Welcome To The Team, Remotely
Business Today|August 08, 2021
With the pandemic stretching on, companies are experimenting with ways to help new hires fit into the company culture in a virtual environment
Vidya S.

Diageo India considers its factories the backbone of its operations, so much so that all new recruits are taken on a half-day tour of the alcohol maker’s plant to give them a sense of what the company does. It’s a part of their two-day assimilation process where newcomers are brought together under one roof at the company’s head office in Bengaluru. But that was before the pandemic hit.

“When a new hire comes to one of our sites, a lot more than the conversation comes through. They see the factory and get to connect with the company, which is bigger than meeting just the interviewer on Zoom. How to get candidates excited about the company, the culture and opportunity without meeting the person now?” asks Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Aarif Aziz.

DEEP DISCONNECT

  • Studies have shown a direct correlation between employee engagement and their productivity at the workplace

  • Humanising the virtual onboarding process remains a challenge, say HR heads

  • New hires are taking time to adapt to the office culture in a virtual set-up, thanks to long spells of working in isolation

  • Lack of informal, organic connections are forcing a number of them to quit soon after, say experts

  • Establishing a connection with teammates and the organisation is turning out to be a key challenge for new employees

WORKING AROUND IT

  • Most firms are trying to tackle the problem through frequent virtual catch-up sessions, digital townhalls and online team events involving family members

  • Companies have also introduced chat bots and AI-enabled virtual assistants to address employee concerns

  • Assigning key projects to new employees with greater decision-making powers have also helped in some cases

Covid-19 has thrust a large section of the white-collar workforce into remote working almost overnight. While many have eased into it over the past 15 months, there is a section of employees hired and onboarded entirely remotely that has never stepped into office or met their colleagues.

With little scope for an immersive and organic experience that includes everything from the paint on the building wall to the food at the cafeteria offered to new employees, companies across industries are grappling with challenges of helping them assimilate into the office culture entirely virtually.

Diageo’s solution to the problem was to develop a 360 degree virtual walkthrough of its factory to help appreciate its commercial functions. “All new employees, irrespective of roles and levels, are assigned these simulations which they can experience at their time and place of convenience,” says Aziz.

Building A Human Connect

The virtual hiring process itself has not been such a challenge. For a number of companies and employees, it has even worked out to be more efficient. The trickier part is to enable new hires to mesh with the brand values and ethos, an aspect many companies rate as important as a candidate’s core competency.

Zomato, for instance, counts cultural compatibility and domain knowledge as key focus areas while looking for a new hire. But how does one foster that belongingness in a virtual set-up once a new employee is brought on board?

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