Let’s face it, you are probably pretty busy — busy enough that you need to hire additional virtual staff to help lighten the load. There is no time to waste, things are flying around everywhere and you need help NOW!
At the point you are doing something right – GETTING HELP. But in order to ensure that the people you hire can actually help you, it is important to slow down and on-board them into your company properly.
Let’s talk why.
I place a lot of value in successfully on-boarding my staff, whether it is for my internal teams or for staff that our clients request from us through VE People. The purpose of on-boarding your virtual staff is to:
- Provide them context and background about the company they are working for
- Set the ground rules and expectations (in an open, transparent and friendly way)
- Provide an overview of their role and explain the value of their contribution
- Explain basic internal processes and make their first month easier to navigate
The primary goal I have in terms of on-boarding new virtual staff is to build a connection between the staff member and the company. This must be a genuine connection.
At a high level, let’s look at what we hope to achieve in executing the four points above.
1. Provide your virtual staff context and background about the company they are working for
It is pretty common for companies to provide an overview of their history and goals to new starters. This usually results in a few glazed looks, polite smiles and a secret yearning for the boring induction video to finish ASAP.
If you are going to provide your new staff with a generic video to welcome them, avoid the trap of talking only about your company and it’s history. Take this a level or two deeper and explain your company mission and how your staff contribute to this. Discuss your company culture and explain its importance and most importantly, how your staff can contribute to this. Be sure to explain to your staff why you value them. This is your first chance to demonstrate to your virtual staff that the relationship between you both is reciprocal.
A great induction video can be generic and still plant the seeds of connection between your new staff member and your company.
2. Set the ground rules and expectations (in an open, transparent and friendly way)
This is another opportunity for communicating via a generic video message. Better still, a video message setting ground rules and expectations sends exactly the same message to ALL staff members. No mixed messages.
At VE People, we feel it is important that we get the basics right as a matter of habit. Our on-boarding process outlines guidelines and expectations related to:
- How we work together internally (Behaviour)
- How we work with our clients (Behaviour)
- How we co-ordinate and manage our admin tasks (Process)
The importance of discussing expectations of the above is to re-inforce our strong “people first” focus and maintain a positive internal culture. We also ensure that our staff understand the professional etiquette and standards required in terms of client engagement and, unfortunately, how they will be supported if their client becomes exploitative or aggressive (Yes it does sometimes happen but careful client screening has helped us make this a rarity).
3. Provide an overview of their role and explain the value of their contribution
In my opinion, this step should never be done via video message. Why? Because this is where you will provide specific and detailed information relating to the new staff member. Think about it: if you are a newly hired graphic designer and you receive a video message outlining how a graphic designer contributes to your company, it will all seem a little impersonal and lacking in context.
This is the point where you meet with your new staff – preferably by video chat – and provide a detailed overview of their role. For example, this session should be used to discuss the projects your new staff will work on, agree your collective requirements on how you can communicate with each other, how tasks will be allocated, what responses times will look like etc. This clearly outlines the engagement between you and your new staff member and sets negotiated and mutually agreed operating principles.
This is the perfect point to further build a connection with your new staff by explaining how and why their role creates and is valued.
4. Explain basic internal processes and make their first month easier to navigate
A strong business needs a suite of smooth operating processes and it is important that new staff know how to access these processes. Your induction should not detail all the processes (if so, get ready for the glazed looks to return!) but explain how new staff can access them or who they can talk to if they get lost. VE People also has internal administrative expectations of our staff and we take the opportunity to outline these during the on-boarding process. An example of this is that all staff are required to use TimeDoctor which is a great tool that records their hours and screenshots. Besides using Time Doctor, we also require each staff member to submit an “End of Day” or EOD Report which is a quick and easy way to keep in touch with what is happening.
The key here is to introduce your new staff to other key members of your team who can assist them understand who is who in the zoo, where they can go if they need certain things done and most importantly, instill a feeling of welcome and support.
So what happens if you fail in the on-boarding process?
Failure can happen in a number of ways. You may not on-board them at all. You may on-board new staff in a manner that creates initial mistrust or resentment through lack of clarity, vague goals or an impersonal approach. Once the initial mistrust sets in, it is hard to recover from. You may also over-promise as part of the on-boarding which creates an initial sense of excitement followed by let down and deflation. This can become a nearly irreconcilable situation.
If this process fails, you miss a wonderful opportunity to build a genuine connection with your new staff. This can affect overall productivity, staff retention, team dynamics/culture and client engagement.
If your goal is to build a high-performing team (maybe even just you and one other person) that is engaged and lightens your load, establishing the right relationships at the start through a well-designed and communicated on-boarding process is certainly an important point of focus for you.