microsoft Teams we could create surveys and polls within a training, separate channels and classrooms, etc. This ensured that the training was interactive and that we didn’t lose the attention of the participants. Boost, on the other hand, is our internal training platform which offers a one-month induction training for new consultants, as well as other modules for specific programs and skills.

The pandemic pushed us toward a more digital world and our company showed that we have the right resources and people to adjust to the new normal. 

What did you learn from the remote onboarding processes you have conducted so far? 

As it was our first completely remote onboarding, we were more reactive instead of having a clear plan from the beginning. However, the hiring manager, Sophie and our HR team were in constant contact sharing insights and feedback, so we were able to identify areas where we could improve and have applied these learnings in the virtual onboarding processes of other new-joiners since. For example, we now have a clear plan of what is expected from the new hire from the beginning and communicate clearly the key learnings and skills they will acquire each week. Trainings have been implemented from day one. The guidelines are more visual so it is easier to remember them. Offering a training of four hours turned out to be counterproductive. Two hours on two different days is much more effective.

Which advantages / disadvantages do you see in a remote onboarding process compared to the traditional way? 

Remote onboarding comes with several advantages. From an HR perspective I’d say we can be more agile, efficient, cost effective, time saving, and we do not lose the quality of our training. We needed to be creative by using the right tools and making our trainings even more interactive. As a result, the engagement was even higher than on regular trainings as the sessions were also shorter. The key is to send participants a task they must do before the session and integrate them as much as possible in the training by asking them for their opinion, doing role playing, group activities, etc.

As a disadvantage, I would say that creating a feeling of belonging to our company when onboarding from home is very difficult. In Page, we have our values, philosophy, and the atmosphere in the office. How can you transmit this virtually? You do need more time to implement the first trainings, because both trainers and participants need to be taught how to use the platforms. Additionally, online trainings don’t work as well for large groups.

Is the remote onboarding process here to stay?

We have now a few months of experience providing remote onboarding. As from June 1st we do have a fully revamped virtual induction training. We will continue pushing for digital onboarding because we think it is a fantastic alternative to the traditional process and it won’t disappear in the future. Our new hires can participate in the online trainings for two hours a day, for example, and the rest of the day they can learn on the job. 

Are you planning to onboard your new employees remotely? Get in touch with a member of our team here.

Read on to find out how Sophie's hiring manager experienced the remote onboarding process.

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