Starting a new position can be nerve-racking, even in normal times. But starting during a global pandemic brings a whole set of unique issues. Some cities are in the process of lifting lockdown and businesses are preparing to reopen. One thing that’s become abundantly clear though: Remote working will become a permanent fixture in many workforces.
Onboarding and mentoring new hires (virtual or not) is important to starting the relationship on a good foot and building loyalty. Thanks to technology, getting face-to-face contact with new starters is easy even in a virtual environment. .
In this blog post, we'll discuss tips for virtual mentoring.
Provide the right tools and technology. When it comes to remote working, technology is key. Video conferencing services, like Zoom, have long been used by global businesses that embrace virtual workforces, but companies with predominantly office-based employees have been using it in droves, (some for the first time). Back in December, the maximum number of daily meeting participants conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million. Fast forward three months to March 2020 and that number increased 20 times to more than 200 million daily meeting participants. Especially in a situation where you’re trying to build genuine relationships, seeing the person on the other side of the screen can help make that connection. And don’t forget about functions like screen sharing that are helpful too.
Introduce new hires to all members of the team. Making a new employee feel like part of the team is vital to keeping them engaged. New starters need to feel comfortable enough with their colleagues and mentors to ask questions as they learn. Personally make introductions for the new hire to each team member and encourage a one-on-one follow-up session. You never know what kinds of connections people with make with each other so give your new hire the best chance at building relationships by having multiple contacts from day one.
Launch a virtual buddy program. Consider matching new hires with seasoned employees (not necessarily in their departments) who can make themselves available to answer questions and provide advice. A virtual work environment may encourage you to make matches based on interests and experience, rather than putting two people together simply because they work in the same office.
Schedule informal calls to build rapport. People tend to be more comfortable asking questions when they feel at ease with the person they’re talking to (in other words, there’s already a relationship established). Ask the veteran employee to proactively reach out to or regularly check in with the new hire to encourage dialogue. At first, a chat once a week is perfect. Emails might suffice for some conversations, but try to use video conferencing as much as possible. Pro tip: Make them feel informal by dubbing it your weekly “virtual coffee break.”
Take a proactive approach. Mentors should ask lots of questions. This will help the mentee open up and gives them a gateway to ask questions back. General conversation starters like, “how was your weekend?” work, but you should also dig deeper about what’s been really great (or not) at work this week or what they’ve learned recently. It might uncover ways you can support them without them having to straight-up ask you.
Remember, in a virtual environment, building rapport can be more difficult. Using video conference facilities as much as you can is essential, but putting in the extra effort is what will really make a difference.