If the era of the internet has taught us one thing, it’s that culture can be spread via unlikely means. However, the quality of culture disseminated via memes and tweets is often not of the same caliber that in-person, human-to-human interactions can achieve.
There’s something uniquely educational about seeing a person’s face, hearing them speak, and monitoring their body language that can’t be replicated over the web, even via video conferencing. And that inadequacy is only magnified when one considers the magnitude of the onboarding process, wherein the new hire must become acquainted with an entire team of people. So how can remote onboarding ever fit the bill for such a human-interaction-intensive process?
There are no perfect answers to this question. But as the world shifts to remote work, the companies of today are working to cook up solutions for the standard remote onboarding processes of tomorrow.
Here, we’ll go over some innovative ways to help new employees find their cultural fit during remote onboarding.
Cultural fit in remote onboarding: Obstacles and challenges
As mentioned above, helping employees find their cultural footing via remote onboarding is no small task. In response to my request for comment, Rolf Bax, the Chief Human Resources Officer for Resume.io, gave his thoughts on the matter. “I think the biggest challenge of remote onboarding compared to traditional in-person methods will be the increased difficulty for new hires when trying to get a feel for an organization’s culture and its people from behind a screen,” Bax said, echoing a sentiment shared by many who deal with the administration and facilitation of onboarding processes.
“Integrating new employees into our culture, for example, used to be a community experience before our entire team went remote, with a lot of side-by-side training and relationship building. Trying to achieve this through a screen is just not the same.”
Bax’s statements shed light on some of the key areas remote onboarding struggles to handle, particularly with regards to creating a real sense of community. After all, onboarding isn’t just about equipping a new hire with tools and making sure their face is recognized by coworkers—it’s about building bonds that will allow for optimal work relationships.
Remote onboarding cultural integration: tips for success
The functional end of remote onboarding is easy enough to handle. Exchanging forms, documents, files, and work updates via Google Drive, Zoom, and Slack is straightforward and fast. But conveying company culture? That’s a lot harder. Helping a new hire really “click” with their new colleagues and bosses in terms of energy and vibe requires more than just a dossier of digital documents and a warm email.
That’s why outside-the-box solutions are proving useful in remote onboarding. John Balogh, Relativity Support Architect, provided me with two remote strategies to help ease new hires into a company’s culture during onboarding processes.
“Team building activities such as virtual happy hours or game nights can be helpful in offering new hires the opportunity to interact with team members outside of working on normal tasks or projects,” Balogh said, outlining the first way that remote cultural integration can be aided.
This is a surprisingly simple yet inventive method of replicating onboarding tactics that many might assume have gone the way of the dinosaur as a result of working from home becoming the norm. Even if physical happy hours and board games are off the table, why not set up a Zoom call with one of the Jackbox Party Pack games and get coworkers to bring their own drinks? These sorts of gatherings can be just as fun as their in-person counterparts. Plus, they enable new hires to learn about each of their coworkers in a relatively personal (by Zoom standards), off-the-clock setting.
“I also believe that having many one-on-one conversations with current team members allows new hires to understand individuals and their approach to company culture,” Balogh told me. “This can be accomplished with shadowing sessions, individual training sessions, etc.”
This second method to help with cultural integration is straightforward and invaluable. After all, whether onboarding is remote or on-site, it remains a constant that good communication and peer exposure is essential.
How to help new hires fit in with company culture, summarized
Though remote onboarding is a multistage process with many hurdles to overcome, there are ways to ensure that even the subtlest and trickiest aspects such as cultural integration get attention. Everyone can do something to make their new hires feel more at home as long as they take a little extra time to creatively think about how to make the right impression.
Culture is hard to convey, and often can’t be communicated via basic introduction emails and crowded, quick Zoom conferences. Thankfully, as seen above, there are ways to use existing tools to get culture across to new hires—it just requires some craft.