Learning & Development, Recruiting, Talent

5 Ways to Make Remote Onboarding More Engaging During the Holiday Season

Has your onboarding process been updated recently? Better yet, do you provide a clear and structured onboarding experience for employees that keeps them engaged, even during a busy time like the holidays?

Source: Panchenko Vladimir / Shutterstock

According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 36% of employers don’t have a structured onboarding process, while 26% of employers only spend a week bringing on new team members. 

Often, the first 90 days at a new company is spent learning and developing skills. This is hard enough with a limited onboarding process. When you add in the element of remote engagement thanks to the pandemic, you risk your top candidates losing interest and moving on.

In fact, 69% of employees said they’re more likely to stay with a company for 3 years after experiencing great onboarding, reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Keep your new employees engaged during the holidays with these simple but powerful onboarding ideas.

1. Add Gamification to the Experience

The first few weeks at a company are overwhelming and exhausting for employees. This is compounded during the holiday season, when the material could easily be forgotten during time away with family and friends. However, you can keep new hires engaged and improve their retention by making a game of the onboarding process.

According to PingBoard’s onboarding gamification guide, creating challenges for new team members encourages participation and increases the chances your employees will remember the content. 

“What are employees more likely to remember—a boring PowerPoint deck or an interactive onboarding game?” PingBoard asks. “Game-based training leads to better outcomes, resulting in higher retention rates and generating continuous feedback on performance.”

Whether you develop a basic quiz for your team to complete or create a Jeopardy!-style trivia game, you can better engage your hires, keeping them interested and boosting retention.

2. Let Them Show You What They Learned

If your onboarding process involves several tutorials and video presentations, let your new team members turn the tables by teaching instead of learning. Challenge your employees to show you what they know by creating a presentation at the end of each onboarding section.

Some people learn by teaching others, so this is a chance for you to evaluate their knowledge while giving them a chance to prove their expertise. It also forces them to pay closer attention to the content, and, with a video presentation, it also gives them an opportunity to connect with team members face-to-face.

3. Create a Clear Schedule to Keep Your Team Busy

During the first few weeks, your employees will rely on you for assignments and direction as they learn the ropes. Even the most independent team members need help when they first start, but with holiday chaos and end-of-year to-do lists, it can be easy to forget about checking in or giving the new hires tasks.

Don’t let your employees sit around waiting; instead, map out the first 2 weeks for them. Create a list of tangible goals for this entry period that they can work toward.

“To help onboard new employees without making them feel awkward or alienated, keep them busy during the first two weeks of employment,” the team at Coverwallet explains. “Giving them their schedule ahead of time sets a clear direction on the things they need to accomplish without having too much pressure.”

Without this schedule, your remote employees may start to feel alienated or forgotten. They might miss out on key onboarding information and fall behind with their work early on. This schedule shows you are cognizant of the learning curve but confident in your staff members’ abilities.

4. Bring Back the Buddy System

In some grade-school classrooms, teachers assign “buddies” at the start of the school year. Students walk with their buddies and turn to them for help with problems. Your company can develop a similar program for onboarding new hires during the holiday season—and beyond.

The people analytics and data analytics teams at Microsoft—Dawn Klinghoffer, Candice Young, and Dave Haspas—piloted a buddy system with 600 employees across their organization and found that having a helper was incredibly beneficial.

“Our research found that after their first week on the job, new hires with buddies were 23 percent more satisfied with their overall onboarding experience compared to those without buddies,” they explained.

They continue, “This trend continued at 90 days with a 36 percent increase in satisfaction. Those with buddies also reported receiving more active support from both their manager and the broader team.”

Providing remote workers with a buddy allows them to create a personal connection within the company whom they can turn to when management is busy. A buddy is another line of support to make onboarding less stressful.

5. Focus on Their Career Goals Sooner Than Later

It’s never too early to invest in your team. Once your new hire understands the basics of the job, look for ways to grow the person’s skills. This could mean letting him or her attend a webinar on a topic he or she has never learned about before or having the person shadow a coworker in another department. Get this started during onboarding by asking the new hire about what he or she hopes to achieve in this role and his or her career.

You may even want to create a standard-format survey that new hires fill out with goals and visions for their future. Let them take their time on this during the holidays, and follow up with a one-on-one meeting in the new year. Cement a plan for how they can achieve some goals in Q1 and beyond.

This investment in their skills can better engage new hires while showing them you care about their growth, both at the company and in their careers.

Retool Your Onboarding Practices

Remote employees who don’t have the benefit of being in the office during a busy time of year, when coworkers and managers are busier than usual, may struggle with staying engaged during the onboarding phase. Consider developing an onboarding process that lasts at least a month—if not the full 90 days—to keep new employees engaged during a distracting time of year.

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications, including Forbes. She also writes for Score, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter, @JThiefels, and connect on LinkedIn.

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