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The Remote Employee: Onboarding a New Team Member in the Virtual Age (Part 1)

7 April, 2020
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On March 30, 2020, a Waveform survey found that, of people still with jobs, 57.1 percent are working from home – approximately several weeks into stay-at-home orders issued by numerous states. This figure lends itself to a bigger picture: the sudden, unexpected COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses into a state of working that they did not anticipate – meaning  they had little time to plan and had to learn to think on the fly, in terms of implementing a work-from-home program.

 

Dynamic’s Approach

At Dynamic Computer Corporation, we serve customers in critical infrastructure sectors, so our everyday operations are moving along as usual. Demonstrating agility, creativity and adaptability – as we do in our day-to-day work with our customers – has never been more useful than it is now. We have taken some of our focus inward to attack some new challenges, like a completely virtual onboarding process for new employees, during this time where remote work is eclipsing in-office work due to social distancing.

While many companies are finding remote work to be an uncharted territory all on its own, it isn’t entirely unfamiliar to Dynamic: we are accustomed to using it as a method of enhancing employee satisfaction and as a part of our disaster recovery plan (DRP) solution. But what is new to us is the fact that it has become our core business model much quicker than expected. This three-part series explores our journey of onboarding and integrating a new hire through this new model based on a virtual process – examining best practices as well as challenges and opportunities for improvement. We’ll start from the beginning, discussing the steps our team took to set up our new employee, Trevor, for success as he joins our company in this new way of working.

 

Initial Planning

To prepare for Trevor to join, we held a cross-functional meeting – consisting of his manager, as well as members of human resources and our internal IT department – to discuss several key aspects:

  • Needs and processes
  • The role being onboarded
  • Access, approvals and authority given to the new employee
  • Critical business functions, procedures and workflows

In terms of working remotely, some of the most significant changes we’ve seen include moving from in-person meetings to video conferencing, which we are doing through Microsoft Teams. Likewise, any on-premise applications we may have used in the office are now replaced with cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office 365; this allows employees to continue to be productive away from the office. In addition, new hires will now be tasked with electronically signing and completing onboarding documents in a highly secure OneDrive folder designed for sensitive data and HR material, instead of handling printed documents in person.

 

Tools, Technical Setup and Other Resources

We know that any successful work-from-home environment depends on having the right tools to get the job done, so we made sure to prepare a kit full of essential items for Trevor. In addition to his laptop, charger and mouse, we asked about any other equipment he might need for remote work, such as a second monitor, headset, etc.

While the experience of starting a new job today isn’t exactly what it was like a month ago, we are still striving to maintain similarities. These include providing a welcoming setup to new employees, just like what they would experience if they walked into the office and sat down at their desks for their first day on the job. So, we provided Trevor with our traditional welcome kit, consisting of:

  • A branded backpack
  • A branded sweatshirt
  • A branded notebook and pen
  • A book about our company’s working style

Further steps we took to prepare for Trevor’s arrival included creating his email and system logins ahead of time, as well as loading a VPN onto his laptop prior to sending out his equipment so that credential authentication could take place. His manager provided him with a schedule defining people to meet and topics to learn, during his first month of employment – also setting up meetings via Microsoft Teams to into introduce him to the team and help him become familiar with relevant subject matter. We designated Microsoft Planner as a tool to help him work on a list of tasks as well, as part of his onboarding training. His manager also provided a list of long-term projects in which Trevor will be involved in the future, to help him get an advance overview of areas where his expertise will be needed.

While our process of onboarding new employees in this day of virtual work is fluid and evolving, we are learning a lot from this experience and finding novel ways to make remote work effective, efficient and successful for all our team members.

Check out our second installment of this series, where we discuss how our newest team member’s first week went, including challenges, lessons learned and best practices.

Rachel Zachar

Rachel Zachar is the Content Manager at Dynamic Computer Corporation. She holds a degree in professional writing and rhetoric from Oakland University. Her background includes writing, researching and developing digital content for automotive and technology companies.

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