The new HR challenge - onboarding new starters remotely

Jenny Shiers Profile picture for user jshiers August 19, 2020
How do you welcome newcomers on board when you're working remotely? Some HR practical tips from Salesforce's Jenny Shiers.


COVID-19 is presenting significant challenges to businesses and employees. With working from home and video conferencing becoming the new norm, how can businesses onboard new starters remotely?

Companies are having to rethink their talent management strategies in order to creatively introduce new employees into their culture remotely and ensure that they feel connected and engaged from day one. 

As we enter the ‘new normal’ and return to growth, HR departments will have to adapt as circumstances change. It’s particularly important that managers stay mindful of the strange reality of starting a job remotely. Without in-person collaboration and chance encounters around the office, this process needs to be managed in a more concerted and intentional way. 

The importance of communication and transparency

Starting a new job often involves rapidly digesting a large amount of information - from practical matters such as working procedures, knowledge on how parts of the business function, values alignment and learning how new teammates like to work.

At Salesforce, we have built an onboarding process that works remotely but still encompasses our culture. We want all new joiners to understand and align with our founding vision of a company centred around Trust, Customer Success, Innovation, and Equality. 

To help new employees embrace culture, transparency is fundamental especially during crisis and change. Open communication in sharing the company vision and explaining decision making helps to build trust. To do that effectively, more communication touch points should be introduced. Weekly webinars to share company updates and smaller virtual drop in sessions all help to provide essential information that new employees would normally receive in person.

It is also important for companies to share that this is a learning process, and to be open that we are learning and adapting. Generating trust quickly with new employees is vital in reassuring them that the company has their best interests at heart.

Staying human-centric in a remote world

We are no longer able to have a guided walk around the office to find out where the coffee machine is. Instead, business leaders need to look at how they can create a virtual culture that is human-centric. 

There are simple ways to do this virtually:

  • 1:1 meeting with your most passionate and longest-tenured employees to welcome new joiners will instil company values from a personal perspective. 
  • Virtual get togethers for new joiners who started on the same day is a great way for people to connect, join a community and quickly form personal relationships.
  • Regular wellbeing surveys can gather insight into how new employees are feeling during this unique time and determine next steps to address pain points.
  • Introducing new joiners to internal diversity networks and equality groups gives them the opportunity to be part of an inclusive culture from the outset.

We're all spending more time online, but despite the conference call fatigue, technology is an essential tool in connecting employees to the company. By example, at Salesforce we have developed Concierge, a virtual help desk where employees can get quick answers to thousands of questions - from technical issues to accessing benefits programmes. We have also created a personalised email journey for new employees and their hiring managers, which prompts certain actions and conversations throughout the first six months.

As well as helping new starters practically, technology can also give businesses an insight into the employee journey. Data can be used to identify changes in employee behaviour and understand if they are starting to burn out or require additional support. 

Building continuous culture 

There will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to onboarding new employees remotely. It is crucial, however, that businesses and HR departments listen and adjust in this uncertain time and focus on building and maintaining culture. When values such as equality and diversity and inclusion remain a priority, it empowers employees to become agents of change in the business.

At Salesforce, we have embraced the concept of Ohana, which is Hawaiian for family. This means that we are all bound together and responsible for caring for one another, which is even more important when we can’t physically be together. 

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