This part of the onboarding process is now extinct

Welcome to our new series where we explore the most important industries, trends, and topics related to your career from every angle. This month we are exploring remote onboarding in 2021.

2021 has proven that the future of work is going to be just as unpredictable as it was in the surreal past of 2020. One such facet of work that’s currently in a state of flux is onboarding process norms. Lots of companies are dealing with the complicated process of transitioning their on-site and hybrid onboarding operations to the remote realm.

During that transition, it’s to be expected that certain elements of onboarding from the days of old are going to be left behind. But which specific aspects are getting cut? I reached out to three experts to get their thoughts on the matter.

No more lonesome onboarding

Onboarding duties are often assigned to a particular individual, such as a manager, who is handed a new hire and told to acclimate them to their new work home and educate them. On-site onboarding has sometimes necessitated putting all that training responsibility on a single employee so that multiple peoples’ schedules aren’t entangled by a new hire.

Certain companies prefer to spread onboarding work across multiple employees, but many others have found it to be more economical to make one senior staff member or manager the main facilitator of onboarding.

I asked Karyn Mullins, the President at medical and pharmaceutical sales job board MedReps, about onboarding processes she thought may go extinct soon. She said that the above process, the lone-ranger school of onboarding, was on the way out.

“With the flexible scheduling that remote onboarding provides, instruction will never again be the responsibility of just one person,” Mullins said. “There is far too much opportunity for collaborative coaching and increased exposure to the whole team to justify the old approach.”

Indeed, in the current era of predominantly remote work where no one has to worry about commute times, traveling between office spaces, or dealing with the usual scheduling conflicts of in-person office arrangements, it’s likely to be a lot easier for multiple teammates to shoulder the weight of onboarding new hires. And, as a result, the solo onboarding process will possibly phase out over time.

End of the traditional onboarding lunch

When thinking about onboarding processes, it’s hard to find one that’s more fun and useful for relationship building than new hire lunches. Think of it from an employee’s perspective: they get to dip out of work for a bit to casually bond with their manager while scoring a free lunch in the process. Food, chitchat, and a midday break? That’s the holy trinity of onboarding ingredients. Sadly, remote work makes it very, very hard to do any sort of in-person meals with new hires. 

Josh Tolan, the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform, shared with me his thoughts on the lunch situation.

“With remote onboarding processes, companies lose the opportunity for traditions like new hire lunches,” Tolan said. “At Spark Hire, we loved getting new hires lunch with their manager in the first week and later with the CEO.”

It’s a sad reality that in a post-COVID-19 world, the idea of getting lunch with a coworker, or even getting to meet with a coworker in a normal physical setting, is something of a pipedream. Yet Tolan acknowledged there are ways around the physical barrier—to a certain extent. 

“Teams can still cover new hires’ lunch with alternatives like GrubHub gift cards, but the opportunity for that personal connection in a non-work setting is, unfortunately, going extinct.”

It’s true that the personal connection will take a hit in a world where physical work meetups are a relic of the past. However, Tolan’s mention of GrubHub does give hope for an evolution of the longstanding “new hire lunch meetup.” 

It’s becoming popular for managers to order lunch for themselves and a new hire via a meal delivery service (GrubHub, DoorDash, etc.) and then eat together over Zoom.

It’s not a perfect solution by any means, and not quite as personal as a real sitdown lunch, but what’s worth noting is that the core concept of eating and chatting together can still be attained with a bit of creativity and adaptability, even in a remote environment.

End of panicked processing

Val Matta, the co-owner and leader of business development at job hunting and career management solution CareerShift, provided me with a prediction for an onboarding process that’s on the way out: the panicked kind.

“An all-too-common side effect of the traditional onboarding process is new hires are left with lots of information to dissect and not enough people available around them to answer questions,” Matta said. “Shifting to remote work, I am certain that ‘panic’ will go extinct.”

The idea is that remote work’s enablement of instantaneous assistance will end the ultimate process of onboarding: the process of helping a new hire out of their shell. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for shells in the first place anymore, since remote work environments allow new hires to rely on multiple colleagues from day one.

“Now, everyone is online almost all the time and remote communication skills and technology are rapidly improving,” Matta told me. “Help from team leaders and co-workers is more immediately accessible.”
Of all the onboarding processes that would be good to see go, panicked processing is chief among them. Fingers crossed the remote work world proves that new hires have less of a reason to fear their new job than ever before.