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Onboarding remote staff – can ‘cloud-sourcing’ re-energise an overlooked process?

24 June: As the pandemic forces employers to embrace new ways of recruitment, traditional onboarding processes also need to be reimagined. Cloud technology and team engagement can help spread the burden of an often-overlooked process by crowdsourcing resources for starters.

Introducing an employee to the basics of their new organisation is often hard work. However, Glassdoor research found strong onboarding processes improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%. Best practices in onboarding can seem like tedious processes that “just need to happen”. While there is no silver bullet, cloud technology can provide a shared resource to spread the workload and provide better support for new team members.

Onboarding involves curating a significant amount of information and sharing it in an easily digestible fashion – particularly important where it could be several months before remote starters come into the office or physically meet colleagues.

The challenge lies in ensuring the right information is available and that it remains accurate and relevant. Leadership coach and former Microsoft finance director, Oliver Deacon suggests that the key to success lies in engaging the whole team and using the right tools to make it easy to share and update information.

The right information

Take a moment to imagine all the information that a new person on your team needs to learn: the people, systems, processes and culture, as well as how to get any basic support they need.

“Regardless of whether the new member of staff is in the office or working remotely, the best way to do this is a shared team document,” says Deacon, who is leading ICAEW’s online training course: Leading Remote Finance Teams.

Alongside bringing all the information in one place and clearly organising it, the biggest challenge is maintaining the document. There’s no shortcut, says Deacon.

“The best way I've seen it done is through a cloud-based file the whole team has easy access to,” he says. “At Microsoft, we would create a OneNote document that was shared through Teams. It started with a brainstormed list of onboarding needs, and whenever anything interesting came up, someone would add it. A Google Doc hosted in Slack would work the same way.”

Alongside the main onboarding document, which maps out the organisation and includes key information, a good idea is to include all HR onboarding resources in the shared area. Onboarding resources at a minimum should cover:

  • A contents page ‘map’ of hyperlinks to key information.
  • Standardised onboarding plan for day one, week one, month one and quarter one.
  • Company/team culture essentials.
  • Management structure and team information.
  • Brief ‘Who’s Who’ – including key stakeholders outside of the team.
  • Practical documents about the physical and virtual workplace.
  • Policies, guidelines and processes.
  • Systems and tools – including logins and access.
  • Training and career development.
  • Random useful info page: IT helplines, how to get emails on a phone, where to find employee ID number or payslips, online company portals links and team shared file drives.

A collaborative approach

Using a cloud-based system to host onboarding resources means everyone has access to them anywhere and they can be updated instantly. However, unless there is a culture of joint responsibility for the content, it will become stale and irrelevant. “You need to have the majority of your team onside,” says Deacon.

COVID offers the opportunity to implement a new onboarding process which involves the whole team and embraces new technology (see diagram).

Process for onboarding using cloud-based systems and crowd-sourcing content.The first step is creating a shareable onboarding document, such as a OneNote Notebook or a simple Word Doc, hosted on Teams or a SharePoint. Brainstorming content with the team gives everyone the chance to contribute to ensure it has the most relevant information.

The next step is to encourage and recognise team members to update the file regularly, until the action becomes habit. Finding a volunteer passionate about people to be the onboarding champion is a real bonus in helping to make it stick.

Then the real magic of the cycle: new starters are asked to use the resource. After 90 days they are asked to reflect on what worked and what they felt was missing, helping to further improve onboarding support. It’s easy for established staff members to forget what someone entirely new to the organisation might find useful. Finally, the document should be reviewed by the team every quarter to check for out of date info.

This combination of crowdsourcing, cultural nudges and structured reviews should ensure onboarding documentation that is useful, relevant and evolves with the organisation.

Learn more:

If you’ve found this article useful and want to know more about managing remote teams and making the most of cloud-based systems, you might be interested in ICAEW’s Leading Remote Finance Teams training. Find out more.