Smoother Onboarding In A Remote Age

Gil Becker is CEO & President of AnyClip, the AI-powered online video platform. Tweet at him @Becker_Gil

Everyone knows that remote and hybrid working arrangements have increased exponentially since March 2020. But there’s a paradox at play here: Precisely because so many of us are working from home, we lack a visceral sense of just how much things have changed.

A quick glance at the statistics makes it clear: remote and hybrid work have exploded. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say they’re exploding—because this shift is just getting started. According to one study at the end of 2021, 25% of all high-paying jobs will be available remotely by the end of 2022. Stanford economist Nicholas Blum, meanwhile, predicts that half the workforce will soon work either remotely or use a hybrid model.

This shift has implications for every aspect of corporate life, but some of the most pressing questions it raises have to do with onboarding. Bringing someone onto a busy team without ever physically meeting them is at once totally quotidian—a standard fact of 2022 corporate life—and, even now, deeply strange. Accordingly, employers are still scrambling to get it right.

In my opinion, there are many ways that employers can optimize the process to get employees quickly up to speed and put the company’s best foot forward, without wasting time on either side.

Making The Most Of Video

Video calls are inevitable when getting a new hire acclimated. The trick—in onboarding as in every facet of remote communication—is making those video calls matter.

To that end, I’d suggest taking a lesson from the “flipped classroom” model of education. The idea here is that the conventional model of classroom instruction—a teacher spending class time imparting information to students—is not always the most efficient use of face-to-face time. After all, facts can be processed alone, through videos or text. In the flipped model, students come to class having already digested the basic info, which allows class time to be spent on comprehension, collaboratively working through points of difficulty or confusion.

The implications for the remote/hybrid workplace are clear. When new hires have access to onboarding playlists and institutional video archives—built up in advance by their department—they can process information on their own time. (No small thing, given that more and more employees are working asynchronously). On the company side, a single pre-recorded tutorial might save an employee from delivering the same lesson twenty or thirty times. Then, when the new hire meets with HR and new colleagues, they can focus on asking questions and building relationships instead of repeating dry information. Even better, some video platforms provide in-video commenting, making it easy for viewers to ask questions without having to set a meeting or track someone down.

Did the new hire just miss the quarterly sales summit or the annual town hall? Now that most events are online or hybrid, including recordings of the most recent live events in the onboarding playlist is a great way to make sure new employees are up to date. It’s important to make sure that these sometimes lengthy events are easily digestible to newcomers, though; chaptering videos, or better yet, providing a highlighted version can help new employees navigate and quickly comprehend the information. AI-powered highlights are becoming a more common tool recently, and can make generating “the good parts version” quick and easy.

Tech’s Expanding Role In Onboarding

Beyond video, a number of developments are reshaping the onboarding process. Take, for instance, AI. Already in wide use for hiring purposes, AI is slowly but surely starting to change the ways new hires adjust to their roles. On the more mundane side, that can mean workflow software that can generate and assign tasks, use natural-language processing to produce needed paperwork, etc. But it can also mean, for instance, FAQ chatbots: chatbots that can answer simple questions about company policy, platform logistics or the location of this or that important onboarding document.

That’s important, because actually tracking down this or that relevant document or video is one of the biggest challenges facing new hires. To that end, certain emerging tech functionalities can be tremendously helpful. For instance, picture an onboarding video, with an onscreen person outlining the company’s benefits, vacation policy, etc. Having the relevant links pop up as they’re discussed—to the benefits portal, the employee handbook, and so on—can drastically ease the process for new hires, and save their more experienced colleagues from being peppered with endless questions.

There is also, of course, the difficult business of trying to get to know your colleagues when you start a job remotely. In the remote era, certain Slack bots can help this process along—ones that, for instance, randomly schedule “get-to-know-you” video chats with coworkers in different departments.

The Importance Of Organization

The throughline, here, is using technology to optimize what might otherwise be a frustratingly scattered experience. When it comes to onboarding videos, that might mean embedding calls to action and links to related videos and documents, allowing new hires to make targeted deep dives into areas relevant to their position on their own time and at their own speed. (Enabling comments to encourage collaboration and questions can also be hugely helpful here.)

And I cannot stress enough the fundamental importance of organization, because a video can only be useful insofar as it can be found. To that end, enabling departments to have their own video spaces within a centralized system and ensuring high-quality search functionality can be indispensable. Onboarding can be a firehose of new information—turning it into a controlled, directional stream is among the biggest challenges facing companies in the remote era.

And those challenges are formidable. The importance of a smooth onboarding process cannot be overstated. The fact is that 31% of people reported having quit a job within the first six months—but new employees are 58% more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if their onboarding process is properly structured. Companies willing to experiment with their onboarding offerings will be better positioned to retain their workforce and meet the demands of the hybrid-remote era.