I have been hearing from industry colleagues and fellow CPCU’s that hiring and onboarding a new person, while staff is 100% work from home during a pandemic, isn’t something they feel they can do. I would like to challenge that opinion by sharing my experience. This past summer, I hired an intern who I never met in person and found it to be a successful experience. With what I learned, I would be comfortable bringing on someone new into a remote environment. Here is what I learned from the process:
- You need to plan ahead
Prior to this experience, we would come up with a new hire’s projects and have them shadow people on the team to learn on the go. With a 100% remote environment, that doesn’t work as well. Luckily, our HR department at Munich Re had provided useful resources to help hiring managers through this process.
Layout a plan for what will they learn and accomplish in the first 3 months. This plan should show week by week what they will be working on, what the learning opportunities will be, and what the outcomes should be at the end of the week. The goal isn’t for this to be a checklist of what they must accomplish each week, instead, it is meant to be a guide to help the employee navigate their first 3 months and to focus on outcomes.
- Identify roles for members of the team to acclimate the new employee
While we are in an office environment, the new employee would be able to ‘pop over’ to someone’s desk to ask a question. They would learn the company’s culture organically. In a 100% remote environment, it takes a more active effort. For our team, we established a schedule for meetings with various members of the department. A potential plan/schedule could look like this:
- The Department head would meet with the new employee once every 2 weeks. This is the opportunity for the new employee to discuss what they accomplished/learned since last time, and ask any questions about the direction/strategy of their project(s).
- Direct manager 2X per week – meetings to check-in, make sure they aren’t stuck on anything, verify they are learning what they need to learn, have the system access they need.
- Technical support – every day. Technical support are members of the department who do similar jobs who can show the newbie the ropes and be there to answer technical questions when the manager isn’t available
- Mentor – once every other week. These conversations are not meant to be directly about the project or work. These conversations are meant to be about career planning, the culture of the company, networking, strategy, etc. (This role is also a good opportunity for an individual performer on your team to work on management skills).
- Use your “village”
We have all heard the phrase, “it takes a village”. Your company is your village, utilize the resources it offers. As I mentioned above, our HR department at Munich Re provides resources to help managers with bringing someone remote on board. These resources were very helpful in planning and providing learning opportunities.
Is there another department with a new/recent hire? Team up to do the training. Make a list of the various topics you would like the new employee to learn about, this will vary by the person’s level of experience with the insurance industry. Many colleagues will be happy to spend 30 minutes explaining what they do or train about an aspect of insurance. In fact, everyone I approached with a topic was happy to spend the time to train on that topic. Another benefit of this is you are helping the new employee expand their network in the company, giving them a greater sense of belonging and exposing them to the company culture.
Please note: even if your new employee isn’t in a traditional insurance role such as underwriting, actuarial or claims, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be teaching them about insurance. They should understand the business they are in. They will feel more invested in the company and the industry. Not to mention, we could always use more champions for the insurance industry!
- Add Fun!!!!
When we are in the office, we usually take the new person out to lunch, stop by their desk and say hi in the morning, talk about how their weekend was, etc. These interactions are very important and we need to do something to replace them.
Schedule video calls for the team and keeps them social – i.e. don’t talk about work!! Get to know the new person and give them a chance to get to know each of you. This is not a once and done. Continue to schedule them. Maybe add in a virtual happy hour. If the weather is nice go outside (others will follow). You may be surprised by what you learn. Our new hire was telling a story of travel and in that story, we learned he was 6’5”. In the remote environment, we had no idea!
At the end of the summer, we were all pleasantly surprised at how successful the remote experience was. Our intern completed all of the planned projects (plus a few others) and learned a lot about insurance and the company.
Do you have your own tips for successfully onboarding a remote employee – or maybe you are a remote employee who a had a good experience with onboarding. Share your thoughts.