How To Onboard New Team Members – Virtually

Many businesses, especially PR agencies, are looking to expand their teams to accommodate a resurging economy and recovering business sector. Traditionally, onboarding for new employees would entail face-to-face meetings, all-company lunches and even an after-hours happy hour. In early 2021, this still isn’t possible. While things are heading in the right direction, most orientations will have to be done online, not in real life.

Let’s face it, Zoom calls can be fairly mundane after a full year of video meetings. As PR pros, we are good at spicing things up and making the best out of any situation. What are some new and engaging ways to onboard new team members online?

Overprepare them

The first day of any job can be overwhelming, but especially if you’re not within shouting distance of your team. New employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years. The onboarding process matters because it acclimates new employees to their position and lays the groundwork for success. A successful orientation will provide the knowledge, training, and support for anyone to get a running start, understand what’s expected of them, and become an essential team member. 

Most companies offer a fairly short onboarding. In the age of COVID, however, it’s wise to consider stretching these sessions through the first week. We spend one day going over job responsibilities, another day on programs the team uses regularly, and another on key client orientation. By spreading onboarding to a full week and not one day, we help acclimate new employees rather than bombard them with too much information at once. 

Send a welcome gift or lunch

Don’t feel like you can skip the welcome meal or happy hour just because the newbie is a remote worker. It may not seem like a lot, but a small token of appreciation goes a long way. Send a virtual Grubhub or DoorDash gift card and say lunch is on you for the first day. Bonus points if you have company swag like a hat or water bottle to send along with a handwritten welcome note.   

Assign a ‘welcome buddy’

Your work family quickly becomes your real family, based on the amount of time you spend with them. Some of my closest friends I have met through work! One effective tactic is to assign someone as the welcoming committee for the new hire. Sometimes new people are shy on their first day and need a place to talk informally. Set up time for a check-in with a company veteran who isn’t the new person’s supervisor, but rather, more at their own level of seniority. Talking to a CEO or even a boss can be intimidating, especially on day one. Informal check-ins help create a welcoming environment and offer a place to go for questions as they arise.  

Schedule an all-company face-to-face introduction

One of the most exciting parts of a new job is meeting co-workers throughout the day. With everyone scattered, it’s smart to designate a time to have an intro call with the entire company. Go around the ‘room’ and introduce each person by name, role, and day-to-day responsibilities. This gives a newbie the opportunity to meet their coworkers in a low-stress environment. Consider a fun name game or ice breaker for team building.   

Check in often

Communication is obviously key in any office, but especially with remote new hires. So don’t skimp on the check-ins after the first day. Stay connected on Slack, Zoom, email, whatever works for you! Facetime is crucial during the first few days of a new hire. At the end of the day, schedule a Zoom check-in (even if it is for five minutes) to see how the day went, if they have any questions, comments or concerns.  

Ask what they need

Everyone has a different workstyle, and certain habits can be exacerbated during remote onboarding. Many people will ask for feedback, while others may prefer to figure things out on their own or bundle questions before they make their needs known. If you’re in doubt about how a new hire prefers to communicate or what they need – why not ask? 

What are some ways you have onboarded new employees virtually? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

5 Ways Employers Can Maximize the Intern Experience

by Crenshaw Communications intern Hilary Dillon

Internships are a “win-win” for students interested in a career in PR and for employers with busy workplaces in need of high-energy staff. At some point during an internship, the student will know whether the industry is right for them. Much has been written about how to succeed from the intern perspective; my tips, therefore, are for employers who want to maximize the experience for the intern.

Set expectations. It’s important for an intern to understand exactly what their role is, and to revisit the goals as necessary. Set up weekly meetings to discuss goals and answer questions. Even the most intrepid intern can be intimidated, so encouraging discussion is key.

Set the bar high, but be reasonably so. The goal of a motivated intern is to reach his or her full potential during this employment. Employers should push and give them more responsibility as warranted; the job is aspirational, after all! But it’s best to be practical with the amount of work assigned and to phase it in gradually. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially in a new position, when a younger employee is learning to balance and prioritize.

Value intern input. Interns sometimes have trouble “finding their voice” within the company, as they are the lowest on the totem pole. But encourage them to speak up and take initiative. If they present a problem, encourage them to think of solutions. In brainstorms, solicit their input, and listen! Sometimes fresh input is valuable.

Make mistakes “teachable moments.” Mistakes are bound to happen. The best way to deal with a young intern’s error is to turn it into a learning opportunity. In the first few weeks of my internship, I had to deal with an outside source involving the shipping of a broken banner for an event. Without realizing it, I sent a very harsh email to a vendor. My supervisor presented me with the note and asked me to spot the mistake, then draft another note. The vendor didn’t even notice, but now I am careful to use a professional tone with clients and vendors.

Give them the keys to succeed. In this case, literally! Give interns access to some social media projects. The millennial generation is known for its tech savvy and social awareness, so why not tap into it? Another way to help them succeed is to give them a mentor. Have them work directly with one person. A mentor can help alleviate the frustrations that interns often feel in the first few weeks of their new position. In the PR world, a good mentor also reiterates the value of networking and building relationships.

Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share with employers?