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Tips for Virtually Onboarding New Remote Hires - Alison Small, Robert Half Legal [4/30/20]

Wednesday, April 29, 2020  
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Most managers understand the importance of setting up new legal professionals for success with an onboarding program. From day one, these programs are essential to conveying the corporate culture, helping employees fit in and ensuring they have the necessary tools to do their job. However, a recent study from Robert Half revealed that while nearly all professionals (95%) say their company has an onboarding process, more than half (59%) have experienced a mishap when starting a position. How can organizations effectively welcome recently hired legal support staff during a time where “social distancing” is not only encouraged but, in many places, mandatory? A strong virtual onboarding plan is key to helping new remote workers ramp up – here are a few tips: 

 

1. Send them a welcome care package. There’s nothing like a package full of goodies to help your new remote hire feel like a part of the team. Along with a welcome message from their new colleagues, include items such as company branded pens, a water bottle, mug, calendar, backpack, t-shirt, and maybe even a small gift card – something tangible to make the organization’s presence felt physically. It doesn’t need to be costly to have a positive, memorable impact.

 

2. Invest in the right technology. Your company might be providing a laptop, phone or other office equipment to your new remote employees. Be sure to send these items to their offices ahead of the first day. Leveraging technology such as email, webcasts and internal platforms where content can be readily accessed is crucial. The most common issue when onboarding, cited by 39% of professionals surveyed, is technology (phone, computer, security access, etc.) not being properly set up, followed by lack of necessary supplies (24%). Having access to the right tools from the start communicates to your new hire that they are a priority.

 

 While new employees interact extensively with the person conducting the onboarding process, it can be difficult for businesses to pull other team members away from their daily tasks to meet with the individual. Onboarding from a distance only exacerbates these challenges, as it’s even harder for new hires to forge meaningful relationships with their peers and manager without face-to-face contact. Used effectively, video conference programs such as Skype for Business or Zoom are logical solutions to this problem. 

 

 3. Set realistic expectations. Many professionals drawn to telecommuting options are incredibly hard working and self-sufficient. However, remote employees may feel a need to prove they’re putting their nose to the grindstone to maintain visibility. Some individuals may consequently begin to experience burnout or may feel unappreciated in their attempts to be seen. Managers can prevent these issues from occurring by setting schedules that work best for the individual and developing routines for new hires from the start. When remote workers know what’s expected, they’re more inclined to give themselves room to recharge and participate in meaningful ways.

 

 4. Encourage a supportive team culture. If an organization consists of multiple locations, it’s beneficial for the new hire to meet people who make key departmental decisions or colleagues they might be working with. According to a Robert Half survey not being introduced to colleagues was one of the most common challenges when starting a new job. A great way to make new hires feel included is to invite them to a virtual team meeting. This can provide valuable insight on how team members interact, what a typical day looks like and how the company operates. Additionally, assigning them a mentor they can meet with via video shows new remote hires how much the organization supports their personal development. It also provides both parties an opportunity to get to know each other and form a successful partnership.

 

 5. Create a coaching plan. Managers should take the opportunity early on to build a relationship with new team members and help them understand how the team and company are organized. Schedule frequent and regular check-ins and keep a pulse on how your new hires are doing. Keep in mind if they’re struggling, they may keep quiet about it because they want to be viewed as competent. Ask your new hire a few open-ended questions to allow for clarification and to check for any confusion. Plan a meeting at the end of their first week to answer their questions from week one, dive deeper into job level expectations, discuss more about the company and team culture, and chat about their priorities and goals. 

 

Telecommuting can be a challenge for legal support professionals who are used to a traditional workspace, so managers need to make sure new virtual hires can hit the ground running on the first day. Remote employees who feel connected to their team and organization are more motivated to make positive, tangible contributions.  

 

By Alison Small, Business Development Director at Robert Half Legal 
Alison Small is a vice president and director of business development for Robert Half Legal, the premier provider of experienced project and full-time professionals for law firms and corporate legal departments. In this role, Alison specializes in placing legal professionals in contract positions. For more information, visit www.roberthalflegal.com.