When it comes to virtual onboarding practices, considering the Inform-Welcome-Guide (IWG) framework developed by Klein and Heuser1 can be a good start. Their framework suggests that onboarding should focus on three types of practices: informing, welcoming and guiding.
Taking this structured approach to setting up your virtual onboarding programme can be a helpful way of ensuring that your new frontline hires are able to find their place in your organization with ease.
Guiding practices, the third and final component of Klein and Heuser’s IWG framework1, will be the focus of this article. With guiding practices, it is all about ensuring that your virtual onboarding program provides your new frontline employees with enough support.
Why Guiding Practices?
Starting out in a new organization through a virtual setting can make you feel incredibly alone amidst all the new people and information. To avoid creating this feeling amongst your new frontline employees, you should implement guiding practices in your virtual onboarding program. Guidance will help your new frontline employees feel that they are supported and assist them in navigating within the new organization.
What Do Guiding Practices Look Like?
Guiding practices include both the interpersonal and informational aspect of accommodating to a new organization. On one hand, guiding practices include how the organization and specific individuals within it provide assistance to the new frontline employees. On the other hand, guiding practices include more formal and structured processes, such as training, that provide new deskless employees with the information they need to successfully navigate their new job.
What Should You Keep in Mind When it Comes to Guiding Practices?
Although ‘onboarding buddies’ have also come up under informing and welcoming practices, guiding practices are where they can truly prosper. Newcomers can become reluctant to ask questions if they feel like they are doing it too often or are worried about interfering with their colleagues’ schedules. This could lead to work being done incorrectly, safety hazards or simply wasting time.
It is helpful to set up your new deskless employee with an ‘onboarding buddy’ who will be their designated go-to person in case they have any questions or doubts. The ‘onboarding buddy’ should also make it clear from the start that the newcomer should not hesitate to reach out to them and that all questions are welcome – that is what they are there for!
To not overwhelm your current employee in their role as ‘onboarding buddy’, it might also be useful to give the new frontline employee a second contact person. This can also provide them with greater insight on their job tasks and the organization, if the second person works in a different position from the onboarding buddy. This is also great for helping them build up relationships (check out why this is important in our article about welcoming practices).
For a more structured start, the newcomer’s contact person can set up regular meetings with them at the beginning. Due to the nature of deskless work, real-time meetings might not be a viable option. In this case, we would recommend one or two real-time check-ins during the first month or using a questionnaire format check-in that the frontline employee should fill in in their own time. A tool like GuavaHR can be used to create, store and set up a reminder for this questionnaire.
Blowing Off Steam
Contact with the onboarding buddy, check-ins or an anonymous feedback feature can be helpful for identifying any challenges the newcomers might be facing by giving them room to blow off steam. However, creating the necessary trust for this to happen is a significant challenge.
Frontline employees are often sceptical about how anonymous their feedback is and are unwilling to share their troubles with colleagues due to mistrust. This could be due to the fear of losing their job as a consequence. Therefore, it is important to guarantee confidentiality with any tools that are used, including the relationship with their ‘onboarding buddy’.
What Are Some of the Challenges You Might Face?
The danger with guiding practices is that after the onboarding process is over, the new frontline employees may be reluctant to move forward on their own. Hence, if you assign them an onboarding buddy, it is important that they do not hold their hand too much and still give the newcomers space and encouragement to explore on their own.
‘Buddies’ should also clearly define the start and end of their relationship in the context of onboarding (e.g. one month). The goal of guiding practices – and virtual onboarding as a whole – is that your new frontline employees are able to carry on confidently and independently within the organization.
Furthermore, it might happen that frontline employees feel that they are simply not paid enough to participate in additional activities after their long and exhausting workdays. Therefore, you might encounter some reluctance from their side to go along with the activities we have proposed here even though they are intended to help them because they might just feel like unnecessary extra tasks. Keep in mind that you do not overload your newcomers with onboarding activities and make sure that they are able to access all activities at a time most suitable for them. Next to that, sharing success stories from previous new frontline hires could increase motivation to participate.
Although written with a focus on frontline employees, the content of this article also applies to virtual onboarding in general. We have covered all the three steps of the Inform, Welcome & Guide Framework in our blog so make sure you have checked all of them out. In our next post, we will be discussing newcomer proactivity and how to digitally encourage newcomers with that.