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A New First: Onboarding During A Pandemic Requires More Strategy

Starting a job during the pandemic requires different strategies to succeed.

First days on the job have always carried a certain level of anxiety, and they haven’t gotten any easier during the coronavirus pandemic. With offices closed and workplace gatherings confined to the grid of a Zoom call, new hires have faced more challenges fitting in and understanding company culture and social networks. 

Quartz writer and relatively new hire Karen Ho compiled a list of strategies that companies and new employees can use to make onboarding during this challenging time more effective.

First, it’s important those starting their first day do their homework. Expectations about how a first day will unfold should be replaced with better planning and pointed questions addressing the training schedule, who to meet and what material should be reviewed in advance. While employers should be mindful to ease new team members in with a spaced-out meeting schedule, today’s corporate reality, rapidly bouncing between video calls, means that pre-planning is essential for anybody seeking a smooth onboarding process.

It’s also key for new hires to take extra care to establish the correct rhythms around communications and setting goals. Instead of sitting back and waiting to get noticed, it may be a better strategy to try and get noticed and gain attention early, since it’s easy to get lost amid the dislocation of remote working. Take time to check with your manager about when the best time is to ask questions, success and the metrics needed to measure it, and who to get to know in the office, since serendipitous encounters will be few and further between.

New employees should also take pains to communicate as much as possible to establish a rapport with co-workers and get a sense of company culture, despite the lack of in-office interaction. Some new workers have taken to setting up virtual game nights or arranging informal chats to get to know some of the colleagues they’ll be working with the most — some have compared them to first dates. It’s certainly awkward, but much less so than embarking on a new job feeling like you’re working with strangers.