Could Virtual Onboarding Be Part of the “New Normal”?
By Practicum Student
June 29, 2020
Hello, I’m Alliancé Babunga. I am in the Public Relations Certificate program at Simon Fraser University and am in the last week of my practicum with Switchboard Public Relations (Switchboard). SFU’s practicum program helps students find work experience in the world of public relations. This year was different because of COVID-19. SFU and Switchboard provided me with the opportunity to do my practicum virtually the week of June 15th as initially planned or the option to wait it out while monitoring the Provincial health regulations to see if an in-person option would be available mid-July. I jumped out of my comfort zone and tried the virtual practicum. Here are some of the reasons why:
First, I acknowledged that sharing physical space is not coming back anytime soon and if it does it won’t be the same. Second, I recognized that there was an opportunity to build connections virtually with tools like Zoom. Third, I trusted my own ability to adapt to the changing environment and overcome this fear by adapting to a new mindset and understanding that my first real job post practicum may include virtual elements; so why not learn as much as I could from an organization that seemed to have the virtual down, considering their project teams work together across Canada and the United States.
What made me trust the virtual onboarding process? Here are a few things that helped make it a smooth onboard and other companies may want to consider
1. Communications began prior to start date
This made it easier to set myself up for success. I scheduled 30-minute introductory meetings with both my reporting manager and mentor. In our conversation, I asked them questions ranging from their work style, team dynamic, workplace culture and what drives them.
2. Standards were clarified from the start
It is difficult to operate from a place of expectations, so ensuring we are on the same page was crucial. Switchboard shared this value and outlined what the Switchboard standards were so it was clear what was expected of me in relation to timelines, productivity, communications, confidentiality, and interactions with clients.
3. Switchboard values team spirit
#TeamSwitchboard is more than just a hashtag. I was impressed by Switchboard’s efforts to immerse me into the team from day one. Not only was I scheduled for daily 15-minute check-ins with my manager, but also weekly one-on-one with my mentor. I also met other members of the team in one on one meetings where I was able to further understand the organization. It felt like I knew the team within the first week even though we weren’t all in the same office space. Tools like Slack and daily huddles to review priorities also helped with the team spirit.
Given the success of my virtual onboarding with Switchboard, it makes the idea of virtual work and onboardings seem like they may really be part of our return to the “new normal”.