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In the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, nearly 60% of North American knowledge workers are now operating remotely, twice last year’s average, according to a March Forbes article. This is up from a survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. knowledge workers during late March by Slack, the collaboration hub, 45% reported working remotely, and 66% of those said they were doing it because of the pandemic.

With a greater focus on interviewing and hiring job candidates with the right skills to work remotely, you need to get the next crucial step, virtual onboarding, right. Here’s what Lianne Vineberg, founder at Toronto-based HR and recruitment consulting firm Talent in the 6ix, says in an April SHRM story: “The No. 1 thing to remember is that you’re building a foundation for the new hire to have new relationships in the workplace and helping them to have a voice, which is even more important when they are remote.”

And once your new employee is on board, how well your organization trains and supports them – via virtual communication – will also increase the likelihood they’ll stay and flourish.

The first few months of employment are critical to retention

The stakes for succeeding are high: As many as 40% of new hires leave their job in the first year, and 22% of those depart in the first month! And that translates into a big price tag for companies: According to The Center for American Progress, it costs as much as 213% of annual salary to replace a skilled worker. Others have estimated this amount to be as much as three times an employees’ salary.

Make onboarding and training immersive, engaging and ongoing

Your onboarding efforts in this new all-remote environment need to be comprehensive, and spanning multiple days and months, not just a single phone or video call or one-day session. Build in breaks and virtual social events, for example, lunches or coffee talks. Think about picking up the tab or sending a delivered meal to the group. Put special care and attention into training, including on how to work from home. In Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Working study, 38% of remote workers didn’t get any training on how to work remotely.

Some tips covered in a SHRM article:

  • Educate your new hire about your company, its products and services, and schedule introductory video meetings with managers, team members and senior executives.
  • Make some of the sessions interactive, giving new remote hires a chance to ask questions.
  • Collaborate with your marketing department and others to create supplemental instructional videos that cover such topics as benefits and enrollment steps, as well as accessing and setting up technology for working remotely. (Check out these tools from Powtoon for both remote learning & remote working which can help you create your own how to videos from templates.)

Treat virtual employees as if they are in the office

Even though non-essential employees are working at home in many businesses across the nation, being remote shouldn’t mean being cut off from the rest of the company. In an April column by Owl Labs that identified 10 top management skills that remote team managers need to leverage, three focused on building and nurturing ties to on-site employees. The number two recommendation, to “treat remote team members as if they’re on-site,” warns managers: “When remote employees feel like they’re barred from having the level access to you that’s allotted to on-site workers, they can feel distant and their work can suffer.” Owl Labs recommends building or hosting Internet-based chat channels to give remote workers a chance to bond with on-site employees.

Another recommendation for managers: Schedule regular video calls to establish a consistent face-to-face connection. Without it, “remote employees might end up wondering how they’re doing,” Owl Labs says.

Ask Your Hires Questions … Early and Often

It’s never too early to start building a relationship with your new remote workers. In fact, start before you even hire them. Kick off a sustained program of surveying and checking in to gauge their satisfaction. First, start with your hiring experience and seek feedback from both job candidates and hiring managers. Then, ask them to rate their onboarding experiences. At 30 days, 06 days or 90 days and out (up to a year or more on the job), measure their job satisfaction in a series of pulse checks. And, if an exit interview is in order, find out why they chose to leave. The resulting feedback allows you to Identify and better understand what’s working well and how to improve the hiring of remote workers.

Get feedback at each stage from employees’ supervisors, too, for example on their experience while recruiting and hiring a new employee; their impressions of the new hire’s job fit; and any post-exit feedback of an ex-employee.

Assess your early hiring and onboarding experience

You’ll get the most consistent, meaningful and bias-free data with a well-thought out program that asks the right questions on a regular basis.  SkillSurvey’s new Post-Hire solution will do just that with established sets of surveys and questions created by our I/O psychologists. With real-time satisfaction insights and trend analysis you can pinpoint areas of concern and address problems before they lead to employee turnover.  And, if you’re using SkillSurvey Reference®, you can correlate post-hire date with pre-hire reference feedback.

These are uncertain times, and for many, remote recruiting, hiring and onboarding is a very new way to build a workforce. That’s why your company needs tools to understand who is the right fit; what steps help motivates them; what keeps them engaged; and what you can do to better retain them. Trusted insights from SkillSurvey on their post-hire experiences will help you identify strengths and opportunities of your people and key processes.

Find out more about how SkillSurvey Post-HireTM can help you secure your investment in your most valuable asset … your people. 

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